The global conversation around plastic pollution has been growing in recent years, and more and more companies are interested in addressing their single-use plastic footprint. Businesses can be meaningful change agents in addressing plastic pollution by both reducing their reliance on single-use plastic and inspiring their employees to do the same. Below you will find suggestions for reducing the single-use plastic footprint of your office.
Buy in Bulk
Buy products in bulk and look for products that offer refillable containers when possible. There are often cost savings to be realized by avoiding single-serve and single-use products. When single-use products cannot be avoided, look for options made from recyclable or compostable materials and provide appropriate waste disposal containers for these items. Compostable materials (such as bio-based plastics made from corn or sugar) often require disposal at a commercial composting facility. Using compostable bio-based plastic products without proper disposal limits the environmental value of these products.
Employee participation in reducing an office’s single-use plastic footprint is critical to success. Employees bring in food from home and often order meals or beverages “to-go.” These disposable, often unrecyclable, items contribute to an office’s environmental footprint. Educating your employees about the issue of plastic pollution and providing context to the initiative by connecting it to the company’s mission statement or values will build the conservation mindset necessary to achieve your plastic reduction goals.
Water fountains and water filling stations are the best options. Bottle-free water coolers are also an option. Provide employees with reusable bottles to encourage them to make more environmentally friendly decisions. If you have beverage vending machines, offer glass or aluminum options instead of plastic beverage bottles.
Reusable and multi-use products for coffee and tea offer environmental and cost savings benefits. Providing employees reusable coffee mugs or stainless steel travel tumblers encourages a thought shift from a disposable to a reusable mindset. It also eliminates the need for single-use plastic beverage lids.
Bulk brewing coffee machines are the best option. French press coffee is another environmentally friendly alternative. If the office already has a Keurig coffee maker, refillable pods are the best option. Bulk containers should be used instead of individually packaged cream and sugar. Wooden stirrers can replace plastic ones. Loose leaf tea and stainless steel tea infusers can replace tea bags.
When possible, using reusable dining ware is the most sustainable and cost effective option. Consider providing employees reusable bamboo cutlery to continue to foster an awareness of more sustainable behaviors. When it is not practical or possible to use reusable dining ware, we recommend compostable products rather than petroleum based single-use plastic products.
When it comes to office supplies, most single-use plastic comes from shipments of products. You can work with your product suppliers to have them reduce the plastic packaging they use, or seek out new suppliers with more environmentally sensitive shipping practices. Consider creating an office shipping center to collect and store shipping packaging that you receive. If the office or an employee needs to ship something, they will be able to give the packaging a new life.
The following items can be replaced with more environmentally friendly options:
Virgin paper for paper made from 100% recycled material (it should come packaged in recycled paper as opposed to a plastic casing)
Plastic tape for paper tape
Plastic binders for recycled paper binders
Petroleum-based ink for vegetable based inks
Try reusable ink for ball point pens