Come and Get It: A Primer for a Less-Waste Summer Celebration

At CalRecycle we work hard and we play hard. Well, maybe not “hard,” but we do know how to have a good time on occasion. But, unlike most workplaces, we dedicate ourselves to making less waste when we celebrate. In fact, we have a Zero Waste team that ensures any and all CalRecycle get-togethers are set up for less-waste success. One method we use is to encourage CalRecyclers to bring their own reusable cups, plates, utensils, and cloth napkins. We also offer reusable “mess kits” for those times when life gets in the way and we forget to bring our own.

Since summer is ramping up and we know lots of workplaces will be having company picnics and potlucks, we’d love to share how we handle our mess kit “rental” system so you can join us in the fight against waste.

  1. Before any shindig, encourage everyone to BYO mess kits, which should include reusables like cups, cloth napkins, utensils, plates, and bowls.
  2. Assess how many kits you need. This involves taking a simple head count to find out how many employees you have. It doesn’t hurt to have extra kits laying around just in case you have unexpected friends or family members drop in as well! In CalRecycle’s inventory, we have 100 plates, 50 sets of utensils, and 50 cups. We have approximately 700 employees total.
  3. Gather your kit pieces. At CalRecycle, we organized a “mug drive” and asked staff members to donate their unused cups and mugs. If your office is anything like ours, you won’t have a problem collecting those extra mugs! We also received cutlery donations and purchased some from the Goodwill. We generally encourage donations and second-hand purchases, but if you are unable to acquire your whole set, purchasing new is also an option.
  4. At first, each kit was rented out for a $1 fee, but we have since dropped the fee and accept donations instead. The idea is to encourage less waste, not to ding someone for forgetting or not bringing their own kits. So, a small donation is effective and can help replenish any items that go missing in the process. (You could even establish a deposit system.)
  5. Create a sign out system to ensure all your kits are returned and if you use a deposit system a list of checkouts can be helpful.
  6. Keeping your kits clean can be one of the bigger challenges. At CalRecycle, we request that everyone bring back a clean kit—if it was checked out clean, it should come back that way! However, if you have a more germ-conscious team, you may want to run the kits through a dishwasher. A full dishwasher can be more water- and energy-efficient than washing by hand. And who wants dishpan hands from 100 mess kits anyway?
  7. Store your mess kits in a clean place where they can await your next function!

Our CalRecycle mess kit system was a collaboration between our Social Committee and our Zero Waste team. Since August 2018 we, along with our sister departments at CalEPA, have avoided trashing more than 1,500 single-use foodware items by using the mess kit system. We encourage you to do the same, share what works for you, and lead by example!

Mess Kit
— TC Clark
Posted on May 20, 2019

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Summary: Since summer is ramping up and we know lots of workplaces will be having company picnics and potlucks, we’d love to share how we handle our mess kit “rental” system so you can join us in the fight against waste.