workplace-mainRecycling in the workplace can save a business money and also make for a happier team. It’s just as important as recycling at home because nearly half the waste generated in the U.S. happens at businesses and other non-residential locations. Below are just a few of many steps you can take to reduce waste in the workplace:

General Business Sustainability Tips

Choose Durables – They Pay Off!

Have you noticed how many disposable and single-use products there are in the marketplace today? Consider the following:

  • Disposable razors
  • Single serving coffee/tea cups (K-cups)
  • Single-use cameras, including new single-use digital cameras
  • Foam/paper plates and cups; plastic forks, spoons, knives
  • Disposable cleaning products, such as wipes

These products are designed to add convenience to our lives, but is the added convenience worth the extra cost? We don’t think so.

Reduce waste, conserve resources and save money by choosing cloth shopping bags and real dishes and cups and other products that are long lasting and safe for the environment.

Pay Attention to Packaging

Packaging makes up about 30 percent of municipal solid waste. This places a burden on landfill facilities and wastes natural resources (such as minerals, forest ecosystems and water). Reduce the amount of packaging you “buy” to prevent waste and conserve resources by selecting products with less packaging.

Get the Most Out of What You Buy

All of the things that we buy today will eventually become waste. We can get more out of the things we purchase by choosing products wisely. When buying a new product, ask yourself:

  • How reliable is the product?
  • How long will I need it?
  • How does the warranty compare with that of similar products?
  • What does it really cost (considering operation and maintenance)?
  • Can the product be repaired or upgraded?

Rent or Borrow Instead of Buying

Consider renting or borrowing, instead of buying, items that you will use only infrequently. Items that are commonly available for rent include trailers, camping equipment, lawn care equipment, tables and chairs, ladders, power tools and tree-trimming equipment.

Office Sustainability Tips

Options for reducing office paper consumption

We can all do our part to reduce waste and save resources and money in the office. A great place to start is with something that surrounds us everyday: Paper. There are several methods to reducing an office’s paper consumption.


Use electrons, not trees

  • Request documents electronically in PDF format. Limit the number of hard copies to the minimum required by your office.
  • Scan and e-mail instead of print and copy. This is a great way to distribute multiple copies of a document. The recipient can choose whether to print the document.
  • Think about those paper copies of an office notice or memo. Ask whether it can be sent by e-mail next time. Set a standard of keeping documents in your electronic files instead of your file cabinet, and print copies as little as possible.
  • Let people know you prefer documents by e-mail rather than fax or hard copy.
  • When sending out official documents or letters, consider sending the “cc’s” by e-mail. Often the cc’s do not need to be on paper


Think double sided!

Double-sided copying and printing is a simple step to cut paper consumption right away and it is easy. If you need some help, ask your IT person or administrative staff. Here are double-sided ideas to consider:

  • Give instructions in requests for proposals (RFPs) and other bid documents for responses to be submitted electronically and require double-sided printing. Send out RFPs via e-mail and through your employer’s Web site.
  • Make a two-sided request. If someone gives you a report or document that is printed single-sided, ask if they can have it done double-sided next time. Some offices allow double-sided printing of official letters on letterhead.
  • Be the voice of double-sided reason. Encourage others to print double sided. Help staff learn how to double-side copy on the copier, or see if it can be an agreed default – everything that can be double-sided should be. Encourage your IT staff to help get everyone setup for default duplex printing.

Do not print emails!

Have you seen the person in your office that prints every email? Don’t be that person. An email was born electronically – let it live that way. Organize your emails by creating sub folders by topic or project.

Print multiple pages on a sheet!

Under Print – Properties you can print one, two, four or more pages on a single sheet of paper. This can save a lot of paper when printing out a PowerPoint presentation, for example.

Do not print blank pages!

As documents are created, extra paragraph marks can sneak down and create a new blank page. Check the document completely and hit “Delete” at the end of the document to make sure you are not going to a new page.

Format your pages!

Check your formatting. The standard on your computer is 1 to 1 ½ inch margins, which you may not really need. You can keep the font at 12 point, and decrease your margins to maximize use of the paper.

Reduce the number of office publications!

Limit the number of multiple subscriptions to the same publications. Develop a routing sheet and route the issues around the unit or office. Subscribe to electronic versions if available.

Reduce junk mail!

If you get unwanted catalogs or advertising mail, contact the mailer and ask them to take you off their list. More ideas are available on the website of the Bay Area Recycling Outreach Coalition.

Nix the fax!

You don’t have to put up with unwanted faxes! A federal rule went into effect in 2005 that made it unlawful to send an unsolicited advertisement to a fax machine without prior written permission of the recipient. For more information, or to file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, visit (external).

