Beyond the 3 R’s: How to celebrate Earth Day in the office

Beyond the 3 R’s: How to celebrate Earth Day in the office

Since we were kids in grade school, the message of the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle has been a part of the conversation whenever Earth Day, April 22, approaches. Now as adults, we are used to tossing an empty soda can into the blue bin. Caring for the environment at the office is easier and more cost effective than you may think. Here are some ways to change the office culture to better the environment and celebrate Earth Day.

  1. Reduce plastic waste for your Earth Day celebration

    Plastics can take many years to decompose. For instance, a plastic grocery bag takes ten to twenty years to decompose, while a plastic water bottle can take up to 450 years. Much of this plastic ends up in the ocean, where the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has found massive patches of marine debris (mostly plastic) in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii and off the coast of Japan.

  2. Say no to plastic water bottles and plastic lids on coffee cups

    Another item regularly found in the trash are single use plastic water bottles, plastic lids and Styrofoam cups.

    • Try bringing a reusable stainless steel or BPA free water bottle to work for daily use. Often these items can be branded and make for a great representation of your company while helping the environment at the same time.
    • Coffee is threatening to surpass tea as the second most consumed beverage on the planet. So, why not use one of your own great travel mugs when grabbing coffee on the go? Many coffee shops even give a discount when bringing in your own drink container.
    • For those who prefer coffee iced, try reusable tumblers that come with a washable lid and straw. These can also bear the company logo!
    • Feeling inspired? Here are more tips on how to remove plastic from your everyday life.
  3. Say no to plastic straws

    The life of a straw may seem short, as it is used only once, but single-use plastic straws can linger in the environment for 200 years! Fortunately, there are lots of options to help change your habits.

    • Skip the straw completely. Don’t be surprised if you ask for no straw and one still shows up in your drink. Politely let the server know that you intentionally requested no straw. Maybe that will help them remember next time someone asks. Use an alternative to stir a beverage, such as a reusable chopstick or spoon instead of a straw.
    • Use a paper straw. Switching to paper or compostable straws is easy and many restaurants across the United States are already making the change for you.
    • Purchase a metal or reusable straw. These can be washed and used indefinitely – just like silverware. These also make a great low-cost gifts as small tokens to coworkers, friends and family. You’d be surprised at how likely they are to join you in making a change!
  4. Compost to reduce even more waste

    Composting is nature’s original method of recycling, and the best way to keep organic items out of the landfill. Composting also reduces greenhouse gases and enriches the soil. Removing food scraps from the office trash can lead to fewer trash bag changes, a reduction in pests like ants, and keep the office smelling fresher. Here are the basic steps to creating a compost bin in the office.

    • Items that can go in the compost bin – “Green” waste materials include most vegetable and fruit scraps and coffee grounds. “Brown” waste materials are items such as shredded paper, paper plates without coating, coffee filters, and compostable cups.
    • Never put these items in the compost bin – meat, fish, oil, fat, plastic labels on fruit, and tea bags that don’t break down.
    • Once the compost receptacle (typically the green bin) is placed right next to the regular recycling bin, staff quickly get into the habit of using it just as often. This container must have a lid or means to close, to avoid issues such as ants and odors.
    • Change the bin out a few times during the week and every Friday so the materials don’t sit in the office while closed for multiple days. An outdoor, larger compost bin (also with a lid to avoid attracting animals) should be placed outside the building near a green space, such as tucked away in the corner of an atrium.
    • If the office has no plans to use the compost for indoor or outdoor planting, check if your city provides organic waste collection. If these are not available, have a staff member with a yard or penchant for gardening take the bag home each week. Make sure the bag is secure and doesn’t have any holes as you want to reward this person for volunteering, not make a mess in their car.
  5. To help get the entire office behind the idea of composting, try adding in a cool educational display or game. Maybe start an office pool to guess what item will decompose first using a see through educational composter or weigh the compost each week to find out how much trash the office is keeping out of the landfill completely.
  6. Celebrate Earth Day by giving back to the environment

    Some ways to celebrate Earth Day with the entire team:

    • Organize an outdoor walk at a local park that can be paired with a picnic lunch for staff. This is a great way to show appreciation for staff and the environment at the same time.
    • Plant a tree with your colleagues (maybe using the composted soil from the office!)
    • If the office wants to go all out for Earth Day, offer to organize a project such as a cleanup or gardening project that will take a significant portion of one day. Ask staff if any of them have a favorite location or a place where they volunteer before choosing a location. These types of projects are great resources for company photo-ops and newsletter articles.