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How To Prepare for a Sustainable RTO

Coming back to the “new normal” doesn’t have to be daunting — a sustainable RTO can be easier than you know.

For many of us whose past year was a work-from-home (WFH) scenario, we were left with a new day-to-day reality that involved rolling out of bed, (maybe) brushing our hair, and logging onto Zoom for the next seven hours. After a year, cravings for returning to “old times” and seeing coworkers in person have increased. And with over 40 percent of the adult U.S. population fully vaccinated, there’s even more excitement surrounding the possibility of RTO (Return To Office), or some mix of both. Make that transition a sustainable RTO!

In the beginning, many companies were left scrambling to come up with plans to adjust. This included promoting workplace flexibility, supporting employee mental health, and figuring out the next steps for what work would be like. In the past month, some companies have expressed intent to fully RTO. Yet, others are adopting a 50/50 approach, and still, some are giving control to their employees. During this time, it’s important to think about how you can best keep up your sustainable habits no matter where your office will be.  

For those going back to the office in the coming months, read on for some suggestions on making the transition sustainable. After all, why make a stressful move even more stressful when we have your back?

Photo of a workspace with a desktop, keyboard and mouse, and a basket with glasses, watch and an air pods case
RTO can be eco-friendly and sustainable!

7 am: Green RTO Morning Routine 

Being used to working from home, in the kitchen, or at your work desk (or even, let’s be honest, from bed or the couch!), it’s understandable to need some extra support. One place where sustainability might escape us is in our morning habits and, specifically, our coffee routine.

In the U.S. alone, 400 million cups of coffee are consumed every day! 

Here are some suggestions for all coffee (and tea) lovers in making their sustainable transition:

For the coffee (and tea) connoisseur

You love your coffee so much, you need to make it yourself. You might already have our “Coffee Connoisseur” page bookmarked! There, you can find everything from a cold brew kit to filters for any coffee device out there (pour-over, drip, and more and even a compostable tea sock). Of course, doing that extra bit of research on where your coffee comes from is incredibly important as well. Keep an eye out for Organic, Bird-Friendly, and Rainforest Alliance Certifications.

For the reward card holder

If you plan to make a stop at your local coffee shop on the way to the office, don’t forget your travel mug! Pro tip: if you like adding sugar, cinnamon, or even sprinkles (yay, RTO!) to your coffee, bring a travel spice shaker with you. No more single-serve sugar packets that end up accumulating in your glove box. 

Hazy Blue spice shaker from Light My Fire on EarthHero
Spice shaker from Light My Fire on EarthHero

Note: be super respectful if the shop isn’t quite ready for reusables. And if that’s the case, just ask for no stir, straw, or plastic if possible! 

For the office coffee pot fanatic

You’re on the go and lose track of time in the morning, unable to grab a cup of joe. Luckily, your office coffee pot is there to save the day! A way to semi prepare for the day (and your hot, fresh bev) is to leave your mug at work. You’ll be a sustainable RTO expert! Bring full-size versions of your favorite coffee products like milk, agave, and chocolate chips and stick them in the fridge or drawer! And if your office uses a coffee machine with coffee cups (like a Keurig), consider asking them to TerraCycle them. That way, those pesky plastic cups get recycled properly! If, instead, your office uses a classic drip machine, send them a link to our machine filters for a sustainable alternative. 

8:30 am: On the Way to a Green RTO

After you’ve got your coffee or tea to fuel your morning, it’s time to go to work! For those of us that feel safe enough to do so, consider carpooling to save on gas and minimize your travel emissions. And if your workplace is close enough (go you for planning ahead!), then consider biking or walking there. However, be sure to check the weather beforehand since you never know when you’ll need some rain boots or a windbreaker

9-5: Running the Eco-Rriendly RTO Show

Now, this part will be broken up just a little bit more to make sure all the key parts of the workday are covered. Ready? Read on!

Photo of wool slippers by Kyrgies on EarthHero on top of a colorful rug next to a feat with a blanket on it.
Shop uber-comfy slippers from Kyrgies on EarthHero
Read the Memo

Remember on the first day of school when you would be so nervous, you’d catch yourself chewing on rubber erasers more times than you wish to disclose? So do we. But now that we know how jittery it might be, here are some ideas for ways to get through the day. 

  • Bring a photo of your family, friends, or pet to keep you from getting WFH sick
  • Spruce up your office space with a wooden planter or yummy candle (check to make sure an open flame is allowed, though)
  • Amp up your workday with a new refillable pen, sticky notes, or a pair of slippers (for when you know your next meeting will be cancelled) 
Eco-Friendly Return: Give a Little, Love a Lot 
Photo of a picnic with salad and dressing in stainless steel tins and reusable utensils from ECOlunchbox on EarthHero
Find your new sustainable RTO lunch buddy by ECO Lunchbox on EarthHero

Moreover, if you’re like us, you’re way too excited to see your cubicle mate after months of Zoom meetings and Slack messages back and forth. Your love language might even be gift-giving — we’re onto something, no? If that’s true, before you bring a bag of single-serve candies or greeting cards, give this a read. 

