The first thing to remember is that you are in it for yourself, particularly at work. It is at the office where you meet and interact with a lot of people, over a long period of time, every day. Not everyone will share your vision of wanting to live a plastic-free life. You do not need to become an activist and sit in protest demanding that the water cooler should not have single-use plastic glasses, or that the coffee machine should be stocked with bioplastic cups.
All you can do is lead by example. And be certain, over time, people will notice and some might even make the change.
1. Keep your own reusable containers
Do not make it a habit to stock your desk with items from the company store ... they are possibly plastic given how inexpensive plastic can be. Carry your own reusable containers to keep things like pencils, erasers, staple pins and staplers, thumb tacks, paper clips, etc
2. Use steel thumb tacks and paper clips
There are fancy and colourful thumb tacks and paper clips available that add a lot of joie de vivre to your soft board and paper sets. But the thing that makes things colourful is almost always plastic. It does not increase your productivity in any way. Use metal thumb tacks and paper clips.
3. Do you really need a plastic folder?
Maybe a paper folder reminds you of the broken bureaucracy and the piles of never-opened files gathering dust in some corner. But, they are really good for the environment and does the job as well as as a plastic folder. Make the conscious choice of never using a plastic folder.
4. Recycle used paper
The overall use of paper is going down thanks to the world going digital. But the amount of partially used paper, paper written on on one side of it, is still there is fairly large quantities. Turn the paper around and use it. Paper kills trees.
5. Rethink the spiral binding
Often documents are spiral bound for presentations and leave-behinds. Spiral binding is made of plastic. It is convenient and the end product looks so good. But, could you instead put your presentation and document in a kraft paper or cardboard file binder? Maybe even negate leaving behind hard copies and insist on digital documents being the leave-behind product.
6. Look long and hard at the whiteboard
Think back to your days in school. The blackboard was quintessentially what defined our stepping into the classroom. And as students, most of us had a lot of fun playing with chalk. Why don't you replace the whiteboard with a conventional blackboard? What is important here is the fact that you will therefore end up using chalk to write instead of with markers.
7. Is the clipboard plastic?
If so, why? Even today it is still possible to buy cardboard clipboards. Do that and save the environment.
8. Waste bin liners
Most office waste is dry and you do not really need a waste bin liner. But if you insist on one, use bioplastic waste bin liners instead of plastic ones.
9. Carry lunch in reusable stainless steel containers
Go to the nearby store and pick up a stainless steel tiffin box in which you can bring your carry your lunch. Dumo the plastic box!
10. Choose reusable cloth sandwich/snack bags
Many people use plastic wrap for their sandwiches. Why, one wonders. Wrap the sandwich in a piece of clean cloth. This will keep the sandwich dry and not make it moist as often happens when wrapped in plastic. Additionally, the cloth multitasks as a handkerchief, easily washable and certainly resusable.
11. Carry a travel mug and water bottle
Almost all offices have a water station. And right next to the water station is a stack of throwaway plastic glasses. A couple of glasses of water, and the glass promptly finds itself in the bin, to ultimately finds its way to the landfill to contaminate the planet for the next million years. Carry a water bottle from home. Refill it when it runs out. If you want to perk yourself up with a cup of coffee from the coffee machine, use the mug you brought from home instead of the styrofoam cup next to the vending machine.
12. Avoid disposable plastic pens
This is possible the most abused polluting item in any office environment. Employees are given a dozen disposable plastic pens the day they join and they accept it with pride. Bad idea. If the company has to give out pens, let it be conventional metal pens and not plastic ones. And unfortunately, even if refills are available for the disposable plastic pens, many many peope just discard the pen altogether and grab a new one.
13. Carry bag compostable items back home
Chances are that in this journey of living plastic-free, you are also composting at home. And the lunch you carried to the workplace could include a banana, an apple, or other such items that you do not consume. Carry these back home and put the in the composter.
14. Take a look at the pair of scissors
Maybe you have a pair of scissors on your desk or in your drawer. Does it have a plastic handle? Chances are, it does. Does it improve your cutting prowess? Probably not. Choose a pair of all metal scissors.
15. Do not accept company branded plastic trinkets
Many office have trinkets and employees carry these as a pride of belonging. Politely refuse to accept of use these trinkets if they are made of plastic. Remember, you are not an activist, but just a person who is trying to live by his or her own individual plastic-free principles.
16. Donate eco-friendly plates for the office party
Is there an office party you are invited to because the company just finalised a major deal? Donate the eco-friendly plates, cups, glasses, cutlery, etc. Do it out of the goodness of your heart, not because you want to be reimbursed for being a good and concerned citizen.