Plastic has gotten a bad rap lately, and for good reason. We all know plastic is bad for the environment and our health. Landfills are overflowing with plastic. It’s contaminating our waterways and harming marine animals. Chemicals found in plastics are absorbed into human bodies affecting hormones, wreaking havoc on reproductive health, and causing many other health issues.
Despite the negative impact plastic has on our health and the environment, if you look at the average workplace break room, chances are you’ll see a multitude of plastic paraphernalia scattered about. Plastic utensils, cups, plates, and food containers are commonplace in the break room. Imagine what could happen if just one person took a stand against plastic in the workplace. A little bit of planning can prevent a lot of waste.
Take Inventory of What You Use
Take inventory of every single piece of plastic you use from the moment you get to work until you leave. That coffee lid and stirrer you use in the mornings are probably plastic. Maybe the container you brought your leftovers in for lunch is plastic as well.
If you drink bottled water throughout the day or use plastic cups, lids, and straws at the water cooler, add those to the list. The disposable utensils you use to eat your lunch or afternoon snack are probably plastic, and most come individually wrapped in plastic, too. Chances are, there are several plastic grocery shopping bags somewhere in the break room.
That’s not counting the plastic garbage bags in the trash cans, the bottle of dish soap that gets tossed when it’s empty, or the plastic serving bowls and dishes leftover from your last catered Christmas lunch up in the cabinet. The good news is now that you know what all is there, you have a head start on knowing what needs to be replaced.
Bring your own Refillable Water Bottle.
Many of us have a perfectly good reusable water bottle at home. Dig yours out and bring it to work. Leave it there for convenience.
If you haven’t jumped onto the latest water flask trend there are endless options to consider. Some refillable water bottles help you keep track of how much water you’re drinking throughout the day. Some insulated tumbler options will keep your water icy cold all day long. Buy one with your favorite team’s logo or in your favorite color. Whatever it is, make it your work water bottle/cup and keep it there.
Bring a coffee mug or thermos.
The same goes for how you drink your coffee. Keep a favorite mug in the break room or, even better, invest in an insulated mug to keep your coffee hot for as long as you want.
Bring a large bottle of creamer and stop using the single-serve creamers. Use a real spoon to stir your coffee and bring it home at the end of the week to wash.
Invest in Glass Storage Bowls
Some good quality lidded glass bowls will be a great investment. They will last you for years and can serve many purposes, one of which could be transporting leftovers to work.
As a bonus, you can put these in the microwave and not have to worry about any harmful particles leaching into your food. Making this change doesn’t create any extra work for you as you would have to wash out your plastic containers anyway. Might as well use something that is 100% safe to put in the dishwasher. Our favorite microwaveable glass bowl and storage has been on sale all month.
Leave Reusable Utensils at Work
Bringing reusable silverware to work is one step that can drastically reduce the amount of plastic used over time. Silverware is pretty cheap, can be purchased individually, or a whole set can be split among coworkers.
This step may be an adjustment since it will take a bit more time to wash after eating but the benefit far outweighs this extra step.
Switch to a Refillable Soap Dispenser
Look for simple glass soap pumps to house dish soap. You can buy the dish soap in large containers to refill the pumps as needed.
These larger bulk bottles of dish soap will last longer and reduce unnecessary waste.
Invest in a water cooler or water filtration system
If for some reason your place of employment doesn’t currently have a water cooler or some type of filtered water available, it would be a smart step to look into one. If this is brought to your employer’s attention they may look into providing some sort of drinking water to their employees.
If your employer is not interested in providing this for their employees, there are water filtration systems that can be installed on water faucets and filtrating water pitchers that can be stored in the fridge.
These two options can be relatively cheap, especially if everyone pitches in. And think of all the plastic water bottle waste that will be eliminated!
Now think about the rest of the world, that simply is now sustainable.
Set up Recycling Containers
Many people make more of an effort to recycle when recycling bins readily available. Maybe there is room in the break room for a special bin just for recyclable plastics.
Get with your coworkers and set up a plan. You may need to talk with your cleaning crew and figure out the logistics of it all.
If the office doesn’t have a recycling container, you can buy one around 20$. At the end of the week take it to recycling on the way home from work or simply add it to your home recycling. Some states like Oregon pay money for recycled goods so you may even make a little extra cash on the side.
Slow and Steady Changes
Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Pick one small change and keep with it until it becomes second nature. Then consider adding another. If you try to do everything at once, it could become overwhelming or costly.
Hopefully, these tips will help make the plastic-free transition for your workplace a little easier. Even if you are the only one interested in making these changes at first, keep trying and don’t give up. Chances are, others will follow the good example you are setting of minimizing your carbon footprint!
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