Features writer Jill Theobald reckons it’s time to update our environmental workplace practices

Working practices have come a long way since I first joined the workforce back in the early noughties.

On my first newspaper we’d think nothing of receiving press releases by fax – some even still arrived by good old-fashioned snail mail with print photos that we dutifully scanned in. The website was probably updated with news once a twice a week.

I have done two stints in public relations with a year in between on a magazine and in the time it took me to return to PR the industry had changed massively with the advent and impact of social media shaping how we conveyed the communications messages of our clients.

Today the outdated concept of being sat at a desk at a PC and working 9-5 is on its way out too, with evolving technology meaning anyone can take the office with them and ‘log on’ to work any time, any place.

But the one outdated working practice that definitely needs consigning to the bin is our ‘throwaway culture’.

So it is very heartening to read our If You Ask Me contributors this month.

As Rob Cole, managing director of Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens, points out: ‘More and more people are looking for greener alternatives and want to know the provenance of what they’re buying.’

Very true. Over the last year several friends have either committed to seeking out cruelty-free make-up, growing their own food, or switching to ‘hard’ soap and toiletries in a bit to cut down on plastic bottles and packaging. Another friend did Veganuary last year – and has remained vegan 12 months on.

And anyone who follows me on social media will know I am a big charity shop fan (#circularfashion, #sustainablefashion #ethicalfashion!) and frequent attendee at the Common Thread clothes exchange sessions at Union St.

As Mathew Reynolds, owner of The Bare Alternative zero waste shop, acknowledges: “I do think people are now starting to take a greener approach in their personal lifestyles and businesses such as zero waste shops would not have survived even five years ago.”

So while many of us are doing what we can to minimise waste, eat more healthily with an eye on less meat and/or food miles and generally living more environmentally friendly personal lives, it makes sense for businesses to ensure they are doing the same in the workplace.

Back to Rob at Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens who points out: “You can minimise the impact of the business on the environment and benefit the local community in which it is based, whether it’s reducing waste, increasing recycling practices, or sourcing locally wherever possible, reducing carbon emissions and bolstering the local economy.

“A strong aftercare service is a good way to a greener business, repairing things wherever possible, to increase longevity – we aim for a lifespan of a 20-year-plus minimum.”

Sheffield Sustainable Kitchens are also expanding their electric vehicle fleet and encouraging staff to cycle or walk to work, and educating the team on eco-driving courses.

And over at Street Food Chef, founder Abi Golland tells us: “We have used compostable plates and biodegradable bags since we launched in 2010. And in 2018 we decided we had to up our ante and rid our business of all single-use plastic.”

Darren Bland of DJB Recycling, concedes: “Of course, for certain industries there is no avoiding large quantities of waste” but follows up with a reminder that it’s all about ‘priorities’, adding: “But even this issue can be diminished by using a recycling baler – which compacts cardboard, paper and plastics into small ‘bales’ for easy transportation and resale.”

So no excuses, then – let’s reduce, reuse, recycle and re-THINK.

It might not be easy being green, as Kermit the Frog once sang. But if workforces across the city region don’t at least try – frankly, we’re Muppets!