Cisco Blogs

3 Ways to Waste Less At Work

January 26, 2016 - 25 Comments

Reuseable water bottle

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Many millennials like myself are looking for ways we can change the world. It’s one of the things that brought me to Cisco. Cisco changes the way we work, live, play, and learn – my mission as an individual is similar: change the way we waste.

I’ve always had a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit, so apart from my full-time job at Cisco, I am a DO School Fellow and run a social venture called packageless, which is my journey of living with less packaging and less waste.

Because I studied packaging as an undergrad, I know that our nation makes up 5% of the world’s population but generates about 40% of the world’s waste. This incentivized me to want to do something in regards to the unhealthy amount of trash we were planting into our planet.

Although I currently work in the IT division, I still try to live a packageless life and drive change wherever I am. My first 3 months at Cisco were filled with the traditional orientation activities, but also figuring out how Cisco is currently reducing its waste, and finding opportunities to improve the current system. I’ve chatted with amazing individuals who work on Cisco Sustainability, and found groups such as Pack it Green and Cisco Recycling that take ownership of decreasing our waste and handling it responsibly.

Chrstine Liu

While Cisco has set several sustainability programs in place, my “new eye” as a new hire has noticed quite a few potential areas for behavioral change as a working individual: there’s room for all of us to improve the amount of waste we create. So in light of the fact that the average American produces about 5 pounds of waste every day, here are three simple tips of how to change the way you waste at work:

  1. Bring your own water bottle, mug or thermos.
    If you buy just one cup of coffee or tea in a disposable cup every day, you’ll end up creating about 23 lbs of waste in one year. Cisco offers its employees convenient paper cups for water and hot beverages, but it doesn’t take too much of an extra effort to bring your own bottle to work. And hey, a bottle or thermos will be sure to prevent coffee spills on that work laptop of yours.
  1. Pack lunch in a reusable container, or enjoy a sit-down meal at the Cisco Café with a friend rather than getting it to-go at your desk.
    In 2012, 7 million tons of solid waste was attributed to one-time use plates and cups. It’s simple to order to-go, but how many of us end up sitting in the restaurant we’re visiting anyway? Go ahead and find a fellow coworker to sit down and have lunch with, whether it be at the Cisco Café with reusable plates and utensils, a nice restaurant, or with your own packed lunch. Life’s too short to not take lunch breaks.
  1. If you use paper towels, learn to make the most of them.
    This 4 minute TED talk puts it nicely. There is a right way to use a single paper towel efficiently: shake excess water from your hands first, fold the paper towel in half for optimum absorbency, wipe, and find a recycle bin! This is definitely a better alternative than pulling out 3-4 paper towels that are quickly used and crumpled into the waste bin.

The reason why I chose Cisco as a company is now becoming clearer: I find that I can be my packageless self and explore outlets for creating change, such as writing these few tips for you all here.

It’s been barely 100 days here as a new hire, but life at Cisco has been only encouraging for my entrepreneurial efforts, vision for driving impact, and passions for a more sustainable world. I feel so privileged to work at a company that aims to transform our society for the better, and I hope that we too, as individuals, can follow that same model of wanting to be the change we wish to see in this world.

Join the Cisco team and make your own change.

In an effort to keep conversations fresh, Cisco Blogs closes comments after 60 days. Please visit the Cisco Blogs hub page for the latest content.


  1. It’s great that you came up with those brilliant ways for reducing waste at work. It’s gonna be more than perfect if all the people follow your example and try to reduce the usage of everything that cause unnecessary trash!

  2. Reuse, reduce, recycle… a very old slogan that’s still applicable today.

    • Agreed! In fact, zero waste has 5 R’s: Refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot — and in that order (:

  3. Good work, Christine and wishing you the best in Cisco and the ‘packageless’ initiative! The tips that you had shared are practical.

    • Thanks so much Sarath! Appreciate the comment, and hope you can use some of these tips on the daily (:

  4. Changes to protect the environment is one of the very good viewing angles. In Indonesia too many who started using a variety of equipment that is easy to recycle. Small changes which affect the environment around us. Thanks for sharing experience.

    • Alat, thanks for the comment! It really does all start with the root of how our products are designed. I hope that the world will soon realize the importance of it, so we can think sustainably from the start so that we don’t have to deal with the growing issues when it is too late.

  5. Now I know how to better use paper towels – thank you! My son attends UCSC where the student body has voted against paper towels in the dorms. A terrific cloth towel manufacturer is making a name for itself selling a line of bacteria-resistant bath towels and sheets – less washing required.

    • Wonderful! When I was in Germany I recall that they had reusable paper towel machines for drying (confusing at first, but I later realized that it’s much better than the disposable ones). It’s great to see some similar idealogies to that in America too.

  6. Like your advice Christine, I’ll redouble my efforts to save resources.

    Check out the work we are doing with Chris Dedicoat and others around the Circular Economy, The world can have its cake and eat it with CE inspired product design, systems and sales models. CE is all about building capital in people, products and natural resources and ecosystems.

    latest report at WEF (Davos World Economic Forum) — “more plastic than fish in our seas by 2050”.

    Not a great gift from my generation to yours.

    CE + Cisco can address, you picked the right company

    Keep up the great work

    • Thanks for the comment Neil!

      Funny you mention the circular economy concept — Chuck mentioned that today at our ECN event after asked a question regards sustainability. Glad it’s on his mind and I’ll definitely be looking to see where our efforts go.

  7. This is a great cause, effort for a better tomorrow. Together we will reduce, bring this change and make a difference. Thank you

  8. If each person takes just a little effort these tips can make a big difference.

  9. Awesome Christine !
    You just reminded all of us on this great cause. We will continue to practice zero waste and will start to advocate where we live, work and play.

    • Thanks for the support Raghu! Always let me know if you have any questions on zero waste at work (:

      FYI — I just purchased refillable whiteboard markers. Haha!

  10. Christine – Great post ! We all need to contribute more on our efforts to reduce waste. I will try to follow the 3 steps, as much as possible..

  11. Great reminders to improve the environment around us! Every drop adds to the mighty ocean. Thank you for being the inspiration for our team everyday! And good luck in expanding the reach across our broader Cisco family.

  12. Great suggestions and easy to implement. Small changes can make a big impact.

  13. Good luck with your effort! I think this is a really important project.
    I remember CiscoLive 2008 and 2010 where everyone got a metal bottle to reduce the amount of one-way water-bottles. But the other years, Cisco stepped back and provided again one-way bottles … So there is still much to be done!

    • Thanks so much Karsten! Looking to find whatever I can to combat the issue here on campus (: