Reduce. Recycle. Reuse. At Work

It is easier to make changes at home but what about offices?


We are currently living in a world where temperatures are rising every year, the rains are unpredictable and about 200 species are going extinct every year.

Recently a piece of news took the world by storm. 11,000 scientists from 153 nations declared a Climate Emergency. Amongst other reasons, our excessive consumption lifestyle and use and throw attitude topped the list. Around the world, people are acknowledging and making changes in their lifestyle.

It is easier to make changes at home but what about offices?

People like me who go out to work, spend a huge part of their day in the office and it is upsetting to witness how wasteful most offices are. There is a lot to be done to make offices more sustainable. The simplest thing to do is to walk up to the HR and have a conversation but that is not always fruitful.

What do you do then?

Make little changes at an individual level and see the magic work. Listing down below the top wasteful things in an office and what you can do to reduce, reuse and recycle:

Plastic cups:

Have you ever bothered to check how often does the office staff clear out the dustbin near the water station filled to the brim with plastic cups? Every time you are thirsty you dash to the water station, pull out a cup, fill it to the brim probably drink half of it and toss it. All of this contributes to the 26,000 tonnes of plastic waste that India generates daily.

Small tip: Remember to carry a bottle along with your lunch, fill it and keep it at your table.

Paper cups:

Almost all offices have coffee/tea dispensers which are of great ease to us, but with it also comes the great menace of paper cups. Did you know that most of the paper cups have a plastic coating that makes it waterproof? This means that they are not compostable under normal conditions, and the ones that come with a biodegradable label can usually be composted only under industrial conditions. But we all know where trash ends and have seen the garbage hills as tall as the Taj Mahal on the so-called outskirts of the city.

Small tip: How about enjoying tea/coffee in your own mug?

Tea bags and Sugar packets:

The more generous offices have a selection of tea bags as well for their employees. However, most are unaware of the fact that steeping tea bags releases microplastic. A simple alternative is to keep a small jar of your favorite loose tea at your desk and use an Infuser. Don’t even reach out for the packet of sugar lying next to the tea cabinet.

Small tip: How about stocking a jar of jaggery powder (Gur) at your desk? Not only does it help you not create trash (sugar packets are usually plastic lined) but jaggery is also considered healthier than white sugar. My colleagues and I share a common jaggery powder jar that we use for our morning tea at work.

Paper Napkins:

Are you also tired of seeing rolls of paper napkin lying carelessly on the floor pulled by someone before you who was in a hurry? Apart from being annoying, it is extremely wasteful. We use a towel to wipe our hands try at home, why not do the same at the office?

Small tip: Carry a handkerchief and ditch the napkin.

Note Books:

You will also always find piles of one-sided printed paper lying abandoned near the printer. Easy access means people usually print without thinking much and forget to pick it up. Make sure you pick the one right at the bottom and leave the top ones for those who might remember to pick it in a day or two. Stack it neatly and tear it into half or smaller. I use a small clipboard to hold the paper in place.

My favorite of all is carrying lunch for a colleague on days they can’t bring due to some reason. They always return the favor by offering to bring lunch for me when I need. This saves us the trouble of ordering outside food (and also avoid plastic packaging.

And last but certainly not the least – Before you leave work, always switch off the Ac, fan, light. Resources are not infinite – let us save it while we have it.

(Niki is a waste warrior who is working towards leading a sustainable lifestyle. Having grown up in Sikkim, she was shocked at the extent of plastic pollution in Delhi and wants to actively inspire others in adopting a sustainable lifestyle. Follow her journey @sustainablelivingindia)

(The views expressed in the article are the author’s own. Let Me Breathe neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)


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Niki Singh

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