Recycling at Work: Unleashing Employee Activism

More and more, employees expect their employers to share their commitment to the environment. A study released last month showed that 69 percent of U.S. employees surveyed want to see their employers take a public stand on clean air, water and open spaces.

Creating or rejuvenating a recycling program at work offers employers an opportunity to connect with their people on a topic they feel passionately about, to build leadership skills and to potentially save their organization money.

Here are six tips for creating employee ambassadors for recycling.

  1. Start with leadership endorsement.  Your people need to know that their leaders not only share their opinions about the environment but are willing to walk the talk by letting employees spend time (and maybe even a little bit of money) on activities to support recycling.
  2. Ask for volunteers. While research shows that support for the environment crosses genders, ages, ethnicities, geographies and job levels, some people will be more motivated than others to invest their time and energy in recycling. Bring them together as a team of ambassadors and give them an outlet for their enthusiasm!
  3. Prepare them for their role. Your ambassadors will be most effective if they have information and training. The Environmental Protection Agency, many state environmental agencies, not-for-profits like the National Recycling Coalition, the NRDC and others offer information and training you can tap into.
  4. Encourage their creativity. Whether it is planning a zero waste dessert social or a competition for which division can create the least amount of trash and the most recycling, support your ambassadors in coming up with creative ideas to raise awareness of and participation in workplace recycling.
  5. Show appreciation. Regularly thank sustainability ambassadors for their efforts through newsletter articles, letters of appreciation from the CEO or a shout-out at a town hall meeting.
  6. Celebrate success. Share the difference recycling is making at your organization in terms of the quantity of recycled materials, dollars saved, etc. As your recycling ambassadors for some fun, inclusive ways to celebrate milestones across the organization.

What have you done in your workplace (or seen others do) that has been effective in creating employee ambassadors for recycling?

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