Ways to Reduce Waste at Work

Vicky DeMercer
March 02, 2017

“Obviously, carry a handkerchief.” – Nick Offerman, Comedian/Actor

In 2014, my department at HMSA moved floors due to building renovations. While I was leaving the restroom one day, I noticed a colleague was carrying her own hand towel. Upon seeing her again, not in the restroom, I asked her why she did that. Her reply was simple – it was something she picked up on while visiting Japan. 

At the time I thought the idea was interesting, but not one I would pursue.  It wasn’t until a few months later that I really gave the idea some thought. How much does it cost my company to buy paper towels each year? How many pounds of waste did I create annually by using the disposable paper towels at work? 

To me, being healthy isn’t just eating right or exercising. It is creating the best environment in order for me to thrive. I thought, “If I reduce the amount of waste I produce each year, I am creating a healthier environment.” A healthier environment means that I will be healthy, too.

Could I do this by simply carrying my own hand towel or handkerchief? Surprisingly, the answer was yes. And by the summer of 2014, I stopped using paper towels at work. This overflowed into my personal life too. Today, I carry my own hand towel with me no matter where I am in public. I still get odd looks from folks in restrooms when I use my reusable towel rather than the ones provided. It has been over two years and I am not going back. 

Like all habits, it was a hard one to break. At first I did have to train myself to carry the towel. If I forgot my towel, I would walk all the way back to pick it up. It didn’t take me long to realize I didn’t like that, so I should just bring it with me.

My product of choice is a microfiber towel. I chose it because HMSA is very big on reducing one’s environmental imprint. I did have to look into which product would work for me. Yes, I had to do the research myself. It was tedious. It is much easier now.

If you choose to make this small change, you will find what works best for you. As an employee, you help your company reduce its annual waste. Best of all, it will help to reduce your overall environmental imprint and you might even see an improvement to your health!


Do your research: The eco-friendly product that is right for you, your wallet, and the environment.

Remind yourself: You’re doing something different; you will mess up, but you have to start somewhere.

Stay committed: With time, it becomes habit, not just a practice.

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