July 1, 2020 • Workplace5 min read

Plastic Free July: work-from-home sustainability tips

The month of July is dedicated to reducing plastic waste. So, here are some tips to help you make more sustainable choices while working from home.

It’s Plastic Free July, so we thought we’d share some of our eco-friendly top tips to help you lead a greener life while working from home. But before we dive into our recommendations, here’s some background on the Plastic Free July movement and the history of plastic pollution.

What is Plastic Free July?

Plastic Free July is a global movement run by Plastic Free Foundation, based in Australia. It’s a month-wide initiative that started small in 2011 and quickly grew to help over 250 million people in 177 countries reduce their plastic waste by 2019. Participants can sign up to the Plastic Free July challenge in order to receive tips and tricks to guide them on their plastic-free journey and help make the world a cleaner, greener place.

Some plastic pollution facts

Plastic bottle on the beach

About 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced since the 1950s, but just under 10% of it has been recycled, with almost 80% ending up in landfills or in the natural environment. In fact, up to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic enters the oceans every year. As a result, it’s estimated that 9 out of 10 seabirds, 1 in 3 sea turtles, and more than half of whale and dolphin species have ingested plastic.

As of September 2019, the UK sent roughly two-thirds of its plastic waste overseas to be recycled. This transfers responsibility to countries such as Malaysia, Turkey, Poland, Indonesia, and the Netherlands. In the same year, UK waste management firm Biffa was fined £350,000 for trying to ship household rubbish to China, illegally labelled as paper fit for recycling. But, unfortunately, even the plastic waste you carefully sort into the correct recycling bin might still end up being dumped or incinerated.

Plastic pollution doesn’t just affect marine life, it affects humans too. According to a report, up to a million people in developing countries die every year from diseases caused by mismanaged waste. In his TED Talk on the economic injustice of plastic, American author and news commentator Van Jones says that the harms of plastic production, usage, and pollution hit poor people “first and worst”.

So, how can you help from home?

Work-from-home sustainability tips

While sorting recycling waste is something that everyone should try to do, we now know that it doesn’t always end up in the right place, so we have to take a more proactive approach to protect the environment.

We spoke to some of our own eco-conscious workplace heroes to find out what they’ve been doing to be more green, from filling up reusable bottles to growing their own food! Read on to find out more.

Say no to single-use

Reusable water bottle on grass

The world we live in is geared towards convenience and consumerism, and it’s polluting the planet at an alarming rate.

Rejecting throwaway culture can start with saying no to plastic bottles, like our CRM Manager Sujay has done by buying and filling up his Chilly’s bottle every day while working from home, but it can also include:

- Buying food and toiletries with plastic-free packaging (our Vendor Operations Executive Jessica recommends zero-waste shops BYO and Gather to those living in South-East London!)
- Making notes on your phone or computer instead of on paper
- Taking a reusable bag to carry your groceries
- Saying ‘no straw, please!’ at restaurants and bars (when they’re open!)
- Getting your takeaway coffee in a reusable cup
- Making your work-from-home coffee with reusable or compostable capsules
- Switching to loose leaf tea or buying plastic-free tea bags for your morning brew
- And lots, lots more!

Make do and mend - the cheap and easy work-from-home uniform

Sewing tools on grey background

One of the best aspects of working from home is being able to wear the same comfy clothes time and time again with no pressure to don a new outfit every day.

As well as saving you time and money, wearing your old clothes over and over again can help save the planet and cut down on plastic. After all, up to 64% of new fabrics are made of plastic and each time we wash them they shed microfibers, which can end up in the ocean.

Next time you need a new outfit, have a go at buying secondhand or vintage to reduce your impact on the environment. Or if you’re feeling really crafty you could try making your own like our Customer Care Lead Flo does:

“I do quite a bit of dressmaking normally, so during the lockdown, I have been teaching family members how to follow and fit a pattern, what type of fabric is best for what and how to darn holes so that a garment can be used for much longer.”

Eat sustainable lunches to fuel your working day

Plants on table

At City Pantry, we love food, but what we eat has big consequences for the environment.

Whether it’s the amount of water and energy it took to produce the food on your plate or the pollution that occurred to get it there, there’s so much to think about when it comes to eating sustainably.

