Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Wasteful at Work - 9 Ways to Reduce Trash at the Office

Throughout the day, I've been taking notice of what activities lead to waste. One place in general, that I produce a ton of trash is at work. The constant trips to the coffee machine, lunch parties, personal hygiene, snacks etc. I guess when I was busy trying to meet deadlines and rush to my next meetings, I never paid attention to just how full I was making my trash can on a daily basis. I have two boxes of tissues on my desk. Really? 2? The simplest solution I've found to mentally preparing/organizing myself to kick my office trash habit was to note everything that led to trash and pair it with an alternative:



  • Tissues
    • These can be replaced with hankies. I have found some absolutely beautiful ones at local thrift stores.  
  • Take Out Food Packaging
    • Most of the food I was eating was more than likely terrible for me. So now I pack my own zero waste lunches.
  • Soda Bottles
    • Again, not good for me. I need to drink way more water. My Klean Kanteen is always filled and quickly within reach.
  • Paper Plates
    • We have team parties quite regularly and that always comes with paper/Styrofoam plates along with several other single use waste causing items. To combat this, I got a stainless steel plate with sections, yes, sections! How awesome is that?!
  • Paper Towels
    • The days I did bring my lunch, I would grab a handful of paper towels to act as a place mat, cover my food in the microwave, wipe my hands, etc.  So wasteful! I made some cloth napkins that I now pack in my lunch box. I use it for a week, then throw it into the wash. Easy peasy!
  • Paper Coffee Cups
    • I watch dozens of people go to the break room, grab a paper cup, have their coffee, then throw it straight into the garbage. Some people even have stacks upon stacks of used cups at their desks as shrines of consumed caffeine. Sadly, I too, was one of those people who would get their daily coffee and then discard the cup. Now, I have a ceramic mug that I steep loose leaf tea in. I am able to get loose leaf tea from the farmer's market package free!
  • Plastic Cutlery
    • Again, with all of the work parties, we always use vast amounts of plastic forks, spoons, and knives. I also seemed to always forget my utensils at home when I did bring my lunch and would have to steal forks from the party drawer. Now I keep silverware in my desk that stay at work.
  • Paper, so much paper!
    • With an office comes memo after memo, report after report. The printer is the new "water cooler" it seems. Instead of filing past projects and all of it's accompanying paperwork, I have a digital filing system organized and back up on the cloud. No need to manually file anything when I have it at my finger tips on my computer. And for the paper that is unavoidable, each cubicle has its own recycling bin that I will utilize.
  • Snack Food Packaging
    • I'm a grazer. I love to snack while I work. It keeps me productive and it prevents me from falling asleep at my desk. However, with snack food, comes copious amounts of unnecessary packaging, most of it being plastic. I now have a jar at my desk that I always keep full of the most delicious peanut butter cup trail mix that I get in the bulk section from my local grocery store. 


 My sudden changes at work have raised a few questions from my coworkers. They seem to be intrigued by my goal at working towards zero waste and support it 100%. Who knows, maybe my behaviors will rub off on some of them?

6 comments:

  1. I just stumbled across your blog and can identify so much! I have been on my zero waste journey for almost one year. I have come so far in reducing our waste but still feel I have so far to go lol. My husband is supportive but does not share my "passion". My coworkers think I am weird and tease me mercilessly. Bulk food options are almost impossible to find. I, too, am in the Midwest. I look forward to reading your blog!

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    1. My family teases me as well. It's so sad that "being wasteful" has become so normal that when people like us are tired of it we are labeled as weird. I keep telling myself that the goal is to lead by example and be confident. Despite the many who think I'm strange, there are several who have been inspired which gives me a sense of accomplishment. :)

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  2. So nice to see someone else trying to battle workplace waste! I just found your blog and am glad to see that there are other as passionate about this issue as I am! Half of my day I work at a homeless shelter and they don't have a recycling bin. I end up hoarding anything I need to recycle and bring it home. I can't bring myself to toss anything though- so wasteful!!

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    1. Great job! I hope your coworkers see your passion for waste reduction and follow suit. It's very hard sometimes to get people on board. I'm still trying to convince my coworkers to actually use the recycling bins underneath their desks.

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  3. I used to get weird looks at work because I never created trash at lunch. My food is packed in jars and they are packed in a lunch bag that's been in the family for almost 15 years. I carry bamboo forks, spoons and knives, cloth napkins that were my mom's (a wedding gift back in 1952.) I also keep a coffee mug, a soup mug and a luncheon size plate in my desk. This year before school officially started, my co-workers and I went out to eat. To my surprise all the co-workers wanted to go into the Dollar Store nextdoor after we ate to buy a ceramic plate to keep at their desk. I hope I'm wearing off on them.

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    1. It's sad that people think creating waste is normal and not creating waste is abnormal. Good for you for being that positive example and rubbing off on them! It's absolutely fantastic how much change one person can accomplish! :)

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