Step 1: Focus
With your client and project team, choose areas of sustainability to prioritize on the project, leading with low-waste (see below for strategies including increased diversion through recycling/redistribution, specifying secondhand or low-waste products, etc.) Other sustainability areas to consider: healthy materials (natural and nontoxic), low carbon (electrification or offsetting embodied carbon), avoiding plastic (also lower carbon). Don’t know where to start? Visit the GFDA Toolkit online to find consultants, services, and apps that can help you along the way.
Step 2: Budget
Discuss how sustainability could impact the budget early on so that your client can fully understand the impact of their decisions. There are likely sustainable choices will have little-to-no impact on the budget, ones that will impact it slightly, and ones that will increase the price point. Based on your client’s interest and budget, decide together the project’s tolerance for price increases associated with sustainability (perhaps a percentage), and a process (for example, identifying at least x number of sustainable options per decision).
Step 3: Timeline
Discuss the impact sustainability will have on the timeline. Help the client understand that it’s quicker (and more affordable) to incorporate sustainable design decisions early on in the process, and that some sustainable decisions could increase timeline, like choosing ground shipping instead of air to reduce carbon emissions, or researching and procuring more sustainable options.
Step 4: Deconstruction and diversion
Assess what you can keep restore, or redistribute to reduce your landfill waste: furniture, appliances, cabinetry, structural, architectural, decorative, as well as fixtures or furniture. See the Deconstruction section below or Toolkit Redistribution Resources.
Design and Construction
Step 5: Specify low waste and sustainable
Design to minimize material use, waste, and overages.
Source from vendors who work to minimize their waste and use reclaimed/post- consumer materials (lumber, brick, stone, concrete, soil materials, outdoor furnishings).
We’ve created this Bay Area approved vendor list to make your search for low- waste partnerships easy, with more national resources to be added as we open additional chapters.
Choose products made of natural and recyclable materials that can be deconstructed for maintenance, and proper disposal per material at end of life.
Contact vendors to make sure they don’t use styrofoam, packing peanuts, non- recyclable or non-compostable materials in their packaging. Ideally, packaging is plastic free.
Step 6: Divert
Redistribute current plants, flowers, lumber, mulch, furniture, and dirt. See our redistribution contact list here.
Recycle packaging materials including cardboard boxes, plastic plant containers and trays, and soil bags.
Return excess materials including unused plants and plant pots.
Step 7 : At the office and on-site
Set up a three-bin system for recycling, composting, and landfill. Establish a point person to ensure items get sorted properly.
Post guidelines from your local waste management company to eliminate contamination (yes, a sheet of paper is okay to prevent contaminated recycling).