Being green at home is pretty easy once you have the hang of it. You can avoid disposable items, pass on plastic, and eat whole food. Leaving the house makes sustainability more difficult. This is especially true for those of us who have a day job. Even though I was working hard to live more sustainably, I still used disposable items at work without much thought. One day when I put my trash out at work, I noticed all the paper towels and empty packages in it. I was appalled at myself. I value a healthy life and I love the planet, yet I was definitely not being sustainable at work. But you don’t have to leave sustainability behind when you go into the office. Although being green in the office is sometimes a challenge, you can do it with a little planning and effort.
Take Note of Disposable Items
Sustainability in the office is mostly about avoiding disposable items. At home we have complete control over the items we buy and use. However, this isn’t always true when you work in an office. Most offices or other jobs purchase and use a plethora of disposable items. In my experience, many of these items are unnecessary, though. I can’t even imagine how many rolls of paper towels my office goes through. And we don’t have that many employees! While we may not have any authority to decide what our offices buy and use, we can avoid many disposable items at work with a bit of planning. The first thing I recommend is keeping track of each disposable item you use for a week. The most common things I found were:
- Paper towels
- Packaged food
You can easily avoid using paper towels, tissues, and packaged foods in the workplace. It takes only a little planning and changing of habits to avoid using these disposable items in the office.
Plan to Be Green in the Office
A little planning can make a big difference. I have often found that when I don’t plan, I fall back on convenience items to get through my day. For example, if I forget to stick the cloth napkins in the washer, then I’ll grab paper towels because I need something and they are convenient. This is a wasteful way to live and can be avoided completely with a little planning and organizing.
Instead of using paper towels and tissues, bring in a reusable hand towel and cloth napkins. I have taken a reusable hand towel with me into the bathroom for a while now. It’s not a difficult habit to adopt, and it saves a lot of paper towel waste.
This is especially true at my office where the paper towels are thin and one just won’t do the job of drying your hands. It did take me a while to remember to grab the towel when I went to the bathroom. After about a week, however, I had the routine down. To help keep the towel dry, I hang it over the back of a chair or hang it from clips that attach to my cubicle wall. Because I’m only using the towel during work hours, it dries overnight, which means I only have to take it home over the weekend to wash it.
You can use cloth napkins in place of both paper towels and tissues. I add one to my lunch bag every day. Of course, if I end up not using it that day, then I just leave it in my lunch bag for the next day. I leave one cloth napkin at my office to use as a handkerchief and replace it when I’ve used it.
Packaged foods are easy to pack for snacks and lunches for work, but they aren’t a sustainable option. In addition to being wasteful, packaged food is often processed and not nearly as healthy as whole food. Even when packaged foods are healthier choices, they are usually more expensive to buy than whole foods and most packaged foods contain plastic wrappers. Packing whole food lunch and snacks for work in reusable containers, such as glass storage containers, is a more sustainable option than eating packaged items, and it has the advantage of being cheaper overall. Honestly, when my coworkers go out to lunch, I’m not the least bit jealous. I now prefer to eat my homemade lunches over anything I could buy at a restaurant.
Being green at work is sometimes more challenging than at home. However, being green at the office can be done by paying attention to what disposable items you use at work and coming up with an alternative option that is more sustainable.