When I first started working in an office, I didn’t know what to expect. The only office I got to see was run by Michael Scott from one of my go-to shows “The Office”. I would watch Jim and Pam prank Dwight over and over; and unless staplers get put in Jell-O often, I knew it wasn’t a typical example to follow. For my first personal experience I noticed that I had never had this sort of freedom when it came to having my things physically near me. As I mentioned in my last blog, I worked in a factory prior. We had our lockers but no desk or closet and everything was only accessible to use during our breaks. Being in an office has really opened up a new world of keeping at minimizing my waste and having access to my ‘tools’. If you personally do not work in an office, do not worry. I’ve been doing a bunch of the examples below for years and they are very transferable to the more ‘on the move’ career choice.
1-Bring your own lunch from home. Possibly the biggest waste I see are from lunches. I know how tempting it is to go out and grab a bite or hit up the local sushi shop and bring back a clamshell of delicious sushi for your lunch. Imagine though, hypothetically let’s say you eat out 4 days out of the 5 (I’ve actually known people who do this!). That’s 4 days of takeout food that contains: wrappers (carton, paper or wax paper), plastic cutlery, paper bags, napkins and plastic bottles or to go coffee cups with their lids. Also, depending on what you’re eating, quick meals will more often than not offer no positive nutritional value and are saturated with fats and salts. AND THE MONEY! I don’t even know how much I’ve saved. Average 8$ a takeout meal, with the previous example of 4 times a week. That’s $32 a week and $1,664 a year. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather keep that cash and go on adventures!
2-Bring your loose leaf tea (or coffee) I drink SO MUCH green tea at work. I’m slowly starting to cool it on the coffee; it really just hurts my stomach more than it’s worth. The transition to tea has been made simple by keeping everything at my desk. I have a jar of loose leaf green tea and a jar of peppermint tea (both bought in bulk) tucked away in my drawer. On the window sill near me, I keep my mug and strainer and am able to refill with the kettle in the office whenever I please. Even when I was drinking coffee, I would use the communal drip pot; keep some sugar in a jar and some milk or creamer in my lunch bag in the fridge. So I know it’s all ‘me’ approved.
3-Keep a mug at your desk (and extra cutlery and plates etc.). This one’s pretty simple, by keeping reusable with you; you won’t need the single use option. Use them, clean them, and store them away until the next usage.
4-Turn old paper into notepads. I made a whoops this week. While copying a note that I had to send home to each family at the Pre-K, the Xerox had cut off the entire bottom. I realized this AFTER each one had already been posted to the cubbies. In a rush, I had to print out more, remove the bad versions and re-stick the good copies. This lead to a massive pile of papers that I now have no use for. One of the teachers explained how we can turn them into notepads as long as there is no sensitive information on the back. And By Golly! She was right! They are amazing and I feel way better when I take messages or make notes on the reused paper instead a new blank Post-Its
5-Print on both sides when you can. You cut the paper use literally in half by doing this. Or even better, if you can, just email notices around. Keep them out of the way and out of the recycling bin afterwards.
6-Make the exact number of copies you need. This one’s really specific to office work, but you wouldn’t believe how often it happens. Someone once told me to make 80 copies for 65 students. I made 67 instead, that way there’s one exactly per student, and a couple extra if I need. I’m always able to make more copies if the paper gets lost.
7-Keep the garbage can far away from you. I keep the garbage can way out of reach from me, that way I’m less likely to allow habit interfere with my hard work of reducing my waste.
8-Keep a couple of extra reusable bags with you. I have a few in my cupboard at work, just in case. On lunch, I sometimes go do the groceries and this way, I know I’m safe. Also, for the unexpected things that you may need to bring home, you won’t have to grab a plastic bag or worry about fumbling with a bunch of things to carry at once.
9-Compost at your desk and HIDE IT. I don’t mean a legitimate compost, I mean to keep an empty container of your choosing to bring home daily compostables (used tea leaves, lunch scraps, snack crumbs). I used to keep my container on the corner of my desk, out of the way. For about a week straight, I didn’t realize the caretaker was emptying it into the trash. It was a sweet gesture on her end, but why would I bother keeping a compost container if it’s going to be thrown away anyways. So now I hide it!
NOTE: It really should be emptied every day, or max every second day. Don’t let it go long enough to create an aroma, that’s when people will start to complain.
10-Don’t be afraid to talk about your lifestyle. It’s a unique part of you and some people are genuinely interested. Through chatting about it, I was able to stop countless Styrofoam cups and plastic forks from being tossed into the garbage.
And there you have it friends, 10 simple and doable steps to help cut your waste in the office. Remember to take everything a step at a time, and to not give up. What you’re doing matters!
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