Updated: May 30
As COVID restrictions begin to ease and employees are (reluctantly) returning back to the office, there is no better time than now to switch gears and think about how we can get back to work - sustainably. Not only is it a great way for businesses to demonstrate initiative in reducing their carbon emissions by taking small, actionable steps, but it is also a great opportunity for employees to collaborate on team-building projects to help a greater cause. Here are some ideas that you can adopt in the workplace to build a healthier and safer planet for all:
1. Opt for a reusable mask on your commute and at-work
Since wearing masks are still a requirement by the Public Health Agency of Canada, we might as well make it sustainable. Medical, disposable masks can only be used once, are considered single-use- plastics and add to our waste problem. With millions wearing masks every day during the pandemic, the best bet for the environment and our safety during this pandemic is the use of a reusable, washable face mask.
Kraywoods, a Montreal-based eyewear brand, produces a stylish, comfortable and reusable mask that not only follows all the requirements of the Public Health Agency of Canada but also helps you make a positive impact on the environment. With the purchase of each mask, a tree is planted through their partnership with One Tree Planted. Made with 100% cotton, their stylish masks are a great way to break the ice with new colleagues.
2. Lower the impact of your commute to work
Another simple way to start off on a greener note is to ditch your car and take public transit to work. Other than being cheaper on your wallet, a public transit commute helps the environment greatly by reducing your emissions and improving air quality, especially if you live in a population-dense area like the GTA.
Biking to work
With dwindling weeks left of biking weather, make sure to get out there and take advantage! Biking is a great way to get in the much-needed exercise and cut carbon emissions from commuting. Due to the number of raw materials used, a bicycle itself is not usually considered an environmentally friendly product, but Vancouver-based startup, Bjorn Bikes, aims to disrupt the industry by producing bikes using recycled stainless steel, aluminum and rubber. The founders are determined to make riders feel good while doing good. Although much of their manufacturing is in Taiwan, Bjorn Bikes makes sure to offset all emissions from the shipping and production of their products.
If you’re based in Toronto and have a smartphone, you can take on biking without the need of purchasing one by using the BikeShare Toronto program. You can access one of 6,850 bikes over 625 stations across 200 km2 of the city, just by an app on your phone. While being environmentally friendly, this bike-sharing service is also contactless and allows payments at kiosks when picking and dropping bikes at stations.
Electric or Hybrid Vehicles
If your commute through public transit takes hours and is not very feasible, you can consider changing your conventional car to an electric vehicle. There are tax incentives of up to $5000 by the federal Canadian government for those that purchase or lease an EV. With charging stations quickly popping up throughout the country, it’s getting more and more convenient to go green. Electric vehicles, like Tesla, lower your emissions to zero but require a huge investment. If you don’t have a lot to invest up front, then a hybrid vehicle is an alternative option for a climate-conscious consumer. Thanks to their second electric motors, hybrid cars burn less fuel than conventional cars and emit lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions while running.
3. Create a zero-waste kitchen
The kitchen is the second most popular place at the office after your desk. It is also the best place to entice colleagues about sustainable habits by being an example yourself. Simple habits such as using reusable mugs for coffee made in the office and reusable water bottles are easy habits to follow to make any kitchen waste-free. An easy way to start is to e-mail your office mates about aiming for a waste-free kitchen by segregating waste into specific categories and suggesting ideas to reduce plastic consumption.
Use a reusable water bottle and reusable tea bags
Grosche’s reusable water bottles are literal life savers, on a mission to provide safe, clean drinking water to those in need. Every bottle sold provides 50+ days of one of life's most basic necessities. Since 2010 their Safe Water Project has expanded operations to 6 countries (South Sudan, Uganda, Malawi, India, Pakistan, and The Philippines)! As a Certified B Corp., not only does Grosche have a big global and social impact, they also have a number of great environmental initiatives, including:
Partnering with Trees for the Future - planting 10,000 trees in Haiti and Africa (so far)
Partnering with Carbonfree - for a negative carbon footprint
40% reduced energy use at the head office and warehouse - replaced with 100% green renewable energy
Keeping waste out of landfills by selling unwanted products and take backs at a discounted price
Along with reusable bottles come reusable tea bags from Your Green Kitchen. These certified organic bags are so versatile, they can even be used for steeping coffee. With so many benefits, these water bottles and tea bags are perfect little companions - anytime, anywhere and on-the-go.
