America produces an alarming amount of waste. According to the EPA, this number was around 258 million tons as of 2014. While our habits at home could, without a doubt, use some work, we're no angels in the workplace, either. Places of business are a huge culprit when it comes to the biggest contributors of waste. With simple changes, though — like by switching to eco-friendly alternatives to everyday items you use at work — we could make serious progress when it comes to living greener.
Think about a typical workday for only yourself. Every time you use the bathroom, you dispose of toilet paper and paper towel. You might use more paper towel in the kitchen. You're printing off some documents, shredding and throwing away others, drinking out of styrofoam coffee cups each morning, and totally neglecting the lonely recycling bin when it comes to disposing of certain materials. You alone might be producing as much as 4.4 pounds of waste per day, according to information from the EPA. Only 1.51 pounds gets recycled or composted — roughly 34 percent — even though the EPA estimates about 75 percent of our waste is recyclable, says DoSomething.org.
If you work in an office, there are a number of things you can do to be better. Here are seven common eco-unfriendly items many of us use every day, and greener versions of them you can try.
1. Coffee Cups
Ditch the styrofoam, for the love of all that is holy. It's non-biodegradable and non-recyclable. And, Livestrong reports from Washington University that it takes 500 years to decompose. Ew.
The obvious answer here is to bring your own mug from home. But for the office supply, you have a few eco-friendly options, including these 100 percent compostable, biodegradable cups on Amazon. It's still waste, but at least it's waste that doesn't have to end up in a landfill.
Or you could take it one step further with something bamboo and reusable. Reusable is always better.
2. Whiteboard Markers
They might be fun to write with and look colorful and pretty, but once whiteboard markers run dry, you toss 'em in the garbage and Mother Nature gives you the side eye.
Did you know you can buy dry erase markers you can refill? What a way to cut back on waste.
3. Toilet Paper
The Worldwatch Institute cites the Worldwide Fund for Nature, saying globally, the equivalent of 270,000 trees is flushed or dumped in landfills per day, and 10 percent of this is toilet paper alone. Might we be wise to be more mindful of what we use to wipe our tush?
Remember, the goal is simply to be better. Caboo is made from 100 percent organic bamboo and sugarcane, which are both fast-growing. Plus, it's biodegradable and septic safe.
4. Printer Paper
We're so bad about this. I've had (awful) moments where I printed off a page, not knowing the document was 10 pages long. Then I was all, "Oopsies." No matter what, your paper should be recycled. But you can do better than that! How? I'm so glad you asked.
Once again, sugarcane comes to the rescue. This paper is 95 percent sugarcane — a renewable resource much safer to use right now than trees.
5. Paper Shredder
Waste doesn't come just from paper, plastic, and styrofoam. We waste energy, too. According to information shared by Clean Technica, we waste approximately 61 percent of the energy we use — and this number is modest.
Where can you cut back at the office? Let's start with the paper shredder. This might not be ideal if you have to shred stacks and stacks of paper (why are you printing so much?!), but otherwise, this should get the job done: a manual paper shredder.
Is your office kitchen stocked with straws for all your slurping needs? If you've been watching the news, you've probably heard straws are on their way out because they're tiny, annoying, stupid, pointless little pieces of nothing that can't be reused and end up in the garbage.
7. Trash Bags
If you produce a lot of trash, then you probably go through a lot of trash bags. That's yet another opportunity to be a better friend to the environment. These bags are a USDA certified 88 percent biobased product, made with sugarcane. Much better than bags made of virgin or even recycled plastic.