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Going plastic-free in UKI

  • Posted on October 22, 2019
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes

I’m originally from New Zealand, where I had tried my best to live a fairly eco-conscious lifestyle. When I moved to London, however, I fell into the crazy fast-paced lifestyle that is the norm here, and my good environmental habits fell away. I had heard of Plastic Free July before and wanted to use it as a bit of a reset for myself, to remind myself of what was important to me and to restart my environmentally conscious habits. I originally planned to try to involve a few friends and co-workers. Instead, I managed to get a team together and bring it to all of Avanade UK and Ireland! Together with a great team of five other volunteers from different parts across the business, we launched a campaign for the month of July, involving all employees across UKI.

As a client-facing company, our employees spend a lot of time away from home during the week, which only makes it more difficult to stay plastic-free, so the initiative was greeted with open arms across UKI. We even got an endorsement for the entire campaign from our General Manager Andy Gillett, who encouraged our people to change their habits in and outside the office. The campaign included weekly emails on the "Big 4" single-use plastic items (plastic bags, cups, straws and bottles), an intranet page with tips and links to internal and external resources, posters around the office and two fundraising events.

After a lot of preparation, it happened: Our London office kitchen went single-use plastic free! We removed all plastic cutlery and disposable coffee cups and replaced them with metal cutlery, mugs and glasses. We also ran two fundraising events—a screening of the nature documentary Blue Planet and a plastic-free afternoon tea raising money for the Marine Conservation Society where some passionate volunteers brought in goodies to share.

The month wasn’t without its challenges. We originally planned on getting a popcorn machine for the office and serving all-you-can-eat popcorn at the screening event. After promising popcorn to everyone, we learned we actually couldn't do it because of health and safety concerns. Luckily, a good samaritan from a local café agreed to pop a huge amount of popcorn for us! Unfortunately, we had to buy plastic bags of popcorn kernels, which highlighted how difficult it is to go plastic-free even to do simple things such as having popcorn whilst watching a movie. Still, the popcorn was a huge hit with our employees who donated generously to the Marine Conservation Society.

We were able to organise the afternoon tea without single-use plastic. We held a raffle for plastic-free starter kits, with all proceeds going to our chosen charity.   We received great feedback from people around the office. Lots of people shared their own ideas and tips on how they try to stay plastic free, especially when traveling for work. The posters and kitchen changes were great conversation starters and we shared our achievements on social media. It turns out a lot of people had concerns about the plastic waste in our kitchen but just weren't sure how to make a change, so I was glad I leaped in. Ultimately, the Avanade UKI team raised more than £1,000 for the Marine Conservation Society, and our change to reusable mugs and glasses has already paid for itself since we are no longer buying disposable cups, saving more than 40,000 cups per year from being sent to the landfill! I want to thank the entire Avanade UKI team for taking on this challenge with enthusiasm and helping us decrease our impact on the environment.

 

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