Reduce, reuse, recycle.
These three words are easy to say, but harder to do. Over the course of our busy lives, it can be hard to prioritize reducing our ecological footprint, too. So I’ve come up with a list of eight easy habit and consumption changes you can make over the course of your average work day to reduce your personal waste and carbon emissions.
How to Reduce Your Environmental Impact at Work
1. Take public transport, walk or bike, or carpool.
You’ve probably heard this one before. In order to make an impact on reducing carbon emissions, you need to think creatively about how to get to work. Even if you’re carpooling with a friend or hailing a Lyft to get into the office, that represents one less car -- your car -- on the road five days a week.
If time, convenience, and safety allow, consider walking, biking, or skateboarding to work to reduce your carbon footprint while getting some exercise. If this isn’t possible, take the bus or train to get to the office.
2. Bring your own coffee thermos and mug.
If you need a cup of coffee (or two) to function productively at work, make sure you invest in a coffee thermos for commuting, and a mug for at your desk. Buying one or two coffees from a shop every day can add up to a lot of unnecessary single-use plastic, styrofoam, and cardboard. By bringing in your own items, you can save money by making coffee at the office, or get a discount by bringing them into a coffee shop and skipping the disposable cup.
3. Pack your lunch.
If you pack your lunch at home and bring it into the office, you can control what containers it’s stored in. So, instead of styrofoam containers, cardboard boxes, and plastic wrap, you can bring your lunch in reusable glass and plastic containers that you don’t need to throw away once lunch is over. Simply wash your dishes in the office sink and bring them home with you after.
4. Buy groceries in bulk.
To make sure you’re prepared for packing your environmentally-conscious lunch, make sure you’re shopping in an eco-conscious manner, too. Buying bulk groceries is a great way to cut down on excess packaging that you end up disposing of in the trash. You can buy grains, fruits and vegetables, nut butters, and beans, and you can bring old containers, jars, or reusable grocery bags with you when you shop to reduce the need for single-use plastic. (More on that next.)
5. Bring reusable bags with you.
Make sure you always have a reusable tote bag on hand for toting your lunch to work, unexpected errand runs, and to make sure you never need paper or plastic shopping bags again. Many states are charging customers who ask for disposable plastic or paper bags now, so that’s one more incentive to bring your own.
6. Bring a water bottle.
Instead of plastic and paper cups, stay hydrated at work by filling up your water bottle. This will make sure you’re properly hydrating all day, and you won’t create unnecessary waste by getting water using disposable cups.
7. Buy reusable cutlery and straws.
To take it to the next level, you could eliminate the need entirely for disposable utensils at work by buying a reusable travel set of cutlery, along with some reusable straws. If you bring lunch to work five days a week, those plastic forks and knives could add up. Bring in a set of silverware just for work, and wash them at the office sink when you’re done.
8. Be environmentally conscious -- even when you slip up.
Nobody is perfect -- at least, not all of the time. It’s okay if you forget your water bottle and have to use plastic cups once in a while -- just make sure that you’re being environmentally conscious and make every effort to reduce, reuse, and recycle single-use disposable materials. As long as you’re making an effort to reduce waste on a regular basis, you’re already doing a lot to help the environment.
Instead of coffee sleeves or styrofoam cups, use a JavaSok iced coffee sleeve the next time you pick up an iced coffee.