We try to focus on value and eliminate the non-essentials in our business but not always in our day-to-day communication. In honor of Earth Day, here are some tips for ways to reduce waste in meetings while still keeping them productive and engaging.
Assemble a shared brainstorming kit
You can save a lot of materials, packaging, and time by building out a shared brainstorming kit for the office. Pack it with pens, post-its, stickers, anything team members will need. That way you can focus on restocking just one kit. It can also encourage people to use up existing materials like those sticky note pads with just five sheets left or that pack of 1000 dot stickers.
Opt for recycled products
There’s a range of office products out there made from recycled materials. Try to build out your kit with recycled options that are functionally the same as brand new versions.
Use digital whiteboards
One easy option for greener meetings is to go digital. Less print-outs, markers, post-its and index cards to deal with. Realtime Board and Mural are both popular replacements for a whiteboard experience. Check out this article for more tips on running remote brainstorming sessions.
Leverage collaborative apps
For some work, there may not even be a need to have a meeting. Tools like Google Apps, Podio, and Atlassian products allow you to make edits and leave comments from wherever you are. They’re great options for getting things done with a smaller group or if you want to collaborate over a longer period of time.
DIY reusable templates
Believe or not, you can still buy transparency sheets and some styles allow you to print directly onto the sheet. If you tend to create the same types of outputs in your meetings or run through the same activities, you could consider using wipeable transparency sheets instead of paper. You could print out or write out your standard templates on the sheet. Then write in the specific content for that meeting and wipe it clean when you’re done.
For example, you could print out a set of process modeling symbols, leaving enough room to write in the name of the step. You could use the whole sheets or cut them down into smaller pieces. You can easily move them around, fill in your specific content and then clean them before the next session. It’s a solution that’s more flexible than a whiteboard, more reusable than post-its, and more physical than digital whiteboard options.
Swap in refillable whiteboard markers
When whiteboard markers dry out, refill them instead of tossing them to reduce the amount of plastic hitting landfills.
Use single-sided printed paper for rough notetaking
A stack of fresh white computer paper and sharpies is a common sight in brainstorming sessions. However, if you’re just doing some quick sketches there’s no need for completely fresh paper. The office recycling bin could be a great source for scratch paper.
I’ve been to some events where companies offer branded notebooks for people to take notes. But how often do those notebooks get used beyond that meeting? You could try reusable clipboards instead. Each participant can fill up their clipboard with the note paper they need. That way you can save any excess for future meetings. The larger surface area is better for sharing diagrams with team members. And the clipboard interface is easier for taking notes while standing up, which is beneficial if you want to encourage people to walk around the room. After the meeting, just clip notes together with a binder clip instead of staples for more reusability.
Or individual whiteboards
Another reusable option is handing out individual whiteboards for quick notes and sketches. You have a limited area to write but it might be enough for the activity you’re doing. You could always snap a picture for future reference. These old school tablets provide some of the same benefits as their high-tech counterparts without the distractions.
Pick notebooks mindfully
For longer-term projects where you want to keep all of your notes and ideas in one place, the Decomposition Notebook is a great option. It’s durable in the short term and recyclable once the project launches.
Highlight with colored pencils
Replace the plastic and ink with colorful pencils instead. There are even some neon options.
Build digital models
At IDEO there’s a saying: “Never go into a meeting without a prototype.” There are so many options for trash-free prototyping, like digital mock-ups, diagrams, Excel models, and more elaborate simulations. Digital models are a great way to learn more, communicate decisions, and spark conversation without using extra materials.
Create drag-and-drop Powerpoint templates instead of paper templates
For mocking up marketing materials or website screens, building out custom Powerpoint or Keynote templates is a great option for people who aren’t used to specialized design tools. If you create a set of common elements ahead of time, like logos, banners, and fonts, team members can easily drag and drop elements to test out a variety of ideas.
Go for eco-friendly physical prototyping materials
Try wood, recycled cardboard, or Legos instead of foamcore. You can answer many design questions by prototyping with reusable or biodegradable materials (or found objects). Throwaway prototypes don’t need to be made with throwaway materials.
Encourage potluck lunches
Food is often a crucial part of keeping morale and energy up during longer meetings. Many office catering events involve excess food packaging which is often plastic. If you’re holding a smaller meeting you could try a potluck style with reusable containers. Bring homemade snacks instead of individually wrapped ones.
Pack your own utensils
An easy way to reduce waste at lunchtime is to use reusable utensils instead of plastic ones. These bamboo ones are also stylish. You could go further and pack your own bento box and cloth napkin as well. The bonus is that you already have a to-go container ready for those inevitable leftovers.
Other office space essentials
Stock up on purifying plants
Indoor air pollution can be a major problem for health and productivity. Office spaces often have new furniture, carpeting, markers, plus often the inability to open windows. Assemble a group of people in one room for an all-day meeting and the air quality can quickly go downhill. Add a few of these plants to the room to purify the air while you work.
Invest in a solar-powered phone charger
Outlets are often at a premium during group events. Save some juice by charging smaller devices with a solar-powered charger.
Simple tweaks can make a big difference over time, without impacting your work (and perhaps improving it).
What are your favorite tips or tools for greener meetings?