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Promote a Plastic-Free Workplace

Learn how to implement more plastic-free procedures around even the largest company office, and create a work community focused on eco-friendly change.

| January/February 2020

Photo by Getty Images/PeopleImages

One of the areas of our lives where we have the most power is our workplace. Whether that’s formal power in a senior position, or informal power through relationships and daily contact with your colleagues (who can’t escape your passion for getting rid of plastic), campaigning in the workplace can be an effective tool in helping others see the value in giving up plastic products.

Call for Behavioral Change

If you’re starting to make even a fraction of effort to avoid plastics in your life, then your colleagues may have already noticed your efforts and started to ask questions. It may be that simply explaining the issues to a couple of your colleagues, giving them a few of the facts, or maybe even sending them an article is enough to persuade them to join you in giving up plastic. More likely, a bit more explicit campaigning will be required. Every workplace, even a virtual one, is likely to have some type of informal space — a bulletin board, canteen, or lounge — where people go on their breaks or catch up with colleagues. Try hanging up signs, or writing a letter for the staff mailing list, about ways to reduce plastic at work. Start with encouraging people to give up the top five: plastic bags, bottles, coffee cups, straws, and cutlery. Use a statistic to grab people’s attention about the scale of the problem and point them toward an alternative.

Photo by Getty Images/Wavebreakmedia

Getting the tone right is crucial to persuading your colleagues to alter their behavior. No one likes to feel nagged or attacked, so when you make signs or speak with them, use language that feels inclusive and inspiring. For example, instead of putting up signs saying, “Takeout cups not welcome here,” which may lead to minor backlash, use language such as, “Let’s create a plastic-free office.” Instead of using instructional or patronizing language when you invite colleagues to a talk, such as, “We should all be doing better,” or, “Say no to straws,” try to be more welcoming than challenging. You can use questions such as, “Have you ever wanted to use less plastic?” or, “Want to find out how you could give up plastic?” Or use humor to make people smile. This way, they’ll be drawn in, and then you can let them know all the different ways they can be a part of the movement. Keeping a focus on solutions helps people stay positive and feel like they’re able to make a difference.

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Photo by Getty Images/Wavebreakmedia

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