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Sustainability at Work

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Going paperless takes the hassle out of hiring

An interview with Ashley Frias of Three Degrees restaurant.

When Portland’s Three Degrees restaurant moved their hiring process and employee resources online, they found that it made life easier for both staff and applicants. It also saved time, reduced printing costs and cut paper use by over 9,600 pages per year.

Interview with Ashley Frias, Three Degrees restaurant

Three Degrees restaurant is part of the RiverPlace Hotel, located on Portland’s west-side esplanade, overlooking the Willamette River. The restaurant and hotel are part of the Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants group.

Beet salad  Front of restaurant  Dinner

Why go paperless?

The initiative came from our parent company, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants. They wanted to move all of their properties – 65+ hotels and 75+ restaurants – to a paperless online employee system.

Kimpton already had sustainability initiatives in place for paper; they required all paper have 35% recycled content and that soy inks be used for printing. But they saw reducing paper as an opportunity to push their sustainability goals further. 

Paper reams

The amount of paper printed, per year, before the switch to an online employee system. 

What switched from hard copy to digital?

Job applications Applicants now apply through online forms. If an applicant is hired, their information is automatically transferred to their New Hire forms, and a manager helps them get set up in the Kimpton online employee system. In the old paper system, they had to fill out two sets of paper work – once when applying and again when they were hired.

New hire paperwork Personal information like social security and checking account numbers are now entered by the employee into a secure online system, rather than in paper form. Our New Employee Handbook – which is 72 pages long – used to be printed for each employee. Every time the handbook was updated, we’d give printed copies to all staff. Now the handbook is online, and staff can log on to the website to read the handbook and sign-off electronically that they’ve seen the information.

We've reduced our paper by 130 pages per new hire.
That's about 800 pages per month.

Paychecks Unless an employee requests a paper paycheck, they're set up for automatic deposit and digital paystubs. Employees can also download W4s and W2s from the online employee system.

Employee benefits Each employee has their own log in to the Kimpton online employee system, where they can request time off and review their benefits and performance reviews.

Staff scheduling Scheduling for restaurant staff is now available online, making it more convenient for staff to check their work schedules.

Three Degrees bar menuMenus for staff review Whenever the menu changes, staff are provided detailed information about new items. This information used to be printed, but now PDF versions are emailed to staff.

How long did it take?

It took two years of planning and we made the switch in December (2014). It took time to learn the new system, but now everyone’s used to it, and it’s working really well.

Any tips or take-aways?

We have a computer onsite for employees who don't have easy online access outside of work. Managers help employees get set up in the online system and continue to be a resource if they need help.

The online system is available in Spanish and French, so employees can access information in whichever language they're most comfortable with. We're hoping to make more languages available in the future.

It's great to have everything in one place. Employees can access information on their own, rather than having to go through different people to track it down.

The online system automated many of the administrative processes related to hiring and HR, saving time as well as paper and printing costs.

Which software do you use?

We use Vantage through ADP.

 Log in page  Employee handbook

Employee login page and PDF of employee handbook, available through the online employee system.

What’s next?

Kimpton is looking into moving from a paper to a digital system for conveying restaurant orders to the kitchen staff.

Paper 101: Pushing the envelope on Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Tips to reduce, reuse and recycle paper.


This should be your first focus because it will save you the most money. 

  • Set defaults on your printers and computers for two-sided printing. Folks that absolutely must print single-sided can learn to override the default when necessary.
  • Learn about your printer’s features like “mailbox” and “ID” printing. They will help minimize forgotten and/or repeated print jobs. Check your manual or call your copier rep/technician if you need help with this.

Encourage thinking beyond printing/copying:

  • Switch to electronic invoicing, accounting and receipts. 
  • Consider direct deposit paychecks. (Give employees the option to print their own stub if they want one.) 
  • Set-up an electronic archive process.   


People often forget this step before they recycle their paper.

