Going green in 2019 – Simple changes for a more sustainable office
In 2018 the word ‘single-use’ entered the Oxford dictionary for the first time. Globally people across the world have started to push back against single use plastics and unnecessary packaging. In 2019, we will see more companies reduce their waste and switch to plastic-free alternatives.
As we spend so much of our time in our offices, to live a green lifestyle one needs to be green in their place of work. Here are a few tips to reduce waste in your office, and some simple changes you can make towards a more sustainable workplace to make 2019 a ‘Green Year’.
Repeat the five R’s
We are all aware of Reduce; Reuse; Recycle, but two new R’s have been added: Refuse and Rot. Simply refuse waste. Do you really need more branded pens? Do you need another calendar or diary? Let’s be honest, you probably have enough pens lying around your home to last you well into retirement. Reuse the stationary that you do have, whether it’s simply reusing elastic bands and paper clips, or reusing scrap paper for notes, all these small actions reduce waste and save your company money. When it comes to ‘rot’, if your company doesn’t have a compost bin, why not simply ask for one? Remember, waste such as paper towels, food scraps, coffee grounds and tea bags can all be composted.
Create a green team
Creating a dedicated green team within your company can be a great way to not only increase an organisation’s green credentials, but also bring various team members and different departments together. The idea being, your green team members would take back any new environmentally friendly initiatives and policies to their respective teams, and by doing this you give green team ‘champions’ a sense of ownership to increase recycling rates, reduce energy use and even create new bonds within your company.
Embrace a plastic-free office
Difficult, yes, but why not take on the challenge and try to make 2019 the year your company goes plastic-free. An effective way to remove plastic from your workplace is by raising awareness of the issue. Inform your co-workers how they can help and how they can get involved. An idea could be even to share this blog post to start with!
The work-day lunch break is a big contributor to excessive plastic use. Eliminate the habit of using plastic coffee stirrers, straws and single-use cutlery. There are fantastic bamboo and timber alternatives that should be encouraged. If your colleagues are bringing in leftovers for lunch, there are also great alternatives to clingfilm and plastic tupperware and lunchboxes, such as wax wraps and stainless steel storage containers.
Say goodbye to the ‘under-the-desk’ bin
By employees having their own personal ‘under-the-desk’ bin, recycling is discouraged. The reduction in the number of bins and therefore plastic bags can make a big impact. Most of the time, personal desk bins will be used for general waste. When staff must physically walk over to well-labelled bins, they are more likely to recycle their waste properly.
The importance of the humble water cooler
The humble water cooler or filter tap area has long been the go-to place for a quick natter, but water filters have other beneficial uses. They allow staff to refill their bottles and reduce the number of plastic bottles brought into the company by providing glass or recyclable cups for employees. Reducing the volume of waste, even recyclable waste, can significantly reduce the waste cost that companies incur.
Maximise any leftovers
Leftover pizza from a team bonding session? Spare croissants from a breakfast meeting? Who doesn’t love free food? Why not use your internal messaging system or send an email to let your colleagues in other departments know when there is free food available in the canteen or kitchen. Anything still left at the end of the day can be put into the compost bin.
Have you ever found yourself standing with a piece of rubbish wondering which bin does it go into? Recycling is confusing. For example, some items aren’t recyclable in Ireland whilst they are in different countries. Many of us are what’s known as ‘hopeful recyclers’, whereby we put waste in the recycling bin in the hope that it can be recycled. Sadly, thus contaminating the other recyclables. Some items that aren’t recyclable in Ireland are coffee cups (including biodegradable ones as they should be put in the compost bin with non-biodegradable being put in the regular waste bin), black plastic, soft plastic like crisp and chocolate wrappers, and packaging with food waste on it such as cardboard burger boxes or pizza boxes.
If you have an office newsletter, why not include a short video or link to the Irish Government’s website MyWaste.ie to educate your employees and co-workers. If you have set up a green team or appointed environmental champion, use them as advocates to educate everyone. If certain items are repeatedly placed in the wrong bin, ask your green team to remind or re-inform colleagues to reduce contamination in the green bin.
Some other simple changes you can make to go green in 2019
- Fix any leaky taps
- Turn off computers and lights in the evening (this is obvious, but you’d be amazed by how many people don’t turn off the lights)
- Switch to paperless billing
- Take the train or bus as opposed to driving to meetings, or use web-conferencing facilities
- Switch to Rainforest Alliance or Fairtrade coffee, tea and sugar
- Eliminate paper towels in the kitchen and bathroom – Switch to reusable cloth towels or hand dyers
- Donate extra or unwanted IT equipment and office furniture to charity
- Talk to your suppliers and tell them you want your deliveries without plastic wrapping