How to Encourage Sustainability in Your Office

Many of us work in organizations/companies whose missions vary greatly – some may be lucky enough to work for an organization that puts the environment at the center and focuses its efforts on promoting sustainability. If your organization does not actively work toward this, here are five ways that you can foster sustainability practices and norms in your office.

Bring your own ___________.

I have had years of experience bringing lunch from home, so I have no problem bringing lunch to work in my own reusable containers. This saves me money in the long run when I meal prep, and I also save on the containers that would normally be used for takeout.

The National Coffee Association conducted a study and found that on average 64% of Americans drink a cup of coffee a day. Just think about how many disposable coffee cups are being used at the minimum for a second: there are over 327 million people in the US, so after you crunch the numbers, that is more than 209 million cups being used and thrown away every day! Just imagine the difference it makes to bring your own drink tumbler to purchase your coffee in the morning, or better yet, make your coffee at home and put it in a good ol’ mug!

Shopping deal: use code CB-WEL19 for 20% off on a reusable tumbler at Reduce Everyday!

Opt for “green” office supplies.

We are not at the point yet where we can be completely paper-free, and some people like the ability to write things down, or print things out when they attend meetings. Instead of purchasing virgin printing paper or notepads, purchase recycled printing paper and office supplies.

If your office has a kitchen, take advantage of and use the reusable dishware and utensils! There is no need to use the disposable options (and better yet, request your office administrator to stop buying disposable options altogether).

Save electricity.

How many people are in your office, and how many computers are running on any given workday? Computers can eat up a lot of electricity, so when you leave for the day, put your computer on sleep mode or shut it off.

In addition to computers, lights are always on during work hours! While we can’t shut them off in the shared workspace, we can all do our parts to turn off the lights after leaving a meeting room or phone booth.

Think about food.

Okay, you might be wondering, how do I encourage sustainability practices and norms through food? But think about when your office gets catering for special events. How often do you get handfuls of disposable plates and utensils? Sometimes catering is unavoidable, so make sure you put in the request to decline any utensils and dishware the next time you have to order catering, especially if you have it in your office.

So we’ve covered containers and now we’ve covered dishware and utensils, but what about leftover food, specifically food scraps and other organic waste? Does it end up in the regular trash because there is no compost collection service in your office? (Do you see where I’m going here?) Talk with your office administrator to see if compost collection services are available and being utilized in your building; if it currently isn’t adopted throughout the building, a small step is to advocate for compost collection services in your own office. It might take some time (working with overcoming the fear of pests and odor, as well as allocating budget for this recurring service), but don’t give up! I am still gently nudging my colleagues to get composting in my organization.

Some suggestions to look into if you live in NYC: Common Ground Compost (traditional composting) or Vokashi (using the bokashi method for fermenting your organic waste)

Create community norms in your office.

Change starts with you. If no one has started getting people on the sustainability train yet, it’s your cue to be the conductor. I organized a recycling 101 brown bag session with my friend from GrowNYC and my colleagues LOVED it (I need to do one again!), implemented a contacts blister pack collection system to send to TerraCycle to recycle, for starters (my coworkers enjoy bringing in their discards too!).

Some of my colleagues now bring in their items they want to donate instead of throwing items into the trash, which I love! And another colleague specifically set aside time with me so she could get some tips for phasing out plastic use in her home.

While change does not happen overnight, setting an example and taking initiative can lead to some surprisingly good results.

What are some sustainability initiatives you started in your office?