Reducing plastic at work

It can be a bit difficult to try and get people at work to adopt new ways of working, and that includes peoples habits in the workplace too. Despite this, there are ways of going about it that can encourage change, and you don’t have to be a manager either. I will be writing a blog piece about that soon but for now, even if you can’t get big changes to happen, there are things that you can do yourself, and hey, it might even catch on.

Use your own glass

This includes mugs as well, but I figured that unless you have a drinks machine at work, you probably use a mug anyway, whether its a corny one from home or a stained one that has stood its ground in the office kitchen cupboard for years. Water tends to be the one thing that, in most offices, you will see people drinking from a plastic cup that they picked up from the water cooler.

So my solution is to bring your own, or bring a bottle to drink from instead (you might already have one if you have already tried being plastic free on the go). Even if you have a bottle I would probably recommend taking a glass, it’s easier to drink from whilst your working and it encourages you to get out of your seat more often to fill it up, so it keeps you moving through the day.

You don’t have to stick to glass either, there are options like bamboo and stainless steel too, which offer a more lightweight and less breakable solution should you not be lucky enough to have somewhere to stash your office drinking vessels overnight. In fact these collapsable stainless steel cups are a great product if your short on space, they can even be used as key-ring!

Avoid the drinks machine

Following on from the topic of drinks, this is one for those of you who can’t resist the convenience of the tea/coffee machine. Not every work place has one, but whether it is a hot drink vending machine with every option under the sun, or a simple coffee pod machine, they all use plastic and avoiding them is one simple way to do your bit.

It might seem madness, and the fact that I’m not a coffee drinker means I will probably have a lot of people tell me that I don’t understand the stress this change might do to some people, but at the end of the day I can guarantee that the stresses are a lot worse for the environment that ends up dealing with the plastic (and that includes you in the end).

For coffee drinkers, the advice I have been given from those who love coffee (I do know these people I promise!) is to find a blend you like, find a brewing method that works for you at the office, and then actually take some time out to enjoy the process of making yourself that delightful cup of joy that you hope will get you through the day. It gives you a break from work, which also gives your brain some downtime to help process what you’ve been up to so far that day.

Another option of course (although pricier) is to pop to your local coffee/tea shop, you might even already do this. If this is you, or this seems like the best option for you, don’t forget to use a reusable cup! I talk about my favourite here (completely leak proof I might add) and if you choose to use a reusable…most places will even give you a discount to say thanks!

The other option of course is to just cut down, they say 4 cups of coffee contains the recommended daily limit of caffeine (that’s home brewed, not the caffeine packed coffee shop kind), so even though it might feel like you’re suffering the ill effects of a long night out drinking, cutting down might even be better for your own health, as well as the planets.

For tea drinkers this should be easy, just bring in some tea bags or leaves and put on the kettle.

Take your own lunch

I know the additional chore of making lunch can seem like just too much of a burden at times, but it really is one of the only ways to guarantee yourself a lunch that is either free of plastic, or uses a lot less than the packaged convenience store kind.

Just think about all the salad pots, fruit pots, sandwich cartons, crisp packets and plastic bottles, that fly off the shelves everyday during the lunchtime rush, especially with the meal deals that encourage you to buy even more.

All of this single-use plastic waste has to end up somewhere.

Of course you might be able to recycle some of these packaging options, if you have the facilities at work, but crisp packets and snack wrappers will be heading straight into the waste bin. Even for the recyclable options, unless every person takes the time to rinse off any food residue, contaminated plastics in the recycling can end up ruining entire batches at the recycling center, which means they go to waste as well.

Bringing your own lunch not only gives you more control over what you are eating, it reduces your plastic use and will probably save you a fortune too. For plastic free options to keep your lunch safe and fresh to and from the office, click here to read about some of the alternatives to clingfilm.

There will, of course, always be days where you simply don’t have the time, and for those occasions I say explore a little. Find out if there are any markets near you, or cafes where you can take your food away in a container that you have brought with you. Hopefully with a bit more thought, you can find ways of choosing a plastic-less option, and with all your savings, you might even be able to splash out a little!

Use a pencil or refillable pen

I hadn’t even thought about this until a friend of mine pointed it out to me, but the simple, everyday, office pen is another example of a single use plastic item that just gets binned as soon as we’re done with it. Another piece of plastic to end up on landfill or littering our oceans.

Fortunately, the solution to this is as simple as the pen itself, use a pencil or a refillable pen. In fact I have found that using a pencil makes quite a nice change, nothing you write is absolute and set in stone, so you have the freedom to make changes, amend things as you go and it even saves paper as a result! win win!

The refillable pen will probably come at your own cost, most workplaces probably don’t budget much for this, but it will be yours forever, to use at home or at work, and you can take comfort in knowing you are doing some good.

Bring your own cutlery

If sandwiches are your go to then, this one may not be for you, but you still might want to consider it, in case you ever feel adventurous!

All you need is to pack a couple from home, or if you fancy getting yourself some for whenever you’re out and about, get yourself a bamboo cutlery set, they’re lightweight and won’t scratch anything else in your bag either.

They’re perfect to use when you find out the canteen uses disposable cutlery, or the market stall only has plastic, or even if you end up with no choice but to settle for a pasta pot, at least you won’t be throwing plastic cutlery away too.