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Life at work: Giving up the plastic utensils

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Company: American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

L ocation: Rockville.

Number of employees: About 225.

About a year ago, employees at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association got a bit of a present: a stainless steel fork, knife and spoon wrapped in a cloth napkin.

The kits were delivered by the non-profit association’s “Green Team,” a volunteer organization of employees who ordered the flatware and passed them out around the office to help cut down on waste.

“We pretty much went cold turkey,” said Mike Guerrieri, information systems director. “One day we had plastic spoons, the next, we didn’t.”

Guerrieri said the company put out word in advance that the plastic utensils would be missing from the kitchen.

“We’re pretty tolerant of people’s choices, but we didn’t want to make it easy for them to throw out a fork they’d used just once,” he said, adding that the move has saved the company between $3,000 and $4,000 annually.

The company has a sink and dish soap on each floor so employees can rinse their spoons, forks and knives when they’re done.

A few years earlier, the association doled out bamboo utensils. But not many people used them.

“They were more of a novelty, not really something people took out for lunch,” said Gwethalyn King, manager of purchasing and office services.

The metal flatware, though, has become a ubiquitous office staple.

Life at Work is a new feature highlighting novel workplace practices, produced in collaboration with the nonprofit Alliance for Workplace Excellence in Cabin John. Does your company offer a special benefit? Tell us about it at capbiznews@washpost.com.

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