  • Collect and reuse paper: Keep a marked tray or small box on the counter, near the printer, to collect unwanted single-sided print jobs. People can dip into the stash for scratch paper, or if you build up enough, you can create notepads. 
  • Give it to the kids: If your office prints large, single-side maps, architectural drawings, advertising, etc., donate the single-sided drafts to a local school. Kids will use the blank side for drawing and the printed side for arts and crafts. (They’ll also enjoy getting a peak into the adult world by “studying” the printed side of the paper.) Call Metro for donation locations: 503-234-3000.
  • Reuse packaging material as much as possible. You can also create a custom rubber stamp to let customers know that you’ve used a recycled box or envelope to send their purchase. Such as, “Please excuse my looks, I’m re-used.”
  • Donate packaging: Check with your business neighbors to see if they can reuse the materials. Some shipping stores will accept clean packing materials.You may save them money as well.  


Even with your best reduction efforts, you’re likely to have some paper “waste.” Make sure it’s getting recycled and not going to the landfill.

Make it convenient Position recycling containers throughout your office, especially wherever there’s a trashcan. Don’t forget the break room, conference rooms and reception areas.  

Yes, you can recycle that! Let everyone know that they can put all sorts of paper in recycling:

  • There’s no need to remove staples, paperclips, or plastic coil binders if you’re busy. 
  • Envelopes with clear plastic windows can go in as is, as can tissue boxes with plastic on top.
  • Magazines and catalogs are okay, too. 

Just avoid including large amounts of super-slick or heavily-coated paper.

Paper 101: We need to talk about the 4,000 elephants in the room

Businesses in the Portland metro region are throwing out the equivalent of 4,000 elephants worth of paper each year.

Did you know? Businesses in the Portland metro region are still throwing out 30,432 tons of paper each year.

That’s the equivalent of 4,000 elephants worth of paper going to the landfill!

4 elephants x 1,000 = tons of paper going to the landfill

Portland businesses continue to make great strides in reducing their paper use and making recycling easy for their staff – but there’s still more that can be done.

3 Steps to reduce paper waste:

1. Identify where your workplace uses paper:

      • Printers & copiers.
      • Paychecks.
      • Invoices – that you send and receive from others.
      • Other… don’t forget paper or packaging that others send to you.

2. Ask these questions for print projects, in this order of priority:

  • Can we reduce the amount of paper used?
  • Is the paper only printed on one side? Can we reuse it?
  • Is all waste paper getting recycled?

3. Maintain, improve and push the envelope:

  • Acknowledge and reinforce what’s working well.
  • Improve existing efforts that need attention.
  • Start new efforts [hint: try a pilot– people will be more likely to give it a go].

You know what they say... “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”*

* No elephants were harmed in the making of this blog. The Sustainability at Work program loves elephants and does not condone eating them. 

PeopleTowels at Research into Action

Learn how Research Into Action has nearly eliminated paper towel waste.

man with towel Research Into Action’s Green Team wanted to get rid of paper towels. They looked into electric hand dryers and found their building doesn’t have the right wiring for them, and they were worried about the noise in their small office. Since they already used cloth napkins in the kitchen, they wanted to see if they could try cloth towels in the bathroom as well.

The firm of about 25 staff has always been sustainability minded and their President and Owner, Jane Peters, is very supportive of their Green Team. Almost one year into the program, reusable towels are habit and paper towel use has almost been eliminated.

How they started

PeopleTowel drying on a cabinetMaria Everhart, green team member and champion of sustainability, got inspired by personal hand towels after her husband heard about how in Japan people have been expected to carry around reusable, personal hand towels for decades.

She and another colleague found PeopleTowels, an American company that makes personal quick-dry hand towels out of 100% organic Fair Trade Cotton and with eco-safe dyes. PeopleTowels seemed like a great solution, but the green team still had to overcome another challenge: how to hang the towels to dry in the bathroom without drilling holes in the wall.

