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waste free habits for work

Photo by: Marlee Maclean

Author: Marlee Maclean

Maybe it was that documentary on microplastics in our ocean, maybe it was another sweaty commute to work in record-breaking heat, or maybe it was knowing the miserable “bag of plastic bags” sitting under your sink would never, ever go away, despite which landfills they ended up in. No matter the means of enlightenment, you are now part of the woke and environmentally conscious group making a point to reduce your day-to-day waste and Bare Market Blogger Marlee Maclean is here to guide you through it.


I can’t pinpoint what it was that made me realize that I wanted, better yet needed to change, but a few months ago it was like I had opened my eyes and could not un-see the many bad habits I’d practiced on a regular basis.

In an attempt to live more sustainably, I started with the place I spend the most amount of my time – work.

I’m an art director in advertising, meaning my days are split between sitting at a desk in a downtown office, or running around the city going to sets and production studios. I knew the many variables meant I needed to create sustainable solutions that were easy to implement and carry in my bag.

I started with the essentials: coffee (obviously). I picked up a thermos and immediately noticed benefits. Besides being floored by the magic of coffee that stayed hot for like, 6 hours at a time, I noticed I was saving money and creating zero waste in the process. I felt triumphant and so began my journey of creating less waste in the workplace (rhyme intended).

While I’m by no means an expert, I’ve learned a few things along the way that may offer some useful perspective for your journey.

Start Small: Identify The Problem, Then Work Out Possible Solutions

We’ve all felt that inkling that our decision-making could be better, but actually knowing where to start can be hard. Spend time looking at your actions. Make a mental note every time you throw something out. What are you tossing away the most? Disposable coffee cups? Plastic forks? Are you printing documents that quickly end up in the recycle bin? Do your best to recognize what you’re tossing and the sustainable alternatives will become obvious.

BYOC: Bring Your Own Container

After some trial and error, I found that keeping a few things in my bag could prevent me from producing garbage throughout the day. A thermos for coffee, a water bottle, a lightweight & spill-proof container for food, a small jar for compost, and a reusable bag for everything else. The amount of garbage I create has been reduced greatly.

Compost On-The-Go

I spent way too long feeling guilty about tossing banana peels when I didn’t need to. Keeping a small mason jar in my bag means I can hang onto food scraps throughout the day and make sure they’re composted once I’m home. I barely notice the added weight in my bag and I never worry about spills or stinky smells escaping. Minimal effort, maximum peace of mind.

Show Before You Tell - A.K.A Practice What You Preach

Habits are so hard to break, and no one wants to be lectured about their lifestyle (even when their choices are super unsustainable). I once worked in an office that kept the fridge stocked with single-use plastic water bottles and on a day where the bottles ran out, one of my coworkers freaked out and complained of dehydration the whole time. When I suggested she drink tap water out of a glass, she looked at me like I had two heads. I quickly realized there was no arguing. Her habits were ingrained and she was on the defence. Alternatively, I’ve had a really easy time chatting about sustainable solutions when leading by example.

People tend to notice better habits and eco-friendly products when you’re actively using them, not selling them. It’s how I too got interested in making these changes, after all. Meaningful conversations are catalysts, often nudging people towards different, more intentional behaviours.

Ultimately, going waste free at work comes down to decision-making. We feel better when we know we’re making our own decisions and I truly believe when you start living your values and making choices you are passionate about, you’ve got a much greater chance of sparking that same fire in someone else wanting to do the same.


About the Author: Marlee is an art director and photographer who gets her kicks living sustainably (check out @choosingearth on Instagram)! You’ll recognize her by the mason jar she lugs everywhere to collect compost on-the-go. Marlee’s into fresh veggies, outdoor rock climbing, and exploring Canada from coast to coast.


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