It happened by chance, our office going plastic free for a week, but it brought about some interesting and positive changes to the office. The trigger for all of this began a couple weeks ago when our Account Manager Fion shared a story about The Final Straw, a collapsible reusable straw that fits easily in a bag or on a keychain. Created to battle the ever-mounting plastic problem, it seemed like an easy solution to adopt especially since it (obviously!) also came with a mini cleaning tool. But why stop there? Ditching straws seemed minor, so we decided to take on a bigger challenge, one that could hopefully teach us a few lessons on how to be more responsible in this world. That’s when we decided to go Plastic Free for a week. It wasn’t so hard to convince the whole team, what’s one week anyways?
Setting a Baseline
Before diving in, we wanted to know how much plastic we were currently consuming. Setting this benchmark not only allowed us to judge how well or poor we did after, but it also gave us an opportunity to be more aware and visually see the actual amount. It’s one thing to have an idea of how much plastic we might consume, it’s another to actually see it!
After a week of collection, guess where the majority of our plastic came from? Online food delivery. It wasn’t a surprise since most of us order in every day, but when you add it all up, yikes.
Plastic Free Rule
During office hours, the rule was that no disposable plastic was to be consumed. If you purchased or received something that had plastic, you’d have to use it outside before coming back in the office. Sounds silly, but we had to throw in a little (humourous) punishment. Immediately, that meant yogurt, juice, (most) snacks and any meals ordered online would have you banished to the courtyard. As much as we all tried, it was pretty much impossible to find a restaurant that didn’t use some sort of plastic in their packaging.
Jennifer banished to the courtyard with all her plastics.
5 Benefits From Going Plastic-Free
(That Aren’t Related To The Environment!)
After spending a week making a conscious effort to not consume plastic, here are 5 benefits we uncovered from this experiment.
Quality time with colleagues
It wasn’t obvious until after the fact, but given that we couldn’t order food for delivery and most of us weren’t good at packing lunches, we ventured out of the office. A change in environment and good food puts everyone in a relaxed mindset. Many times, we ditched the office talk and enjoyed the moment together with colleagues.
(Left) Fion, Jennifer and Harry enjoying a bit of spicy Hunan food.
(Right) Una and I grabbing some poke
Explore (new) restaurants around you
Sure, the world is your oyster when you can order anything from ele.me but what about the local places around your office? What about the whole dining experience? These fall to the wayside when you order in. I discovered a cute cafe off Wuyuan Lu that wouldn’t have normally been noticed. Our other Account Manager Una tried a new Japanese restaurant she probably would’ve missed out on. Being in the F&B industry, this is also a major plus. From this, we made it a point to experience a new place every week which isn’t so bad since everything is just a Mobike away.
Recharge your internal battery
If phones need to be charged every day, why wouldn’t we do that for ourselves? A 5-10 minute walk outside can do wonders for your mind. Especially being in the creative industry, it’s easy to feel stuck looking at a problem and think you’ve thrown everything and the kitchen sink at it. Stepping away (literally and figuratively) can potentially bring new inspiration. In any case, if that doesn’t work, you’ve clocked in the additional steps!
(Re) Discover the ever-changing streets of Shanghai
We’re lucky to live in a city with so much charm and character that’s just outside our doorsteps. Sadly, a lot of the mom and pop shops around our office are getting boarded up or closed overnight. The legendary jianbing lady at the corner of Wulumuqi and Wuyuan met the same fate one morning, where her shop was bricked up earlier this summer. Luckily, she’s moved a bit south on Wulumuqi and sells from a little shop beside the Zhending Chicken restaurant. Even Elon Musk popped by for one last week when he was in Shanghai for the opening of China’s first Tesla Factory.
With China continuing to progress, this will be a common occurrence. Don’t let it all fade away before you get to appreciate the quirks of Shanghai’s alleyways, especially if you’re in Old Xuhui. One of my favourite things to do now is to pop into a random alleyway or turnstile and see where it takes me.
A reminder that it doesn’t hurt to ask (for anything)
The week before we went plastic free, I took a chance and reached out to ViaStelle to see if they could provide their meals in different packaging. I’ve been a big fan of their salads but everything comes in plastic, except their cutlery which is biodegradable. I offered a weeks commitment of salads, in return for them to package it in my reusable containers that I would send them. I knew it’d be a bit of a hassle for them, especially from an operational perspective. But I thought, what the heck, I’ll just ask. Instead though, they offered a different solution, to happily package my salads in their paper containers. Yay! When I received my first salad, unfortunately the container lid and salad dressing were still made of plastic, but at the very least it was a little win (and a little less plastic consumed). Sure, I won’t change the world with small changes like that, but it was also a reminder that it doesn’t hurt to ask and see if there’s another solution.
By now, you might be a bit curious as to how we fared with cutting out plastic…
With the exception of a handful of plastic that we forgot to save for this photo, we actually did pretty good. That’s not to say this is how our office will look every week now, but we’re all just a bit more aware of what and how we consume plastic. Knowing that we helped the environment just a tiny bit is a plus, but for us at Thread, the greater benefit has been the ripple effects of getting us out of the office.