Happy Earth Day! Since today is about treating the earth with more kindness, I challenge you to do one of the things listed below. It’s never too late to be conscious of your actions because every little thing counts!
Being zero waste at work is a lot harder than at home because it takes preparation and thoughtfulness. If you think about it, how many times do you use plastic water bottles, individually wrapped tea bags, K-cups, paper plates or paper towels? Trying to create the least amount of waste as possible is not only better for the environment, but also for your health.
For the past several months, I’ve been trying to minimize my waste as much as possible by making my own lunch and bringing a cloth napkin (vintage), bamboo cutlery set, mason jar/mug and a glass water bottle. Bringing these items ensures I won’t use paper towels, paper cups or plastic cutlery that would go straight to the landfill.
Here are a few steps you can take to be zero waste at work:
1. Say no to tea bags or K-cups
Most tea bags are made of nylon and not biodegradable, which means they end up in the landfill. K-cups are the worst offender because they are made of plastic and not recyclable.
Instead, buy loose tea leaves at any health food store like Sprouts, Whole Foods and Mothers Market as well as this infuser. Coffee grounds and paper filters can be composted so use a good ole fashioned coffee machine.
2. Bring your own food
Food that is packaged in plastic can be harmful because BPA and other toxins leach into your food. Paper that is contaminated with food (specifically animal products) can’t be recycled.
Make an effort to make your own food the night before! Either make your own sandwiches and salads or cook enough food for dinner so that you can eat leftovers.
3. Use Cloth Napkins
I challenge you to count how many paper towels/napkins you use today. I used to go through at least 10 paper towels a day while at work because I would get one every time I ate or went to the bathroom. Paper towels/napkins can’t be recycled if they are wet or contaminated with food so it goes straight to the landfill.
I wrap my sandwiches in cloth napkins instead of Ziplock bags and always have a spare in my lunch bag. Instead of using paper towels to dry my hands in the bathroom, I air dry and use the bottom of my sweater or elbows to open the door. I’ve gotten pretty creative at opening a door without “dirtying” my hands. You could bring a spare cloth napkin/handkerchief to use too.
4. Use Glass or Steel Water Bottles
Last year alone, American’s used 50 billion plastic water bottles. Only 23% of these bottles were recycled last year.
Buy a reusable water bottle that is made of steel or glass to avoid the chemicals in plastic. I recently bought this one.
5. Reusable Dinnerware
The average American office worker goes through 500 disposable cups over the course of 12 months. Americans even toss out enough paper and plastic cups, forks and spoons every year to circle the equator 300 times. Disposable dinnerware is only recycled at select facilities meaning most end up in landfills.
Bring a coffee mug from home and reusable dinnerware so that you don’t have to use disposables. I bought this cutlery set that I try to always keep in my purse.
If you forget and use a paper towel or paper cup, don’t throw it away! Try to reuse it as many times as possible. Being zero waste is a learning process that takes time and practice.
Do you have any other ways of being zero waste at work?
Pots, Pans and Plastics: A Shopper’s Guide to Food Safety (WebMD)
22 Facts About Plastic Pollution (Green Divas)
Recycling To Go Plastics (Earth 911)