Matter Sustainability: Doing More to Waste Less

By Matter

Summer is in full swing here at Matter, and it’s wild. Yeah, you heard us right: WILD. OK maybe it’s not slip-n-sliding-to-Coolio’s “Fantastic Voyage” or ghost-riding-a-Maserati-in-Palm-Springs wild, but definitely wild in the seeing-each-other-in-person, offices-opening-back-up, oh-you’re-taller-than-I-thought-you-were sense of the word. And now that we have a renewed sense of purpose and our collective energy to back it up, we’ve got work to do. Wild work.

But what does “wild work” mean in practical terms for us? Why, taking steps to reduce our footprint as an agency, of course. Because what could be more wild than undoing some of the most environmentally damaging habits that almost all of us have? And what if we could do our part to limit the amount of single-use plastics that find their way into our planet’s wilder parts by – wait for it – not using single-use plastics? Or even just producing less waste? Well, that sounds pretty dang wild to us!

Why we’re reducing waste

We love our planet. Plain and simple. And we see that businesses have as much (if not more) responsibility than the average person to protect our natural resources – you know, the stuff all around us that keeps us alive. Looking back over the last two decades, we now see how we could do better to reduce our environmental impact. So, we’re determined to do more and waste less. And we want to encourage as many people as we can – at Matter and beyond – to join us in our efforts.

Here’s what we’re doing as an agency

In addition to the responsibility mentioned above, as a business we have the opportunity to reach people outside our crew. And hopefully, with our extra effort and advocacy, we can help influence our team and clients to do more too. In the last 12 months, we’ve done the following work to push toward our sustainability goals:

Eliminated paper waste by going fully digital with magazine publication subscriptions

Transitioned to green cleaning supplies in our Newburyport office (including dish detergent, hand soap, surface cleaner and sanitizing wipes)

Reduced single-use plastic consumption with reusable flatware across all our offices

Implemented more sustainable shipping practices across our offices, including the use of eco-friendly/biodegradable boxes and packing materials 

Simple ways you can waste less, too

We understand that a single business’ sustainability efforts may help us feel good about our own impact, but this planet we love so much deserves more. So, we’re sharing advice and simple tips for you to join us in our so-called wild work. Some tips are about the materials we handle (and throw away) every day, others are just about getting things in the right municipal bins every week. But these are the most impactful actions we believe people can regularly take without making seismic lifestyle changes. Check it out.

Be aware of the plastics you use

If you’re reading this, you probably know a thing or two about branding. Which means you know that awareness is the first step toward action. So, the first thing we recommend to reduce your footprint is simple: take note of all the plastics in your life. Are they reusable? Are they recyclable? And what kind of plastic are they? That number inside the recycling symbol on the container can give you insight on just how recyclable they are. The lower numbers are generally more commonly recycled, whereas a #5 (polypropylene) or #6 (polystyrene/Styrofoam) rarely cycle back into consumer goods. And if there’s no number? Well, then the sorting facility can’t identify it and will almost definitely send it to the landfill.

Reduce food waste

When it comes to food, there are significantly more than a paragraph’s worth of actions we could all be taking to reduce our footprint. Eat less red meat. Cut the impact of transportation and storage by eating locally. Maybe grow some of your own foods. The list goes on and on, but one action that sits particularly close to home is food waste. We all know greenhouse gasses are a problem, but did you know food waste is a leading contributor to greenhouse emissions? According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s 2020 report, there’s more food waste in landfills than any other category of material solid waste, accounting for almost a quarter of total volume. That means if we reduce food waste and redirect what’s left to more sustainable ends (such as municipal composting facilities and home gardens), we can effectively reduce harmful methane emissions in the process. That’s a win-win! Plus, the FDA has a bunch of tips on how you can reduce your food waste – so, take advantage!

Use and reuse reusable bags

Want to cut down on plastic waste? Totes.

See what we did there? Totes and other reusable bags are durable and totally cut down on your waste footprint. Already have some but keep forgetting them in the car? That’s OK – just go out to the car and grab them when you realize you forgot. You’ll thank yourself later when you don’t have a stockpile of plastic bags kicking around. Oh, and while we’re talking about plastic bags: Yes, some bags are technically recyclable, but whatever you do don’t put them in with mixed recycling. Some stores have special bins to drop them off, but if you put them in your regular recycling bin, you risk jamming up the sorting machines and sending whole loads of otherwise recyclable items to the dump. (More on that below!)

Can the bottled water

There’s a long-standing debate over what’s better for the environment, aluminum cans or plastic bottles. Cans are infinitely recyclable, while most plastic ends up in landfills, oceans, etc. But metals are expensive and energy-intensive to recycle, whereas plastics are unbelievably cheap to produce. So maybe we shouldn’t be comparing them, but rather considering alternatives to both. Get a portable reusable container that you love (making sure it fits in all the bags and cup holders you need it to!) and consider a refillable jug next time you’re about to grab a 24 pack of single-use bottles.

Dig in to how recycling actually works

Look for recycling symbol, throw in large bin, pat self on back for saving the planet – seems simple enough! But recycling is actually much more complicated than the average consumer realizes. And most of that complication sits at (and beyond) the sorting facilities that receive truckloads of materials every day. In fact, much of what you put into a recycling bin ends up at the dump, even if it’s recyclable. It turns out that when you put non-recyclable items into your bin (think: soiled pizza boxes, misleadingly labeled plastics, container lids), entire loads can get sorted out of the recycling system and into the trash system. To prevent this, we all need to make sure we understand what is and – importantly – what isn’t recyclable. Our Portland office flagged this fun and shareable resource to learn more and test your knowledge of what bin gets what stuff. We recommend playing the game – you might be surprised (and a little disappointed) by what items you’re supposed to throw in the trash. (Just bear in mind that it’s specific to the Portland, Oregon area – so check in with your own waste management provider to find out what goes where in your area.)

In conclusion, there’s more work to be done

We recognize the solutions we’ve listed are pretty basic in the grand scheme of sustainability efforts. And that so much more can be done, both organizationally and individually. But people have to start somewhere. So, if you read through them and thought, “oh I already do all those.” Well, that’s great! It sounds like you’re on a similar journey to the one Matter is on. And if it’s all new, well that’s great too. Because these starting points lead to deeper engagement, more comprehensive approaches and serious policy change. And, if we all band together to waste less, maybe we can undo some of the damage we’ve collectively done to this incredible planet.

After all, the wildest things in our world deserve this wild approach to waste reduction.