• Guest Post

Don't Waste At Work

Updated: Jan 15, 2019

Being Zero Waste by yourself or at home is a bit easier than when you’re confronted with people, especially at the office.


Let’s face it, if you’re willing to take your good (zero waste) habits to the office, be ready to lead by example and receive some weird looks, funny questions and small words of appreciation.


So where should you start?



1. THE Most Important Thing First: Food


Whether you decide to have breakfast at home (which I would recommend) at your desk, or on the go, make sure that you either have your lunchbox with you or a cotton bag for your jianbing or croissant. That way you avoid the use of (yet another) plastic bag or container.


Image: Zero Waste Shanghai

Get into the habit of bringing your reusable water bottle or mug with you. Or if it’s easier, leave one at the office. Just please please please don’t forget it when you go to get coffee at Starbucks or Costa (they’ll give you a discount if you bring your own mug). Perhaps you could even try a new coffee shop in the same neighborhood as your office.


Check out Janet’s coffee shop list with discounts here.


When talking about lunch and snacks, try to avoid ordering in. Fifty percent of all plastic waste is SINGLE use plastic. Most of this waste comes from food on the go or waimai. Instead, consider bringing lunch from home in a lunchbox, or suggest having lunch together with your colleagues at a canteen or restaurant.


If you REALLY don’t have time, and you’re glued to your desk for lunch, maybe take a 10 minute breather outside (change of scenery has proven to be effective for productivity) and get food into your container from a restaurant and eat it at your desk.

Keep snacks like fruits, homemade cookies, cake, and nuts healthy by going package free.



2. Office Supplies


I believe people have definitely cut down on the use of office supplies. Highlighters, pens, and post-it notes are not the death of Zero Waste but since we’re at it, we might as well discuss some alternatives.

See if you can get:

  • ‘pencil highlights’ – not as effective as the real thing, but there’s no plastic and it does the job

  • refillable ink pen

  • all things in metal: seriously try to avoid plastic

  • paper folders instead of plastic ones

Image: Zero Waste Shanghai


Personally, I have a love/hate relationship with post-it notes. They are so practical and often come in very cool shapes and colors that add to their appeal. But let’s face it, they are made from virgin paper, bleached and colored. So not great for the environment (sigh).


A cool alternative to post-it notes would be to keep your waste paper. Then once a week (or month depending on usage), cut the paper up in equal sized pieces and hold them together with a clip.


When it comes to office supplies, try to stay minimalist. Only keep what you truly need and then try to find eco friendly alternatives to those essentials.


Image: Zero Waste Shanghai

3.Paper Paper Paper


These tips may sound familiar to most of you:

  • Only print when necessary

  • Use every side/ corner of the paper as much as possible

  • Recycle it!

  • Compost it when you’re done

Do not forget that the Amazon rainforest is reducing considerably every day. Trees are being cut down as we speak to provide the piece of paper you are about to use. Be aware of where your paper comes from and the fact that by using it we are creating a demand for it. Don’t treat it like a common good.


4. It’s Ok To Be Different And To Stick To Your Values

It’s definitely not going to be easy at the start, but if you are able to keep up with your zero waste workplace practices you will impress your peers.


If you don’t want a plastic plate for a birthday cake, by all means, get yourself a napkin, or take it into your hand.


If someone wants to give you a print out, it’s ok to ask for a digital version or to refuse a free goodie that is not aligned with your lifestyle or values.


Image: Zero Waste Shanghai

5. Take Action!

Do you have a company suggestion box? A volunteer day? Are you somehow involved in a particular group or committee in your company?


Even if it’s none of the above, try and implement a small change in your company towards improving the environment. It could be a suggestion to have a monthly team lunch outside to avoid plastic waste. Or to invest in fun mugs for employees instead of using paper or plastic cups.


Start with a small idea or project. If you get too ambitious from the beginning, you might feel discouraged. Baby steps first, then work on another small project, maybe a team member will join you, maybe more …





By Alizee Buysschaert


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