Insider’s Look: Waste and Reuse at Rubicon HQ

This is a big week for us at Rubicon – Earth Week. Our entire business was founded on an idea to keep waste out of landfills and disrupt the traditional waste model, so as you can imagine, Earth Day and Earth Week are right up our alley when it comes to celebrations.

By now, I hope you’ve heard about our #UsedCups initiative leading up to Earth Day, and wanted to provide an insider’s look at how this whole initiative came to be.

Salvation Army #UsedCups

If you ever visit our Rubicon offices, you’ll notice that we don’t have any disposable plates, cups, cutlery or bottled water in our office break rooms. In fact, we even have loose-leaf tea and cream and sugar dispensers to minimize packaging waste.

Instead of single-use kitchenware, we all use reusable coffee mugs, plates, bowls and glasses, many of which come from the Salvation Army and almost none of which match. It’s actually quite hilarious to see waste and recycling consultants drinking out of princess mugs and Florida vacation cups at morning meetings. It adds a laugh and a little oomph to your morning coffee! And that’s why We Like #UsedCups and We Cannot Lie!

The Salvation Army has become a big part of my life because I’ve served as an Advisory Council Member at its Northern Virginia Adult Rehabilitation Center since 2012. I’ve seen firsthand how the Salvation Army provides social and emotional assistance for men and women struggling with addiction. Not only does the Salvation Army help people get their lives back on track and gain work experience, it also keeps millions of pounds of useful goods out of the landfill. Items which cannot be sold in its Family Stores are carefully sorted and recycled. The back of house at a Salvation Army store is truly an amazing sight to be seen!

Waste Happens

While we’ve set the foundation for waste reduction with our ‘army’ of #UsedCups in the breakrooms, we also know that employees and guests bring or buy coffee, breakfast, lunches and snacks that come to our office in various types of packaging. So, with help from our RuBicontributors volunteer associates, our Sustainability team and our friends at Recycle Across America, we’ve successfully implemented mixed recycling, compost, plastic film, e-waste and even a Salvation Army donation program here at our headquarters.

But a recycling program is only as successful as the education and signage that comes with it. That’s why we co-branded our landfill and recycling bins with Recycle Across America, to ensure every bin is clearly marked and includes images of accepted materials. And we make sure everyone knows it. Each new Rubicon hire takes a Sustainability & Recycling 101 training course during orientation and the recycling bins are part of our tour for visitors and guests.

Journey to Zero

At this point you might be thinking all of this is great, but what’s the end goal? Well, we are on a journey to take our new Buckhead office to Zero Waste through the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) Facility Certification, which was recently integrated into Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), creators of the LEED rating system. As a founding member of USZWBC, we take pride in not only helping our customers achieve Zero Waste, but also in walking the talk in our own facilities. In order to achieve this certification, each Rubicon department has designated Zero Waste Champions that promote and encourage Rubicon associates to reduce, reuse and recycle. Our Champions have no qualms about digging misplaced Styrofoam out of the compost bin or pulling folks aside when they don’t separate their waste into the appropriate bins.

We’re serious about achieving Zero Waste, and since moving into our new headquarters in 2016, we’ve already got several months of data under our belt and are tracking well toward Certification. RubiContributor volunteer associates and our Zero Waste Champions capture our internal diversion metrics by performing regular on-site waste audits of our waste stream, benchmarking and tracking our progress.

So, are we recycling nerds? Definitely. And we’re proud of it. In our eyes, being wasteful is not cool, but knowing all the ins-and-outs of anaerobic digestion is. If you agree, I encourage you to join in on the #UsedCups fun this week and think about what little steps you can take at work and in your everyday life to reduce your waste. Heck, if you won’t do it for us, do it for Earth Day!