Consider asking that friend to take your lunch together to the park or just have a quick chat by the coffee pot. You know the one! And if you really want to give them something, maybe get them something you’d get yourself (that is, those lovely suggestions we provided in the section above). That’s right, who doesn’t love a candle, mug, or office slippers? 

Did you know: EarthHero has a corporate gifting program where we make it easy for you (and anyone else!) to customize eco-friendly gift assortments or pick from a number of ready-made ones, like these

Sustainable RTO Lunch: Meals and Oh-so-Yummy Snacks!

After over a year of WFH or being on a wacky schedule, you might have mastered the art of bread making and pickling. If not, no worries, we didn’t either! Regardless, getting ready for no more access to unlimited snacks (hello, home pantry) can be an adjustment. It doesn’t need to a hard sustainable RTO transition, though. 

Just bring your lunch supplies out of your back closet and use those. Don’t have any? On EarthHero you can find anything from reusable utensils to bento boxes to glass straws and even canvas lunch bags. Our biggest recommendation would be to check out our zero waste lunch kit which comes with all the essentials. 

Photo of various peach colored Stasher bags from EarthHero filled with various snacks like apple slices and a sandwich.
Shop Stasher bags and other snack products on EarthHero to make RTO snack time green!

That way, meal prepping is even simpler and you don’t have to choose between snacks. You can bring them all! And, while we’re at it, while tons of offices are looking to become greener and more sustainable, some need just a little extra push. One recommendation would be to suggest office composting. How do you do that, you might ask? Well, the easiest would be subscribing to a composting service that picks your office’s organic waste daily (or weekly). Everyone can put their scraps in the freezer in old storage containers or compostable bags. And for hard-to-recycle items (like gum, e-waste, and coffee discs), get a TerraCycle kitchen box and ship it for free! 

Check out our blog post on back-to-school sustainability, which is filled with awesome tips that are also applicable for an sustainable RTO! 

Sustainable RTO and Keeping it Clean!

While keeping germ-free has always been important, it’s even more so considering all we’ve learned in the past year. Here are our tips for keeping it clean:

Photo of unpaper towels from Marley's Monsters on EarthHero
Shop unpaper towels from Marley’s Monsters on EarthHero for sustainable RTO lunchtime
  • Have a bottle of all-purpose cleaning spray and some unpaper towels at the ready. That way you’re ready for any spill and can also wipe up your space before heading out for the day. At the end of the week, bring your unpaper towels home and give them a wash.
  • Sit a bottle of air spray at your station for any bad odors or just to give yourself a little pick-me-up. However, be sure you ask for permission as some coworkers might be sensitive to smell.
  • Bring a big bottle of hand sanitizer at the ready to protect yourself against germs. Bonus, this one is refillable! 
  • Finally, since you’ll be washing your hands and using hand sanitizer like it’s nobody’s business, take care of your hands with some hydrating hand lotion

Check out our blog post on eco-friendly cleaning for more suggestions. 

5 pm: Afternoon Grocery Run 

Now that work’s done, you might find it convenient to run errands. You know, the ones you put off until Sunday afternoon during WFH only to find that the post office is actually closed on Sundays! Being eco-friendly doesn’t stay in the office and ensuring a sustainable RTO requires all-day care.

As such, be prepared with some reusable grocery and produce bags for those delicious apples and fresh loaves of bread! And if you’re hitting up your nearby bulk bin, come prepared with some refillable bottles for bulk oil and honey. Plus, baggies are great for nuts and dried fruit!

7:30 pm: Home Sweet Home (so your eco-friendly RTO doesn’t sit on the backburner)

When you come back home, get in your jammies, and make a delicious meal, you might be tempted to hop back online for relaxation. But, before you make that jump, we suggest getting creative with your free time. Not only will it be better for your body overall to minimize at-home online time, but it will also help create a work-life balance. That way, your sustainable RTO routine truly becomes habit.

Person playing with a jenga set from Bureo on EarthHero that features sea animals and is made with recycled fishing net.
Shop board games from Bureo on EarthHero

This could mean going on an evening walk around the block (bring a friend or your dog!). After dinner, you might hang out with friends or family. This can look like playing board games, chatting for a bit, or sipping some herbal tea on the porch. Whatever floats your boat!

Finally, consider ending the night with a little self-care. You can take a warm bath and pamper yourself with some moisturizing lotion. Maybe you’ll light a fragrant candle to calm you down and ready you for bed. 


A Happy, Happy Goodnight

Good luck with all that is to come, and know you are ready and able to make your new reality a wonderful time. Be sure to tag us on Instagram @shopearthhero with any additions to your daily routine or anything you’re excited about with RTO!

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