If you can, eat local and seasonal produce to reduce your impact on the environment. Buying from local markets can also help you to cut down on plastic packaging.

And you can’t get much more local than growing your own food! The best bit? You don’t even need to have any outdoor space to grow your own herbs and veg. Just look at the photo above from our Senior Content Marketing Manager Vanessa who’s been tending to her own windowsill garden while working from home:

“I decided to plant some seeds during lockdown to start growing my own veggies and herbs. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but certainly didn’t expect them to thrive the way they have. I now have an unending supply of kale, bok choi, rocket, radishes, Chinese lettuce, dill, basil and thyme. Keeping my fingers crossed my broad beans will start fruiting soon. It’s great having so much greenery in the house, and the fact that we can eat them is even better! It helps save some pennies from the supermarket and I know my salads are totally organic”.

Vanessa isn’t the only person at City Pantry with a green thumb. We also caught up with Flo again, who said:

“My housemate and I have been creating an edible garden on my little balcony in London. We now have tomatoes, herbs and courgettes! Knowing where your food comes from and reducing food miles is important for me so using our tiny garden and the local farmers market in Islington not only makes me feel good but I managed to avoid the queues for the supermarket too”.

According to UN experts, switching to a plant-based diet can help fight climate change. Our Content Executive Charlotte has been vegan for nearly three years:

“I became vegan a couple of years ago after learning about factory farming, so at first it was to do with animal cruelty. But I soon learned that giving up meat and dairy could help reduce my impact on the planet too. Being vegan isn’t possible for everyone, but it’s really encouraging to see so many people willing to cut down on their meat consumption as they become more environmentally conscious”.

Finally, we can’t talk about food without discussing food waste, which accounts for a third of all food produced for human consumption globally. If food waste were a country it would be the 3rd largest emitter of greenhouse gases!

Rachel, our Corporate Sales Manager, uses food-sharing app OLIO to make sure that perfectly edible food doesn’t end up in the bin. You can use OLIO to connect with neighbours and local businesses to share surplus or unwanted food. Win-win!

What about the food you can’t share with neighbours? Compost it! For those without a garden, many councils offer food waste collections, but if they don’t you can let your local council know how important it is to you and the community by writing to them.

Heat your home office with renewable energy

wind turbines

Working from home may seem more eco-friendly than commuting into an office, but new research shows that it might not be. At least during the colder months when we tend to switch on the central heating and dial up the thermostat.

The need to heat individual workers’ buildings versus one office building may drive up the environmental impact of working from home. But there are still some things you can do to lower your home office emissions.

The most effective way is to switch your energy supplier to one that uses renewable energy sources like wind and solar power. According to Money Saving Expert, switching to a green provider might even help you save some pennies too!

Even once you’ve switched, be mindful of how much energy you use. Unplug appliances when not in use and heat your home only as much as you really need to.

Think bigger than individual actions

Globe on shelf

Small actions by individuals can create positive change, but in order to tackle the problem fully, we need governments and big corporations to lead sustainability efforts.

You could use the time you would have spent commuting to sign climate change petitions, write to your MP about environmental issues, or take part in a climate strike online, for example.

Social media is another great tool that individuals can use to apply pressure on big corporations to do better. As it’s a public space, and one used to create a positive brand image, companies can’t easily ignore customer concerns, especially when consumers band together.

Back to the office

Office space

As we start to return to the office we mustn’t forget to fight for the environment. It can be easy to slip back into old habits, like buying single-use water bottles or a plastic-wrapped ham and cheese sandwich for lunch.

Luckily, City Pantry is on hand to help you make more sustainable catering choices for the office. You can narrow down your search results to find veggie and vegan options for meat-free Monday (or the rest of the week!) and you can select restaurants that use plastic-free, biodegradable, or compostable packaging. Just look out for the ‘Eco Friendly Packaging’ tag!

Over 35% of our deliveries are now emission-free, using electric vehicles, bicycles, and walkers to get delicious food from A to B, and we’re working on increasing that percentage over the coming months.

And don’t worry if you have to cancel an order last minute - we’ll make sure that the food doesn’t go to waste! Instead, we’ll pass it over to City Harvest, our charity partner that redistributes unwanted food to those in need.

If you want to find out more eco-friendly tips for the workplace, check out this blog about creating a zero-waste office.