Swap out the kitchen sponge for a biodegradable sponge
For many of us, the kitchen sponge might seem like a harmless household supply, but the impacts of making a sponge and its after-use are detrimental to the environment. Did you know an average of twenty-five sponges are used by a household every year?
A great alternative to the regular sponge is using a biodegradable scrubber brush, that does the same job and can be composted. The Make Nice Company in Vancouver, BC makes a scrubber brush that can be your office kitchen's hero. Its base is made of beechwood and the bristles from Tampico (from the agave plant). The same company also makes a solid dish soap, perfect for a waste-free office kitchen. Composed of all-natural materials, the dish soap cube replaces up to three bottles of liquid dish soap. The Make Nice Company actually has a bundle product called the Zero Waste Kitchen Kit, the perfect duo for any kitchen sink.
4. Low footprint workplace bathroom
Another area of the office that contributes to our environmental footprint is the office bathroom. Simple retrofits such as motion detectors for the taps and overhead lights and dual flush valve systems for the toilets can easily lower a business's water consumption by thousands of litres a week. If your office doesn't have these implemented, dare we ask you to bring them up at the next meeting?
While bar soap might not be preferable to use by everyone in a public workspace, using refills for hand soaps instead of new plastic bottles is a great alternative. With manufacturing in Toronto, ON, the Bare Home produces natural, eco-friendly hand soap in a glass bottle, along with a 3-litre refill that is the perfect eco-friendly solution. Find The Bare Home products in Good Earth Gifting's Kitchen Starter and Crowd Pleaser gift packages in the Shop page.
Toronto's first and only soap delivery service Saponetti can also help reduce your waste from refill boxes and bottles. Similar to the old-school milk delivery program, Saponetti delivers Canadian-made, environmentally friendly and hypoallergenic, soaps and detergents for home and personal care. Its once-a-week service uses refundable glass jars to eliminate all your waste-related worries when using soaps.
5. Use eco-friendly stationery and forest-friendly paper
To become more sustainable in their practices, most businesses have opted to go paperless in recent years. While that may not be possible for all, a sustainable alternative is to source forest-friendly paper that is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified. A good way to identify FSC certified paper is to find one of its logos on the packaging.
Common writing tools, such as pens, are usually made of plastic and don't have a very long life at the office. Swapping out plastic pens for refillable fountain pens or pens made from bamboo is an eco-friendly option for the office. If you're looking for an eco-friendly notebook, check out Canadian-made journals from Ecojot. Based out of Toronto, ON, Ecojot paper is 100% post-consumer recycled – made entirely from old waste paper in Cascades mill in Québec. You'll be happy to know all their inks and glues are vegetable-based.
6. Use a Sustainable Corporate Gifting Company
According to an article by Forbes, the corporate gifting market is a $125 billion industry. What businesses gift has a huge impact on the receiver's opinion of them. 94% of top executives believe gifts that facilitate a deeper connection with their partners are a big contributor to their success and "humanizes" a business.
Imagine the message it sends to a business's clients, partners and employees if they worked with corporate gifting companies that focus on sourcing local, sustainable products from brands that prioritize giving back to the planet. Good Earth Gifting helps make eco-friendly giving easy by taking the guesswork out of the equation. With a goal to revolutionize the corporate gifting industry, they collaborate exclusively with Canadian sustainable suppliers to create customized gifts for different budgets.
Also, check out Good Earth Gifting's Green Business Partners reference guide, a list of other resources for more eco-friendly business operations. It is a convenient way to help you find sustainable partners in various industries, and how they can help your business integrate more conscious practices.
With these simple, yet fun, tips to change the way we look and function in our workspaces, we hope these ideas can make you more positive and ready for the future. If anything the pandemic has taught us, it is to definitely make each day count - so now is the best time to get the right habits for a more sustainable and safe world for everyone!
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