At Glandore, we know green. In fact, our Cork location was the first flexible workspace in Ireland to provide a plastic-free initiative, which you can read more about here. Glandore has written on the benefits of an eco-friendly officebefore, but this time we’re taking a deeper dive into one of the most important issues facing our planet today: the threat of non-biodegradable, single-use plastics. We’ve compiled some comprehensive (and relatively cost-effective) ways to reduce the amount of single-use plastics in your office.
You have to know the extent of a problem before you can solve it! Talk to your operations and procurement staff to get an idea of how many unsustainable products are being ordered by your office on a month-by-month basis, and then try to determine which orders you could modify or do away with completely. You could also conduct a ‘waste audit’, in which you analyse the rubbish produced by your office to see what plastic items are being accumulated by your team throughout the day. Although this approach could get a bit messy, it’s an excellent way to quickly determine a direction for your sustainability initiatives. Read more about conducting a waste audit here.
A good way to demonstrate the importance of environmental responsibility to your team is to implement an environmental education initiative. This could take the form of a talk, a workshop or a visit to a relevant museum or exhibit – the important thing is that it’s engaging and interactive! The Cool Planet Experience in Co. Wicklow, Ireland is a great example of this. The more you get your employees talking about environmental responsibility, the more invested they will become.
Initiatives and team outings aside, there are some steps that you can take to immediately reduce the amount of single-use plastic waste that your office produces. For instance, you could consider banning chewing gum in the office. Many types of gum are made with synthetic plastics and rubbers which can take over 50 years to properly biodegrade. If your employees are really keen to keep chewing, you could also keep the office supplied with a biodegradable brand of chewing gum such as Simply Gum. You can read more about the environmental hazards of chewing gum here.
Another wasteful office staple is one which would be impossible to ban without causing an uproar: the humble tea bag. Most commercial tea bags are made with plastic fibres and contribute a considerable amount of plastic waste to the environment. Instead of discouraging use of this product, however, you could simply ensure that the tea bags provided by your office are fully biodegradable, like these from ethical tea brand Pukka Tea. In addition to being more environmentally responsible, sourcing your teabags from a company like Pukka has the added benefit of ensuring that all of the tea consumed in your office is ethically sourced. Another option is to skip the teabags altogether and switch to loose-leaf tea.
There are also some materials that you should consider providing for your employees in order to curb the amount of plastic waste in your office. If possible, issue each team member with one or more of the following: a reusable water bottle, a reusable and portable coffee cup and a multi-function metal spork (like this one). If you are providing your team with water bottles, it is a good idea to also provide unlimited filtered water – depending on the size of your team, this can be as simple as placing one or two communal water filter jugs in the office refrigerator.
Providing these reusable materials may seem like a big investment initially, but it should pay off over time as it becomes less and less necessary to order the items’ non-sustainable counterparts. Plus, this initiative has the added benefits of raising your team’s morale and – if you purchase branded materials – boosting awareness of your brand.
Make sure that your employees are part of your sustainability conversation and encourage them to lead their own initiatives. Offer a monthly prize to the employee who generates the least plastic waste or stage a pitching competition for green events and initiatives. Ensure that you also keep the environment in mind when organising these prizes – it seems contradictory to give a plastic gift voucher or a plastic-wrapped gift basket to the winner of a sustainability competition. If you are going to give your employees a physical item as a prize, ensure that it is packaged in recyclable materials and that it will last for a long time. Your prizes don’t have to break the bank to be meaningful, either. For example, you could offer a half-day of annual leave as a reward for the winner to use at their own discretion. Efforts like this don’t just keep your team members inspired – it also spreads out the workload more evenly and ultimately leads to more impactful and effective change in your office’s sustainability.
The on-the-go lifestyle of an office worker generates a huge amount of plastic waste every day. If your office building doesn’t have a canteen, try to encourage your employees to bring their own lunches to work in reusable containers. You could organise a weekly or monthly potluck for the team or host a meal-planning workshop to help them hone their batch-cooking skills. If you’re able, you could also buy healthy office snacks in bulk and leave them out for your team to help cut down on packaging from crisps and biscuits. Your team will be happier, healthier and more environmentally friendly as a result.
Collaboration is key! Establish a green team in your office and make sure that they have the resources to enact meaningful change. It is imperative that you include procurement staff on your green team so that they can be involved in the discussion too; this will ensure that the entire office is on the same page when it comes to reducing single-use plastics. It will also help to make your meetings more productive, as the procurement staff will be able to provide immediate feedback on the practical feasibility of your ideas for waste reduction.