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Working Through Grief, Career Reflections and Keurig’s Sustainable Redesign: What We’re Reading This Week

March 15, 2024
A look at some news of note for safety professionals.

I did a closet purge in January and found a pair of gold sneakers I liked but hardly wore; the last time I did, they gave me blisters. A few days after, I couldn’t find a pair of shoes to go with an outfit, so I decided to wear them.

My feet didn't hurt, so I have been wearing them on occasion. I wore them yesterday and in less than 10 minutes of walking, I have blisters on both of my heels. It’s safe to say these shoes will not find their way back into my closet again.

But, on a metaphorical level, they’re also a reminder that I shouldn’t second-guess or gaslight myself. I’m the only person who can (at least literally) walk in my own shoes. As a result, I need to be more comfortable in my own skin, whether that means only wearing shoes that fit me properly or having more conviction about my knowledge and experiences.

It’s a timely reminder for me, with March being women being Women’s History Month. I saw this video in my feed about what life would be like without some of the everyday things we use in our daily lives that were invented by women. It was impressive but also disappointing because most of us don’t learn about these inventors in history textbooks.

The good thing is that today and tomorrow are opportunities to do better and be better, whether that means using your voice to be an ally for a colleague, be more confident in your abilities, or create a kinder and more inclusive workplace. Here are few stories for you to ponder.

Until next time, take care and Happy (early) St. Patrick's Day!

Working Through Grief

We all know what it’s like to lose someone. Most schools and employers allow for a few days of bereavement leave for immediate family. That’s enough time to arrange a memorial service, but that’s just the beginning of the grieving process.

It’s the little things like seeing their shoes by the entryway, the smell of their shampoo, wanting to call them. It’s the big things like birthdays and holidays and filing death certificates that can take months or years to work through.

I saw a headline on The New York Times’ home page that suggested grief. It was a woman writing about the one-year anniversary of her 14-year-old daughter, Orli. At the bottom of the essay were links to other pieces Sarah Wildman had written about her daughters’ cancer diagnosis.

Wildman’s essays are some of the most precise, poignant and powerful descriptions I have ever read about grief—and living.

There are so many passages I wish I could share with you all, but alas, I cannot. I encourage you to read all of her essays, which are tough to read and may make you cry, but they are so worth it. Here is once scene that I can so easily see and relate to:

“The loss of Orli is a phantom limb that wakes me in the night or, sometimes, lies dormant with me for hours; I never know which will happen. Seeing old friends recently I joked, dry-eyed, about the wonder and terror of the first seven days of Jewish mourning — the shiva — being like a sort of cocktail party in hell. The night before, at a lovely restaurant, apropos of nothing at all, I started weeping into my food and ran to escape the table. I wear only waterproof mascara now.”

Grief is part of the human experience, and it can also be long-lasting, inconvenient and all-consuming. I know EHS Today is about workplace safety, but if you have employees who is going through any kind of difficult time: death, divorce, caring for someone with an illness, etc., I implore you to check in on them. Whether they realize it or not, they are probably overwhelmed and numbly going through the motions. That can be incredibly dangerous.

You can read the essay I quoted from here, and you can peruse Wildman’s other writings here.

Questions to Ask Yourself Mid-Career

There’s always a groundswell of advice for those freshly minted graduates in June, and there’s periodically discussions about retirement planning. But what about those who aren’t in either extreme?

For those firmly in the middle of their working life, you know the ropes: what needs to be done, how to navigate office politics and what the career ladder looks like. Now, it’s time to decide what your future looks like—and how active or passive you want to be in taking your next step.

After a couple decades in the workforce, it’s easy to lose track of the days, months and years while you’re busy trudging away, meeting deadlines, learning new tools and adapting to new developments (see: The Great Recession, the COVID-19 pandemic, The Great Resignation). But this piece from Harvard Business Review is a good reminder to pause and reflect.

Do you want to pursue new opportunities, score that promotion or do you want to work down to a 40-hour work week so you can spend more time with family, friends or on your own hobbies? Whatever path you choose, it’s empowering to remember you hold the reins.

Career coaches Chip Conley and Ebony Joyce suggest reflecting on six questions to take stock of your career in midlife. Here were two questions that I liked because they flipped the script on how we think about our careers and, to a larger extent, our lives:

  1. What mastery or gift have I developed that I can offer to the world?
  2. What trade-offs am I willing to make—or no longer willing to make?

“There are no right or wrong answers, but you need to be intentional,” Joyce says.

I encourage you to read the full article here and spend ample time pondering.

Keurig’s Sustainable Redesign

You know the drill: “Tumble out of bed / And stumble to the kitchen / Pour myself a cup of ambition.” If your ambition is made using a Keurig machine (nearly 40% of households do), then you’re tossing a plastic K-Cup into the trash.

It’s a tiny pod, but over the course of a year, Keurig estimate that adds up to more than 30 billion discarded plastic capsules. That poses a huge environmental challenge. John Sylvan has said he regrets inventing the Keurig because of its environmental impact. (I bet he also regrets selling his share of the company for $50,000 in 1997.)

Now Keurig’s parent company, Keurig Dr. Pepper, is looking to change that.

The company assembled an in-house team and has spent the last few years exploring ways to eliminate single-use plastic pods. Their development, K-Round, wraps the coffee grounds in a compostable coating. The company expects to begin beta-testing in the fall and start selling to the public shortly thereafter.

This redesign will help Keurig lessen its environmental footprint, but it requires customers to purchase a new machine to use the K-Rounds. As a result, it will take many years for customers to make the transition. Keurig has also taken steps toward sustainability in the past several years, including eliminating nonrecyclable plastic in K-Cups, making them curbside recyclable; and transitioned away from virgin to recycled plastic in some machines.  

In detailing Keurig’s development of K-Rounds, author Elizabeth Segran has also told a powerful story of leadership.

Here’s one snippet from chairman and CEO Bob Gamgort on how he approached the development of a more sustainable coffee pod: “I’ve learned that you can’t schedule innovation. When you say that an idea needs to be launched in 2024 and needs to hit these goals, people start to cut corners. We didn’t need a timetable; we needed the best idea.”

So, if you or your workplace is considering  a new coffee maker, it may be worth looking at a K-Round or another machine that’s more eco-friendly. One stopgap is to purchase a TerraCycle Zero Waste Box for coffee capsules so they can be composted and recycled.

Read the full story on Keurig’s latest development here.

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