Office Solutions

by Liesl Clark and Rebecca Rockefeller

Do you want to shift to a life with less plastic and less waste in general? Wondering where to start? Feeling overwhelmed? We’d love to help!  

We’ve learned a lot about how to change our own habits and perspectives over the past three years, and we’d like to offer this bit of advice: Please, don’t try to do everything at once! Choose just one step, the one that seems the easiest or most appealing to you, and give that a try.Adapt our ideas as necessary for your own household and lifestyle and keep at that one first change until it’s second nature, or until you’re excited to add another.

Remember that joy and pride are much better motivating emotions in the long run than guilt and shame. Find one first step solution here that addresses something you’d be happy to change because it’s driving you crazy, or something that you’d be proud to accomplish. Find the joy and humor in taking control of your stuff, and celebrate every little change you make. Over time, these small steps add up and can have a profound positive impact.

Here are our Office Solutions. Find your own next step – Pick one thing and start with that:  

  • Go paperless whenever possible: Save your printer and your pencil lead for paper that really counts – Important documents, love notes, artwork, that Great American Novel outline you’ve been thinking about – The rest of the time, go digital if you have a computer at your disposal.
  • Put your paper to work: Print on both sides, reusing the backsides of paper for kid art and scrap paper. Use shredded paper to cushion delicate items for shipping, as chicken coop bedding, or to line the bottom of pet bird cages. We’ve even pull pages from our mail that are blank on one side and they go in the scrap drawer for future art projects. If you can’t use all the paper you acquire yourself, offer it to your local Freecycle group.
  • Press your printer cartridges into extended service: A good number of ink cartridges tell your computer they’re out of ink before they really are; you can verify that you’re truly out of ink with help from this post.
  • Find a reputable reuse solution for your empty printer cartridges. Check with the company that produced your printer cartridge; many have programs that allow you to mail empty cartridges back for reuse or recycling. Staples stores across the US accept empty cartridges, and there may be donation drives in your community run by local non-profit groups.
  • Write with pencils and refillable pens: Give your words even more power by saying “No” to single-use plastic pens. We’ve got a round-up of zero waste options in this post at Trash Backwards.

  • Extend the life of your pencils: Our ode to pencils comes complete with two simple Trash Hacks that will keep your pencil stubs writing for as long as possible.
  • Love your whiteboard? Treat it to some crayon lettering: When your pens run out of ink, turn to crayons for zero waste whiteboard work – Turn a clean old sock into an eraser and you’ll be ready for your next meeting, zero waste style. Examples and more information in our Trash Backwards post here.

Crayons Go On And Off Whiteboards With Ease (and the help of a clean old sock). © Rebecca Rockefeller

  • Get into zero waste shippingSet aside packaging from shipments you receive and send them back out the door with new goods. Shipping envelopes can be turned inside out and repacked if you can’t fit a new label on the outside. Shredded paper, air-popped popcorn, even plastic bags can be used to cushion items for shipping. Get creative with your packaging, and include a short note on the package to expose the materials you’ve reused and help spread the idea.
  • Harvest tape from your groceries: Plastic produce stickers and tape can be saved and used again (and again) as tape for your papers and projects. See our Trash Hacker post for details and photographic proof.

Look into our Trash Backwards app for more great reduce, reuse, recycle ideas for the workplace:

Click Through for Reuse Ideas for your Office at Trash Backwards

What did we leave out? Please share your zero waste office tips so we can grow this list as a resource for everyone.

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