These tiny changes can help you be eco-friendly at work
Here are five small ways in which you can reduce use of plastic at offices
Parting ways with plastic isn’t easy. You’ve been together for so many years. It’s low-maintenance and doesn’t ask for much. It’s available when you need it. But you also know that this isn’t a relationship you should invest in. You may not know the numbers and statistics but you’ve definitely seen at least one signboard (or Instagram post) telling you to avoid single-use plastic straws and bottles. In fact, there’s a strong possibility that you’ve started replacing plastic with more sustainable materials at home. Research shows, however, that people are less likely to make eco-conscious choices at work, though they may, in fact, be spending more time in the office.
Some blame it on a lack of options (what do you do if the coffee counter at work has only disposable cups?), others just don’t care (incidentally, it takes 450 years for a single plastic bottle to break down and a whopping 91% of plastic is not recycled—much of it ends up in the rivers and oceans, seriously harming marine life).
Start small at work. Your first day of caring for the environment does not have to begin with a massive waste-segregation project in your office kitchen. Here are five small ways in which you can reduce plastic use.
Bring your own water bottle
Plastic isn’t just an environmental hazard, it’s also a health risk. Instead of keeping plastic water bottles at your desk (or, worse, buying single-use bottled water every day), get one made of glass, steel or copper. And if you’d like to go that extra mile, keep a water glass and walk to the water cooler every time you feel thirsty. It’s good for the environment and will keep you active.
Delhi-based Snigdha Nautiyal, HR head at renewable energy generator Statkraft India, started her no-plastic journey a few years ago—first at home and now at work. “During meetings, we don’t serve water in single-use bottles. Instead, we place refillable glass bottles and drinking glasses next to each member. Our canteen uses ceramic serveware that is washed and reused instead of disposables,” she says.
Find a fun mug
Here’s a fact: In the UK, less than 1 in 400 used disposable cups are recycled. Instead of reaching for that paper (or, worse, plastic) cup, buy a mug that reflects your personality. It could be handmade ceramic, with a quirky print or quote. Use it for your daily coffee/tea runs. Starbucks recently announced that it would give you ₹10 off your drink if you carried your own mug.
Rethink your lunch
Carrying your lunch in that trusted (and sturdy) plastic tiffin box is double jeopardy. These are difficult to recycle—and a health hazard when used in a microwave to heat food. The good news is that a number of companies have started selling glass lunch boxes. If you’re worried about durability, choose steel.
Another great way to reduce waste is to carry your lunch and other snacks in a jute or cloth bag instead of a paper or plastic bag that you will trash.
Priya Fonseca, a content writer and voice artist from Mumbai, was alarmed by the amount of plastic being used (and trashed) when she subscribed to a dabba service that would send her lunch in disposable packaging. “I stopped that service and chose one that sent my lunch the old-fashioned way—in steel dabbas,” she says.
If you order lunch from one of the many online food delivery companies, ask the restaurant not to send you disposable cutlery (or if the company has a no-cutlery option, select it). Carry your own cutlery or use what’s available in your canteen.
Watch what you order online
It’s difficult to imagine life before e-commerce. But if you stop and notice, you’ll be shocked at the amount of plastic packaging sent along with that one book or pair of socks you ordered. Raneesh Murthy, a consultant in Gurugram, used to order single tubes of shaving gel if he was travelling and needed them urgently. “But I was trashing so much cardboard and plastic that I felt immensely guilty. Now, unless it’s a product I can’t find offline, I don’t order it online. I’ve even written to a couple of these companies to reduce plastic and use newspapers instead but they’ve obviously not bothered,” he says.
Say no to straws and stirrers
The next time you’re at a bar after work, ask your server not to add a straw or stirrer to your drink. It’s single-use plastic that’s just not necessary.
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