While living consciously in the comfort of our own homes may seem doable, it becomes a completely different story when we’re at work. Being mindful of the waste we create in the office could feel like a difficult task when many of the systems in place there tend of be designed to promote convenience and efficiency above all else - sometimes even at the expense of sustainability. With some work, however, we can make green living work at work. That last sentence makes it seem like a lot of “work”, but it’s really not! Let’s take a look at some ways we can reduce the amount of waste we produce at the office.
Bring your recycling game to work
Nowadays, many offices have recycling bins for common recyclables, like paper and plastic bottles. If your office doesn’t have a recycling program in place yet, try talking to a manager to see if they can get one set up. If you work somewhere that doesn’t have recycling bins and has no intention of installing them, don’t worry, you can still make it work. Do some research, find the closest public recycling bins from your office. Keep your recyclable trash and make a recycling run every few days when you’ve accumulated enough. It take a little more effort, but where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Note: Make sure you’re not tossing out your company’s confidential documents into public recycling bins
Keep a mug/bottle at your desk
Water coolers are exclusively found in offices. It’s where a lot of us hang around to chat with colleagues during our breaks. Many of these water coolers come with a disposable cup dispenser. Unfortunately, for convenience sake, we instinctively just go for these cups. We fall into the rhythm of walking to the cooler, grabbing the drink, tossing the cup and walking back to our desk - no fuss. But bringing our own mug or bottle on these trips isn’t that much more work. Get a cool mug and it’s sure to also be a conversation starter for your water cooler chats as well.
Have a set of reusables just for work
It’s difficult to balance the hustle and bustle of work life and still make time to prepare lunch every single day. For a lot of us, work lunches are generally just takeout meals eaten at our desks. The problem with this is that takeaway food packaging and utensils are some of the largest contributors to plastic pollution. Invest in a set of reusable items just for work and keep them at your desk so you can refuse all the plastic items your go-to takeout restaurant and coffee shop provide. Get a reusable lunch box, a coffee tumbler and a set of utensils and bring them with you when buying lunch or coffee.
Think before taking office supplies
Offices have a tendency of overstocking on stationary and supplies. As a result, this creates a culture of wastefulness, where we kind of take these things for granted - freely grabbing new pens, files and notebooks from the supplies closet when we misplace the ones we’re using. What we forget is that a majority of these office supplies are made primarily from plastic. So think twice before grabbing a new pen. Take good care of the supplies you’re currently using and don’t lose them. Better yet, switch to more eco-friendly options like pencils or reusable pens
Be mindful when printing
Documents are unavoidable in a work environment. Pages after pages of documents detailing everything - from company policies to invoices to legal documents. At the office, where we don’t have to pay for ink and paper, we sometimes find ourselves naturally printing every single document we’re given. Is it that really essential though? Data shows it’s not. A UK report found that while an average worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper each year, a shocking 6,800 of that ends up being wasted. So be conscious about what you’re printing. Certain documents (i.e. legal agreements) probably require a hard copy, but others can just exist exclusive on your computer.
When possible, go digital
The 21st century has provided us with a lot of digital tools to change the ways we do things. while the bulk of these new technologies were created primarily to increase the convenience of handling certain tasks, many also provide side-benefits that help us be more green. Skyping instead of having a face-to-face meeting reduces our carbon footprint since we travel less as a result. Using Dropbox, Google Drive, or other file-sharing services, allows us to share information without printing multiple copies of everything. We should be open to learning about and embracing these tools.