Short Stories on Taking Small Steps to a More Sustainable Life
By Cindy Shuster, Director Regulatory Affairs, Strategic and Technical Operations, Integrated Systems, and Sheryl Murphy, Director, Advertising & Promotion, Regulatory Affairs Americas, and Jessie Babbitt, Deputy Director Business Insights Women’s Healthcare, all from Bayer’s U.S. Pharmaceuticals business
Part of our mission as members of Bayer’s Green Team in Whippany, NJ, is to create a better, cleaner world. We do it at work and we do it at home. In fact, home is where the seeds of improving the environment were planted for the three of us.
We know it can be a little overwhelming to know where to start and somewhat discouraging if you can’t “do it all.” But we also know that it’s really satisfying to know you can make a difference, even if you start small. We hope that sharing our stories helps you get started.
Cindy Shuster: I joined the Green Team as soon as it began because I was excited to have the opportunity to make a difference. Sustainability has been of interest to me for the past 20 years. Here’s one thing I finally realized: It doesn’t matter where you start or how long it takes. Just start somewhere. Every little bit helps and it’s a process that you refine as you go. Let me show you what I mean.
My journey began by focusing on single-use plastics. I cut down on small bottles of liquid hand soap by buying large refills. Then, in an “aha” moment, I decided to use bar soap and cut out the plastic altogether. I did the refill thing for my glass cleaner then realized that diluted white vinegar purchased in glass bottles works just as well. Next, I installed an extra water filter in my home so goodbye plastic single-use water bottles. A set of metal straws that travels with me means no more plastic straws. I marinate meat in glass bowls instead of plastic bags and don’t buy plastic wrap.
Once you get going, you find lots of ways to reduce waste. I use my own tray for take-out in the cafeteria, and ceramic dishes and regular silverware, even when I have company. I’m always finding new ways to use less. My main message is anything you do helps. Just think what an impact it could make if 100,000 people did only one of these things! Give it a try and see where it takes you.
Sheryl Murphy: It was my daughter’s passion for the environment and involvement in her school’s Environment Action Club that sparked my interest and led me to join the Green Team. We tackle our trash by packing sustainable lunches.
OK, I’ll admit it — I still pack my almost-16-year-old daughter’s lunch. Over the years, even when I missed activities at school due to work, at least I could quell my working mom’s guilt with a lunch packed from home, right? Well, it didn’t always work but for whatever reason, I keep packing lunch. With our growing awareness of how much trash this was generating, we started to explore how to reduce some of it, especially plastic. Here’s what we do (and none of it is hard or requires a Pinterest-worthy bento box).
A Thermos holds leftovers from the night before, I pop cut-up fruit and chips into reusable (washable) sandwich bags, throw in a reusable spoon/fork combo and reusable water bottle into a reusable bag — and her no-waste lunch is packed.
Sure, there are lots of other things I do like drinking from paper straws, only using biodegradable bags and such. My point is to take small steps in the right direction. It makes a difference.
Jessie Babbitt: The Green Team gives me the opportunity to get involved in an actionable way and lets me extend my interest beyond my immediate household. But let me tell you how my family is taking action.
We were already recycling, reducing single-use plastic and conserving energy. But how could we move our carbon footprint needle even more? Food! I learned that about 11 percent of all the greenhouse gas emissions come from the food system when methane is released as food waste decomposes in landfills. I knew I wanted to address this by composting our food waste, but how? My townhouse’s outdoor balcony patio seemed too small and the science and work behind composting seemed too daunting.
Then, I heard about Bokashi. Bokashi is a process that converts food waste into soil through a pickling method. All you need is a bucket with a drainage hole and some Bokashi bran that you can buy online. We’ve been Bokashi-ing since August and we haven’t had to throw any food waste into the trash. It even works with bones and meat scraps! After the bucket is full, I allow it to ferment for another couple of weeks before I bury it in a container full of soil. It takes another couple of weeks before the food turns completely into soil that I can use for my small container garden.
The Bokashi method emits no gas and provides a nutrient-dense compost with minimal effort. Check out my lettuce in the photo. It was delicious! This method is an easy alternative to composting and has reduced our monthly trash bags by over 50 percent! Ask me anything about this method at Jessie.firstname.lastname@example.org.