In Japan, staff at Woonerf Inc. commit to a zero waste office

Published on: 
2 May 2022
Sumner Byrne

As part of a Tokyo-based sustainability consulting firm, Woonerf Inc. employees spend much of their timing thinking about sustainable urban environments and human-centered spaces. Woonerf Inc. helps clients across Japan improve their environmental performance, occupant well-being and public awareness of ESG compliance while securing economic benefits through LEED, TRUE, SITES and other methods.

With a dedicated focus on creating sustainable, people-driven spaces, and with multiple TRUE Advisors on staff, it was only a matter of time before Woonerf turned to TRUE certification for its own facility in Chiyoda-Ku, Tokyo. Surprisingly, the project’s success hinged less on sweeping organizational pronouncements and more on small, thoughtful adjustments in employee behavior that were shared and discussed openly throughout the office.

"Since its foundation, our facility has been working to reduce waste by having our employees organize the layout of the office and even sort out the trash on our own,” explained Ryoji Nakayama, sustainability consultant and TRUE Advisor at Woonerf Inc. “We also encourage employees to bring their lunchboxes to the office, promoting healthy eating and reducing the plastic waste generated by takeout food.”

A multi-part recycling station.

Woonerf Inc.’s careful waste sorting system breaks down waste, recycling and compost streams. Photo courtesy of Woonerf Inc.

Employees can add to an online form whether they used a family lunchbox, a restaurant lunch or a convenience store lunchbox, which is viewable by all staff. Many choose to clean their takeout containers to recycle what they can.

To further reduce employee-produced waste, Woonerf set up a composting system in the limited facility space. Food scraps contributed to the compost are documented and weighed on a tally table, and eventually used in the office’s landscaping.

“After employees knew that we were using their compost for the company’s garden, they paid more attention to composting to fertilize the soil,” noted Nakayama. “They would tear up vegetables or bread into small pieces and keep the compost from creating an odor by adding orange peels. They enjoyed contributing to the program.”

Employees measuring at work.

Employees weighed and measured waste output to document their progress toward zero waste. Photo courtesy of Woonerf Inc.

Based on the principle that everyone can see and participate in the TRUE certification process, Woonerf shared the progress of its efforts openly with staff. They recorded the contributions made by employees to encourage a sense of recognition and cooperation with the new zero waste policies. In fact, staff collaboration was one of the critical pillars of their eventual TRUE certification. They hope to use the experience to assist more clients in Japan with achieving their own sustainability ambitions.

“The challenge of TRUE certification has allowed us to build a composting system, retrain our employees and try to reduce the chances of further waste generation,” noted Nakayama. “With the knowledge gained from the TRUE certification, we will continue to challenge ourselves to achieve zero waste."

Learn more about TRUE-certified Woonerf Inc.