Maria then discovered Jelly Bean Hooks (available for purchase on amazon), suction cup utility hooks that are BPA, PVC and Phthalate-Free. You can even recycle them at special facilities in Portland, (look online or call 503-234-3000 to find your nearest location).

What they bought

  • 51 PeopleTowels, enough towels for two weeks.
  • 30 Jelly Bean Hooks.

How it works

  • close up of drying towel on hookEach employee grabs a clean towel on Monday to use for the week.
  • Members of the green team take turns washing the towels (and the cloth napkins used in the lunchroom) at home on the weekend.
  • There are two towels for each staff member just in case someone forgets to wash them one weekend or if guests would like to use one when visiting.

Staff do different things with the towels, allowing each person to find their comfort zone.

  • Some write their name on one towel and use the same towel every week.
  • Some keep the week’s towel at their desk.
  • Others leave their towel in the bathroom on hooks. The hooks are labeled to help staff keep track of their towel.

The results

  • Paper towel use has gone from one large trash bag of paper towels a week to close to zero paper towels.
  • After two years, they will have recouped the money invested in the reusable towels through reduced paper towel costs – and then the money that would have gone to paper towels can be used for other things.

Read more about sustainability at Research Into Action.

Green Team holding towels

Members of Research into Action Green Team pose with PeopleTowels. From left to right, Maria Everhart, Benjamin Messer, Meghan Bean, Doré Mangan and Jordan Folks. Check out Maria’s family website about their passive house!

Environmental savings

The environmental savings of reusable towels add up. In the first year, Research Into Action will:

  • Save over 6 trees.
  • Reduce landfill waste by 575 lbs.
  • Conserve 6,250 gallons of water.
  • Cut carbon emission by 850 lbs.

If 1 in 4 adults in the US switched to PeopleTowels for a year, it would:


Want a PeopleTowel for yourself? Find them for sale in Portland at Seven Planet, Powell’s Books, and certified silver Mirador Community Store. Or buy from the PeopleTowel’s website and save on bulk purchases.

5 Reasons to stop idling after 10 seconds

Do you commute by car or drive for work? Reduce your impact: stop idling.

3.8 million gallons of fuel is wasted by idling in the U.S. every day

Did you know that if you’re stopped for more than 10 seconds, it’s better to turn off your car rather than idle?

Stop idling and take comfort in the fact that you're minimizing your impact on human health and the planet. Learn more here. 

2 minutes of idling is equal to 1 mile of driving

  1. It saves gas: If you idle for 5 minutes dropping your kids off in the morning, 3 minutes at the drive-through and 4 minutes listening to the end of a news story in your driveway, you've burned enough gas to drive 24 miles.

  2. It saves money: Americans spend a whopping $13 million every day on unnecessary idling. (That's 3.8 million gallons of fuel, wasted!) 

  3. It saves the planet: For every 10 minutes of idling you cut from your life, you'll save one pound of carbon dioxide - a harmful greenhouse gas - from being released into the atmosphere.

  4. It makes us healthier: Idling is linked to increases in asthma, allergies, heart and lung disease and cancer. Kids are especially vulnerable because they inhale more air per pound of body weight. Lots of idling happens near schools.

  5. It's good for your engine: Idling can damage engine components. According to the California Energy Commission, "Fuel is only partially combusted when idling because an engine does not operate at its peak temperature. This leads to the build-up of fuel residues on cylinder walls that can damage engine components and increase fuel consumption." 

Even on cold mornings, the days of idling in the driveway to warm up your car are over - today's cars warm up more efficiently when they're driving than sitting in a driveway.

since the electric ignition became universal in the mid 80s, restarting your vehicle does not result in significant fuel loss

What can you do?

  • Take a pledge to stop idling.
  • Print posters to share with your coworkers.
  • Turn it off when stopping for more than 10 seconds.

the truth about idling poster thumbnail

Adapted from Sustainable America.