2016 Phoenix Green Team: Keri Dupey, Joseph Chernek, Kathleen Tindell, Sara Qafisheh, Trish Sumrall, Dan Schack, Jan Mitchell
A compost barrel attached to a dolly is used to move compost barrels around the office.
Deploying the composting barrel!
Composting buckets and recycling bins for single-stream recyclables, batteries, cell phones, and light bulbs are available
Composting in action!

Phoenix’s Office Composting Program

Blogger: Joseph Chernek, Biologist | Phoenix, Arizona, USA
April 17, 2017

Our Phoenix office diverted more than 1,000 pounds of compostable waste from landfills in 2016. Here's how the Phoenix Green Team made composting work for the office.

One of the first things I noticed when I came to work for HDR was, “Boy, do we cater a lot!” With all the staff, client, administration, development, project, and other meetings, a lot of food was left over afterwards that was not always taken home or eaten by employees. At my first meeting as part of the Phoenix Green Team, we talked about starting an office composting program. We threw around a lot of ideas, including putting a compost pile on our office balcony, investing in a vermiculture (worm composting) kit, having employees take compost home, and using municipal or private composting opportunities.  

Working with the Tucson Green Team, we learned of commercial composting, a service where a bucket for compost is delivered to the office and then replaced with an empty bucket on a recurring basis (once a week or every two weeks). We researched whether there was a similar company in Phoenix and, sure enough, there was: Recycled City.

After learning that we were eligible for office composting with Recycled City—and that the cost wasn’t too steep ($50/month)—our Green Team worked with area leadership and building management to gain permission to pursue the composting program. Once we provided assurances that the Green Team would maintain the composting program, and that Recycled City had the proper insurance coverage to be a vendor in our building, we were granted permission to start the composting program.

To kick off the composting program, our Green Team spread the word around the office that we were developing a program and any input was valued. We tailored the Office of Sustainability’s Waste Prevention and Recycling Signage to our office so employees would know where to put unwanted items. The signs included information about what can and cannot be composted. We officially began composting in June 2016.

When planning for an office composting program, it is important to weigh the pros and cons of using reusable or compostable dinnerware and cutlery. We decided to use compostable products for two reasons: (1) we found compostable products comparably priced to disposable products, and (2) we could not find enough volunteers willing to rinse dishes and load the dishwasher following a lunch meeting. Keep in mind that compostable cutlery and other industrial compostable products may not be accepted by all composting services, and additional staff education may be required to ensure that noncompostable cutlery does not contaminate the compost bin.

The whole process of implementing our office composting program was a team effort. Since its implementation, our office administrators and Green Team members have done a great job maintaining the program. Having composting available to our employees and visitors is great because we are reducing the amount of waste we send to the landfill, showing that we care about the Earth, and enjoying this opportunity to provide a unique service to our guests that other consultants may not. We are proud that the compost produced at Recycled City—including our meeting leftovers—is used in community grow spaces around Phoenix.