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Tips For Getting Back to the Workplace - Sustainably!

Updated: Oct 2, 2022

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:

Four individuals wearing medical masks on their commute to work.

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.

A pink adjustable, washable, and reusable mask created by Kraywoods, a Montreal-based sustainable business selling eyewear.

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.

Find reusable cotton protective face masks in Good Earth Gifting's On-The-Go and Whisky gift boxes.

2. Lower the impact of your commute to work

Public transit

A red streetcar in Toronto.

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

Two bikes propped up against the side of a building. In the background are two individuals out of focus and sitting near the building.

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.

A small bulletin board that reads Bike Share Toronto. Adjacent to the sign is the Bike Share station for the BikeShare Toronto program, which promotes an environmentally-friendly alternative for commuting to work.

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

Good Earth Gifting;s On-The-Go gift box containing L to R clockwise: Grosche reusable water bottle; three Wildcraft products Luxe Body Oil, Renew Eye Serum and Salve; Reusable Tea Bags, Hand Lotion and a Protective Travel Kit

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

A moving gif image of a person demonstrating how to use a biodegradable sponge and solid dish soap made by The Make Nice Company in Vancouver, British Columbia. The biodegradable sponge and solid dish soap are waste-free alternatives to creating a sustainable home environment and kitchen.

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.

Find zero-waste, plant-based scrubber brushes and solid dish soaps in Good Earth Gifting's Kitchen Essentials and Welcome Home gift packages.

Good Earth Gifting Kitchen Essentials Kit containing L to R clockwise: reed diffuser set, lithologie whisky stones and wooden coasters, a bottle of simple syrup, solid dish soap, coconut bristle dish brush, loofah sponge, and reusable table napkins with trees print.

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?

Environmentally friendly bathroom products from the Bare Home company in Toronto. From left to right: A 3 litre refill box of eco-friendly and natural hand soap scented using organic essential oils. A  500 millilitre hand soap scented using organic essential oils and is biodegradable, phosphate and dye free.

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 produce