Your facility has numerous opportunities to be eco-friendly, but have you considered opportunities in your break room? Break rooms are often overlooked in sustainability plans, but with a few changes they can have a big impact.
Change #1: Use green cleaning supplies
Stock the break room kitchen with biodegradable hand and dish soaps and general cleaning supplies for keeping counters, sinks and appliances clean. Look for fragrance free and non toxic products.
Change #2: Supply the break room with washable plates, mugs, tumblers and utensils.
During the 20th century, raw material use world wide grew at twice the rate of the population.Think habitat destruction, biodiversity loss and land degradation. Businesses and organizations can help benefit the environment by supplying their break room kitchens with reusable plates, utensils, mugs and tumblers. Print the company logo on the kitchen ware or better yet, print a message that reminds your staff how much waste your environmentally friendly break room is preventing.
Although hand washing these items would use less water, for practical reasons, as well as consistent safe practices, it would be better to install an energy-efficient dishwasher. Don’t forget to use biodegradable dishwashing soap. Larger companies and organizations may find that using biodegradable utensils and plates or compostable products would be more practical than reusable plates and utensils.
Change # 3: Encourage your staff to use reusable water bottles.
More and more people are carrying reusable water bottles instead of plastic bottles that end up in our landfills and oceans. Urge your staff to bring their own reusable bottles to work and keep a supply of these bottles in the break room. Show your environmental support by printing your logo on the bottles and include an image or cartoon that promotes eco-friendly habits.
Change #4: Use bottled condiments
Discourage the use of individual restaurant condiment packets by supplying the break room with large bottles of catsup, relish, soy sauce, mustard, hot sauce, chili flakes and salt and pepper. Use posters to remind your staff to say “nada” to those annoying little packets that come with our fast foods.
Change #5: Overhaul the coffee station.
Your coffee station is a good place to instigate some modern break room ideas in sustainability. Keep a coffee maker always perking with a good hot brew. Offer some flavored coffee creamers for your staff who enjoy flavored java. Instead of packets of condiments, stock the cupboard with containers of creamer, sugar and sweetener. Keep a pot of hot water available for your staff who prefer hot tea and maintain a supply of several different brands of loose or bagged leaves. Be sure the tea bags and coffee filters are biodegradable or compostable. Don’t buy tea in plastic tea bags, as microscopic bits of plastic are being found in our drinking water. To help lower your energy consumption, use timers to turn off the electronics at the end of the day, but for safety’s sake always give a quick look that all appliances are off.
Change #6: Use biodegradable trash can liners and start a compost collection bin.
It’s past time to start using 100% recycled trash bags, or better yet biodegradable or compostable bags. Plastic single-use trash bags are made with non-renewable fossil fuels and as the bags break down, microplastics are released into our environment contaminating our oceans and drinking water.
As for the composting bin, we Americans compost only 5% out of 40% of all the food we throw out. By creating a composting program your employees will be diverting food waste from landfills and incinerators and returning the organic matter to the soil. The result will be improved water retention, richer soil and less of a reliance on synthetic fertilizers.
Start by placing a bin in the break room and kitchen with signage above and on the container listing the acceptable foods to compost. Create a team to oversee the program. During the first week they could stand by the bin at lunch and answer questions and demonstrate which foods can be composted. The team could blog and email about program successes, deal with any issues and suggest changes. Waste companies pick up the composting material just as they do your trash and the bins are made to keep odor and pests under control.
Research has shown that these types of corporate contributions create a positive impression with employees and they’re pleased when the rest of the world knows of your efforts too. Become a leader in environmental sustainability and show how modern break room ideas can make a positive impact on our environment.