Make notepads!

Need a notepad? Put that old paper to good use. Ask the print shop to make notepads for you from your waste paper printed on one side.

Strategies & Programs

Calculate your paper usage!

Use an online paper calculator tool. The Environmental Defense Fund Paper Calculator is a nifty little paper usage calculating tool.

Tracking paper usage and knowing if you reduced consumption!

Without too much effort, one can see if paper reduction efforts have reduced consumption in two ways:

  1. A reduction in the amount of paper recycled. It may sound backward but it makes sense. The more you reuse paper or decrease the need for it the less that will end up in the recycling bin. Do a recycling audit before starting a paper prevention campaign and monitor changes several months afterwards.
  2. How often your office has to order paper. The easiest way to track using this method is if one person does all the paper ordering for the office, section or division. If this is not the case, accounts payable personnel may have the information. Imagine that your office orders 60 reams of paper every two months. If you start an aggressive paper reduction plan, your section might only need to order 50 reams every two months or 60 every three months. One can average that out over a year or per employee.

Buy recycled!

If you must consume it, use paper with the highest recycled content (at least 50%).

Find an office advocate!

Find a representative in your office to take suggestions, complaints and help find resources for office paper recycling. Add an item in your agency or company newsletter, or have a bulletin board with helpful suggestions.

Recycle Right!

Finally, make sure you recycle correctly in your office! Some of the top contaminants found in office recycling bins include:

  • Copy paper wrappers
  • Hanging file folders with metal bars
  • Food waste & sandwich wrappers
  • Non-paper envelopes (e.g. Tyvek)
  • Sheets of peel & stick labels
  • Rubber bands
  • Restroom waste (paper towels, tissues)

Restaurant Sustainability Tips

“The roadmap to environmental responsibility for the restaurant industry follows a path of incremental steps. It is an ongoing process that continually challenges businesses to generate greater efficiencies, reduce waste and expand their capacity to use renewable resources as new technologies and practices become available. In essence, environmental responsibility is a tool — a way of approaching business decisions that helps businesses achieve their existing strategic goals more efficiently, quickly and cost effectively.”

Excerpt from National Restaurant Association Conserve

Reduce Waste, Increase Profit ($$$)

  • Purchase only what you need—Take inventory often and consider using an inventory tracking system to avoid spoilage and waste
  • First In, First Out (FIFO)—use and store items in chronological order
  • Store food tightly and appropriately, stalling spoilage
  • Use storage containers that can be reused. You can also request food be delivered in reusable containers to avoid having to buy new containers
  • Buy in bulk
  • Review your menu—find ways to incorporate all of your food products into your menu (e.g. using vegetable heads and stem to make soup stock)
  • More recycling = less trash = smaller trash removal bills
  • Donate edible leftover food to local community food banks
  • Consider a trash compacter to reduce dumpster tips/container pulls
  • Consider a Baler to bale cardboard and other recyclables—this removes these items from your waste streams
  • Work with an organics vendor to set-up a food waste disposal program

“Better handling of food waste is one of the most important opportunities we have to decrease our environmental footprint and address hunger in America,” said Scott DeFife, the NRA’s (National Restaurant Association) executive vice president of policy and government affairs. “Food waste has a dramatic impact on the environment, so our goals are two-fold: we want to increase the amount of food sent to donation and also decrease the food waste that is sent to landfill.”

Waste Reduction By Area

Bar & Beverage

  • Know your customers—purchase items based on what your customers buy
  • Recycle bottles & cans—if you don’t have room to store your recycling, serve fountain or draft drinks
  • Use reusable plates & utensils—invest in plastic cups and plates to avoid continuous purchasing of paper products

Appliances & Equipment

  • Maintain kitchen appliances—it costs money to maintain, but it costs more money to shut down a kitchen when an appliance fails
  • Have regular check-ups for HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air condition)—clean the coils and filters and look for air loss from refrigerator doors and freezers
  • Clean fryers and filter the oil daily—this extends the life of the fryer and the oil

Grocery Items

Buy condiments in bulk & use refillable dispensers—this is more sustainable than packet condiments. The containers from the bulk condiments can also be recycled

Paper & Janitorial Supplies

  • Purchase paper products made from post-consumer waste (PCW)
  • Avoid Styrofoam whenever possible—it takes up room in storage and disposal
  • Use straw dispensers (health department approved) instead of prewrapped straws
  • Use washable table linens
  • Purchase HDPE trash bags—they’re much more environmentally friendly and are often times cheaper than LDPE or LLDPE bags
  • Purchase concentrated cleaning supplies & environmentally-friendly cleaning supplies