How to stay low waste at work
It’s where we spend most of our lives - our workplace.
It can sometimes be disheartening when the values of our industry, job or place of work don’t align with our own. Our job might not value the environment, sustainability or waste reduction, and we often don’t have the power or authority to make any real change.
But that shouldn’t mean we forget about our ethos entirely during the work day.
There are plenty of ways you can create sustainable work habits. And you never know, you might even inspire your colleagues and boss to live a low waste lifestyle, too! To help motivate you, we’ve put together our top tips on how to reduce waste in the workplace.
First thing’s first: figure out what waste you’re producing
In order to make meaningful changes to your workplace, you need to figure out what’s going wrong. What are the main types of rubbish you’re all creating?
To discover what needs changing, perform a waste audit. This is a simple and effective experiment to uncover the root of the problem. For one week, either use clear, see-through bin bags, or get everyone to write down what they throw away in a notebook by the bins. (This includes everything from broken pens and waste paper to crisp packets.)
After a week, a clear picture should begin to emerge about your workplace waste habits. Are you all grabbing coffees from the well-known chain coffee shop around the corner? Are you regularly printing off too many documents? Analyse the pattern and write down your biggest sources of workplace waste. This is a great starting point to open everyone’s eyes to how much rubbish you’re throwing away.
Let’s chat about food and drink. Often they can be the highlight of our workday - perking ourselves up with a 10am coffee, looking forward to a delicious soup at lunchtime, and grabbing a sneaky chocolate bar at 4pm. Food and drink are such important parts of our day, so it’s crucial we make sure we try to eat delicious, exciting and nourishing meals and snacks to keep us feeling positive and productive.
But - and this is a big but - our eating and drinking habits are often very wasteful. When you’ve got a busy day ahead, it’s always tempting to grab something quick and convenient on-the-go. These fast options are plastic-wrapped, expensive and covered in non-recyclable packaging.
Top tips for reducing food waste at work:
- Plan, plan and plan some more. Meal prepping in advance saves time and money, and reduces your daily waste. Why not try making overnight oats for breakfast, a big juicy salad for lunch, and a nut, fruit and chocolate mix for your snack?
- Invest in long-lasting reusables. Buy yourself an insulated flask, travel mug, tiffin box/ steel lunch box and travel cutlery to motivate yourself to ditch plastic packaging for good. You can often ask to use your own cup or dish in cafes and delis, too.
- Compost! Some eco-minded companies might already have a compost bin or garden, but if not, take your own mini compost container to dump all your fruit peel, coffee grounds, tea bags and more.
Travelling to work
After you’ve assessed your eating habits, take a look at your commute. How do you get to and from your workplace - and is it the most environmentally-friendly option available?
Creating an eco-friendly commute routine for yourself can be super simple. Although we can’t all afford an electric car, you could consider a bike or public transport like the bus, tram or train.
Another option is proposing a carpool scheme to your colleagues to reduce the amount of cars travelling to your office. Some workplaces also offer bike schemes - chat to your colleagues and boss to see what might work for you. Carpooling saves petrol costs and parking spaces, too - so it’s a win-win for everyone!
Stationery and supplies
Another huge source of workplace waste is office supplies. From plastic pens to endless wasted paper, workplaces can create a huge amount of daily waste (of course, this depends on the industry you work in!).
We’ve created a handy tick list you can work through to figure out how you could create a more sustainable workplace:
- Pens - Switch plastic biro pens with cartridge pens or pencils.
- Paper - Go paperless wherever possible! When you have to print something off, print on scrap paper and opt to print double-sided.
- Bins - What kind of bins does your workplace have? Paper/card, other recycling, compost? Do you split rubbish up by different materials
- Beverages - Do you have a coffee machine? Get rid of disposable coffee cups and opt for mugs. Is there a refillable water machine or cooler? Again, get rid of plastic cups and encourage people to bring their own bottle.
- Dishes - Is the kitchen stocked with plates, dishes, mugs and cutlery? If there are plenty of reusable dishes, people are less likely to need plastic pots or packaging.
- Toilets - Are there paper towels in the toilets, or a hand dryer?
Remember - Rome wasn’t built in a day
What we mean by that is, you can’t singlehandedly change an entire business overnight. Try not to get frustrated if your boss doesn’t want to make changes and your colleagues aren’t interested. All you can do is be responsible for your own decisions, and be an inspiration in your workplace. If you come into work everyday with a home-brewed coffee, a delicious homemade lunch, long-lasting quality stationery, and a unique bottle, flask and lunchbox, people may well want to follow suit and join your sustainable journey!
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