Earth Loving Offices

My day job is in an office. A ‘sit behind a computer with a phone’ kind of office. You know, the notoriously wasteful types of offices, where paper towels are amass and things are thrown out because they aren’t ‘on brand’.

I work in a large company.

I know it's hard to regulate and reduce office waste – that's something that often needs to be taken on by an individual as the task is just too large to monitor across a 5000-strong work force.


Here are my top office waste annoyances, and how I overcame them!

Paper towels, paper napkins and paper dishcloths

Yep. My office uses single use paper towels to wipe off plates and cups after washing them. It makes me cringe every time. Now I take in my own cloth for surfaces and a tea-towel, which I hang up discreetly out of the way. I wash it every couple of days as needed.

When it comes to drying my hands after using the toilet, instead of using paper towels, I just give them a wipe on my trousers. Yep, I'm that kind of person.


Lunchtime Throw Aways

I haven’t really worked in many different places, but I assume that similar lunch time culprits can be found in each office:

  1. The one always on a diet and buys fancy throwaway food pouches

  2. The one who buys the same meal deal, day in, day out, and always has a minimum of three pieces of waste per day

  3. The one whose entire lunch waste could have been recycled, but they throw it all in the general waste bin

We should all be more like these lunch time angels:

  1. The one who packs their own lunch so there's zero waste at the end

  2. The one who eats at the canteen or restaurant on an actual plate with real cutlery

  3. The one who doesn’t have time to make their lunch, so takes a lunch box into their favourite food shop and asks them to make their food-to-go straight in the box

  4. Alongside packing lunch, these food heroes bring their own snacks and water. If they produce waste that can’t be disposed off at work (like compost, for instance) they will take it home in a sealed container


The dreaded staple

Staples in meeting notes, booklets, hand-outs – they’re everywhere and they’re not good for paper recycling. Just thinking of the amount of staples that are used per day blows my mind. Opting for the humble paperclip removes all this waste and serves the same purpose.

Another alternative is a staple-free stapler (pretty cool, right?) its not the best, however, at stapling more than 5 sheets together.


So. Many. Freebies.

I work with students. A free ANYTHING is the best thing of their whole day.

We're always giving away a pen here, a highlighter there or a free lunch wrapped in plastic to try and get them to support a project. And from a marketing perspective, this sort of has to happen.

However, on a personal level, I don’t like these freebies. When I’m out at events or conferences I refuse these items politely. I am privileged enough to have everything I need, so I don’t need a new pen/bag/phone case. If I have to order promotional products for students, I will try to order the exact amount so that nothing is wasted.


All the other bits and bobs office work seems to ‘need’

Notebooks, Tipp-Ex, hole punches, Sellotape, packaging for parcesl, the printing of documents.

Where possible, natural, compostable or rechargeable alternatives are the best. These could include compostable pencils, solar powered calculators and natural rubbers. I’ve even seen an awesome notebook which erases itself when in the microwave!

For everything else, the best way to overcome these extra bits of waste is simply to share!

Borrow someone else’s hole punch, read someone else’s printed out meeting agenda, or read off a mobile device. Share that pair of scissors, and save new products having to be purchased and wasted!