plastic free

Plastic-free summer at Carbon Smart

This summer we decided to go plastic-free. Our generally well behaved and sustainable team took up the brave task of rejecting single-use plastics for two full months.

Plastics are so deeply entrenched into our daily lives that even the most willed person may find it hard to rebuff. We realised that going totally plastic-free was unlikely, but team determination and enthusiasm was clear; we were on the critical task of disregarding single-use plastic this summer.

Interesting ideas and suggestions popped up as we set to adhere to our grand pledges. Each of us identified where we used the most plastic and subsequently wrote a pledge/s on our sleek & satiny and very handy whiteboard. By the end of the first week, we had over 15 exciting written commitments and many more silent ones.

Our Plastic-free summer challenge was a compelling exercise, and it helped some of us become more conscious of our daily plastic squandering habits whilst others put into practise better eco-friendly lifestyle changes.

Here are some of the impressions from the team

According to our Business Development Manager Xerxes who is officially now our sustainability pioneer (he has ditched regular toothpaste tubes for toothpaste tablets and is now in the process of having a plastic-free bathroom!),

“Food packaging and household goods are the hardest to go plastic-free”.

We realised that most people in our team struggled with food packaging, where the choice to respect the environment is often in contrast with eating healthy. For example, Jamie reported that he always tries to buy organic produce, which he regularly finds packaged in plastics, whilst loose produce is mostly non-organic.

There’s also the aspect of convenience, and the long shelf life virtues of plastic, as Mark reminded us, that make it all the more difficult to go plastic-free while doing grocery shopping.

Packaged lunch, owing to its convenience of availability and variety, is another item that contributes significantly towards the single plastic problem. To address this issue, a majority of our team members pledged to either cut down or eliminate packaged lunch in favour of homemade lunches, eliminating single-use plastic completely. Apart from being a more affordable option, homemade lunches are also healthier: our Marketing Manager Kamakshi is very satisfied with her newfound habit.

Coming from a different country, I feel it’s very hard to avoid single-use plastic in Britain.  The use of single-use plastic seems ingrained within the British lifestyle, partly due to lack of alternatives available within the marketplace, and partly due to convenience and lifestyle preferences. Let’s consider the use of coffee cups on the go (manufactured from paper and plastic) as an example, as they are a widely used product within Britain. In contrast, in Italy, most consumers drink their coffees, espressos, cappuccinos etc, at the café in ceramic cups. This cultural habit means that lesser number of single-use plastic coffee cups are required per day, resulting in a lower plastic footprint per Italian coffee drinker.

It’s true that our espressos and cappuccinos take less time to drink compared with an americano or a hot tea, but as our own Senior Manager Jessica says,

“We should make more time for an actual break and just enjoy our drinks on-site, reducing the need for non-recyclable cups.”

Of course, if you can’t say no to life on the go then carrying reusable cups is a great alternative and with most cafes offering a discount to consumers who bring their own cups – you might just be able to save some money in the process.

Further, it was our Senior Manager Martin who highlighted the critical role businesses can play in making a real difference.

“I think that the impact individuals can achieve pales in comparison to what businesses can do, that’s where we can actually achieve significant results”.

What we do as individuals might not have the biggest impact in terms of reducing waste globally, but as consumers, I believe we can trust in our power to influence producers and suppliers. Moreover, companies are made up of individuals too, and an increasing sensibilization and buzz can often open many doors.

Another interesting observation came from Caoimhe, our business manager, around the practice of bulk shopping for office supplies. She noted that even if you do order in bulk, it’s hard to know how much plastic is used in the packaging and that suppliers should try to provide more information on this aspect. This point really highlighted the need for producers, suppliers and buyers to collaborate in incorporating eco-friendly practices.

I was really impressed by the awareness that an action as simple as writing something down with a group of people could do, as our Client Data Specialist Amber said:

“The challenge was very useful because I thought I was already good with my plastic use, but looking at the board and seeing what all the others were doing made me realize that there’s more that can be done.”

Coming back to our Pledge whiteboard – Everyone contributed towards the cause. The general feedback among employees suggests that by writing their pledges on the board & doing this activity as a team, positively influenced them to meet their stated goals and enabled them to consciously change their plastic habits.

Here are some of the quotes from our team

Daniel Murray, Principal Consultant, “Looking at the board inspired me to do more and get more involved. I’m becoming more aware of all the package especially when you look at the lunches and snacks packaging after a day of work, you realize the need to reduce that.”

Sasha Segar, Analyst, “It wasn’t hard, and I feel like I want to try out what other members from the team are doing, I think actually doing that as a team helped in the motivational aspect.

Louise Quarrel, COO, “I wanted to cut down on my Pret’s lunches for a while, but I feel that writing it down with all the other pledges from the team helped me in my resolve.

And for those curious to know about the individual pledges – we have placed a snapshot of our pledge whiteboard below.

Plastic free July

The plastic-free summer challenge has concluded and I’m excited about taking on new initiatives and finding new ways to reduce my impact on the environment.

At Carbon Smart, we will continue running more creative activities that will help us raise further awareness not only on plastic consumption but on our overall environmental impact and will continue to encourage eco-friendly practices within our team, amongst family & friends, our clients and the wider community.

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