World Environment Day: Towards a Plastic-free workspace

June 05, 2018

Early humans lived harmoniously with nature. They relied heavily on natural resources and therefore, treated it as sacrosanct. As we have evolved from cave dwellers to nomadic tribes, and subsequently to permanent settlements with agriculture, we have gotten a bit out of sync with nature. Human population began to grow exponentially over time and as a consequence, natural resources were depleted. Although it’s a bit late, today we acknowledge the scarcity of resources and the irreversible damage we have caused to the environment.

The United Nations declared June 5th of every year as World Environment Day (WED) in 1972. Holding human action accountable to the environmental deterioration, the goal of every Environment Day is to spread awareness and encourage action to protect our environment.

One of the main things that differentiates WED from rest of the “days” we celebrate through the year is that WED acts as a platform for change. It gives importance to actionable steps that the world as a community can take towards a common cause. In a sense, it becomes a people’s movement for the environment around the globe. NGOs, corporations, government agencies, celebrities, local communities, etc. organize events that bring people together and work for the betterment of the environment. Individually or with a group, WED is all about taking the next step towards protecting the environment from further deterioration.

Over the years since 1972, WED has adopted various themes each year to focus on several environmental issues such as biodiversity, global warming, poverty, population etc. About 143 countries participate in WED, with each country hosting the activities each year. The theme for WED 2018 is “Beat Plastic Pollution” and is hosted by India.

As working professionals, a substantial portion of our days are spent in office spaces. Let’s take a look at the things we can do in our work spaces to combat plastic pollution.

Make the switch from single-use plastic

50% of the plastic we use is single-use plastics that have severe consequences on the soil, ocean, and air (if burnt). Takeaway coffee cups that we bring to workspaces every morning, single-use water bottles, plastic cups to drink water from water dispensers, plastic cutlery during an office lunch - there are so many ways single-use plastics penetrate our workspaces every day.

While employees can make the conscious decision to switch to reusable substitutes, like a personal mug, for their individual uses, employers must also discourage the use of single-use plastic items inside the office. This can include replacing plastic cups with glass tumblers, providing silverware in the office for occasions like office lunches or small informal parties inside the workspace, or discouraging the use of plastic water bottles in the office.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

We have heard of the 3Rs umpteen times before, yet it is questionable how many of us have actually considered it in real life. With a little effort, it is easier to establish the 3Rs in workspaces. In the context of plastic pollution, one can reduce the consumption of plastic products, reuse products that are still in its usable form, and instead of disposing it outside, recycle the products to newer forms. For example, office staples such as pens, files, ink cartridges, tape dispensers etc are largely made of plastics, but they can be used for more time if they are refillable. Employers can also actively promote recycling of plastic waste in the office.

Awareness creation

Remember that the larger goal of protecting the environment from plastic pollution is possible only through a combined effort. It is necessary that your employees are on the same page as you when it comes to environmental initiatives such as reducing plastic waste. Rather than imposing policies without any discussions, awareness campaigns, incentivised projects, and creative suggestions can positively reinforce the importance of being environmental guardians.

Surely, now is the time for change. We are at the pinnacle of major technological innovations yet we are all reliant on mother nature for our survival. Before we face lasting repercussions, let’s join our hands to protect our environment and its resources.

Have an active Environment Day!

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