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Reducing your environmental impact at work

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If you buy coffee regularly you’ll probably have noticed the Latte Levy articles and displays of reusable coffee cups for sale in cafés. The Latte Levy, which will mean an extra 15c charge on all takeaway coffees, is an attempt to reduce the amount of unnecessary single-use plastics we use. It’s predicated this alone will mean around a quarter of a million fewer coffee cups in our landfills every day. Could coffee cups really be that damaging?

Last winter, the Arctic experienced its warmest winter on record with average daily temperatures in up to 20C higher than average. Meanwhile, here in Ireland, we’ve had unexpected visits from Storm Ophelia and The Beast from the East. Literally, weather like we’ve never seen before. Some might put this down to unavoidable change, but the experts agree that humans are responsible.

In fact, 90 – 100% of climate change experts agree humans are responsible for climate change. Most of the damage that’s been done can’t be undone, but each of us can help reduce further damage. Here’s how you can play your part.

Be cautious of paper usage

Recycling our paper products is great, and should be done in all homes and offices, but being mindful and cutting down on, or reusing, paper is important too. It takes an average of 5 litres of water to produce just one A4 page and paper makes up 23.7% of waste in Irish bins.

Keep this in mind when printing and print on both sides of the page when printing is necessary. Use eco-mode if your printer has one and encourage the use of hand dryers rather than paper towels.

Cut down on single-use plastics

It’s predicted that soon there’ll be more plastic in the oceans than fish in what’s been labelled a planetary crisis. To curb this, single-use plastics, including disposable coffee cups, straws and takeaway packaging, will be banned across the EU by 2030.

In Ireland, we use tonnes of these plastics each year. Luckily, it’s pretty simple to cut down:

  • Use a reusable water bottle instead of buying new ones each week

  • Invest in Tupperware rather than using plastic food bags or wrapping

  • Choose fresh fruit and veg without wrappers

  • Invest in a Keep Cup for your coffee – each takeaway coffee cup is lined with polyethene which is plastic. Most coffee shops in Ireland will now give you a discount when you bring your own cup, so you’ll save money and help reduce the worlds plastics.

  • Replace chewing gum with mints. Chewing gum is essentially plastic and is impossible to recycle.

  • Use a refillable pen rather than plastic disposables.

Switch off & save energy

In America, studies have shown that machines left on during off hours may emit up to 20 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the course of a year, which is the equivalent impact of four million cars.

It’s also been discovered that the impact of excess electricity is now greater than we all originally thought, meaning we need to pay more attention to switching off lights and computers.  With regards lights, if you’re the person in charge of utilities – switch to CFL/Energy Saver light bulbs. These use one-quarter the electricity and last years longer, so will save energy, money and time.

Another easy fix is to unplug your phone charger. Only 5% of the power drawn by a phone charger is used to charge the phone. The other 95% is wasted when it is left plugged in.

Cut down on pollution

Cars emit carbon dioxide which is one of the major causes of global warming. Excessive usage is increasing temperatures and affecting wildlife, sea levels and our landscapes. Car pollutants can also be harmful to human health – causing respiratory problems and skin irritation.

Of course, we all still need to get from A to B. Get there in a more environmentally way by taking the bus or train, walking or making use of the Bike to Work Scheme. When buying a new car, ask about its fuel efficiency. According to Dublin Bus, a single full Dublin Bus can remove up to 65 private cars from our roads, reducing congestion, pollution and traffic jams around the city.

The effects of climate change and CO2 emissions are already being felt. We can’t undo what’s already been done but we can make small impactful changes. Change your habits this week, even if it’s just ditching chewing gum or buying that reusable coffee keep cup you’ve been meaning to pick up.

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