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Sustainability at Work

Providing free tools and expertise to achieve your goals

Phone: 503-823-7037

Email: sustainabilityatwork@portlandoregon.gov

Three ways to trim your waste in 2016

Lose the water weight, trim down paper towel use and drop those disposables.

Set some New Year’s goals for your workplace! Here are some great places to start:

1. Lose the water weight.

Bottled water vs tap water

Does your workplace provide bottled water or use a water delivery service? Switch to tap water and you’ll be doing the environment, and your bottom line, a favor.

Don’t like the taste of your tap water? Installing a filter on your tap is a good alternative to having water trucked in.

2. Trim down paper towel use.

Cut down on paper towels

Many workplace trash cans are filled with paper towels, especially in the rest room and break room. Paper towels can’t be recycled or composted, and even if they could, using less would still be best for the environment and for cost savings.

Replacing paper towels with high-efficiency hand dryers is another great option. Learn why and how to make the switch.

3. Drop those disposables.

Ditch disposables

Disposable coffee cups, take-out boxes and plastic cutlery are like junk food – they’re quick and easy, but not that great for you (or the environment).

Thankfully, there are a lot of things you can do to cut down on disposable items. Use re-usable water bottles and coffee mugs, and take as little to-go packaging as possible when eating out.

At work, you can do even more:

We’re here to help your workplace keep its New Year’s resolutions!

Contact us to make a plan, troubleshoot challenges or share your success.

When is "compostable" not compostable?

Items labeled "compostable" or "biodegradable" should go in the trash, not in your compost bin.

To-go packagingWhat should you do with an item labeled "compostable" or "biodegradable?"

Put it in the trash.

Confused?

We know.

Labels like "compostable" and "biodegradable" are well-intentioned, but they’re not always accurate. Many products labeled "compostable" or "biodegradable" don’t break down at our local composting facilities.

Compostable and biodegradable products should also never be put in recycling, as they cause major problems for the recycling industry. We know it’s hard to throw things away, but that’s where all take-out items (to-go boxes, cups, utensils) should go.

To keep our regional composting program running, we need to keep it clean, and that means focusing on the food. And food should be the focus – it’s what gives compost the nutrient-rich punch that makes gardens grow.

FAQs about composting

Q: What do I do with items labeled "compostable" or "biodegradable," like take-out containers, cups and utensils?

A: These items go in your garbage container, not in compost or recycling. This is true both at home and at businesses that sell or serve food.

Learn more:

  • What goes in your compost cart at home.
  • What goes in your compost at work.

Q: But I thought compostable products were the greenest option? Now what?

A: The greenest option is the one that’s used over and over again. Re-useable coffee mugs, water bottles and real dishware and utensils are environmentally better than their throw-away counterparts, even if the throw-away items could be recycled or composted. Just think of all the energy and resources that go into making something that only gets used once!

Encourage your favorite restaurants to switch to re-usable dishware and utensils for eat-in orders. For to-go orders, take away as little packaging and paper as possible. Bring your own coffee mug, and ask your local coffee shop to offer discounts for bringing your own mug.

Learn more:


Q: What happens to food scraps from businesses?

Food waste converted to energy

A: Most of the food scraps from Portland businesses are processed in a facility in Lane County that generates electricity from the food scraps before they are turned into fertilizer.

This facility does not accept yard debris or other non-food items like paper products or cups, containers or utensils (even if they're labeled compostable). That’s why many local businesses have moved to collecting just food scraps.

How does food turn into energy? Watch two kids explain it in under 3 minutes:

JC Biomethane for Kids from Kelly Lyon Photography on Vimeo.

Already composting at your business or want to start?

Find more composting FAQs, how-to information for restaurants and offices, and Food Only posters and stickers here.

Questions? Contact us at 503-823-7037 or by email.

 

Getting bottled water delivery? Consider the tap.

Save money and environmental impact by switching from water delivery to tap water.

 

bottled water dispenserWhen visiting businesses, our sustainability advisors sometimes see bottled water dispensers in break rooms and kitchens. Some offices choose to have water delivered out of concern for the quality of their tap water. Others like the ability to get hot water on demand. Some simply reply, “We’ve always had bottled water service.” Whatever the reason, it’s important to think about the impact and expense of your decision.

Environmental costs

There’s an environmental cost involved with manufacturing the bottles, as well as with transporting bottled water to and from your workplace on a regular basis. There’s also the expense of paying for a service twice: delivery of water through your taps and delivery of water by truck.  

Water quality

If you’re worried about the quality of your tap water, have it tested rather than make assumptions. Portland has some of the best water in the country, but the quality and taste can be affected by a number of factors. Portland’s Water Bureau will mail your business a free kit that lets you test for lead, copper and iron in your water. (Request the kit by calling 503-823-7525.) You’ll have results in 4-6 weeks to both inform your decision and share with staff. There are also private companies that, for a fee, will test for a broader range of contaminants. However, not all labs are accredited to test for all contaminants.  Details about accredited labs can be found at the Oregon Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program.

Options for filtered water

If you decide you still want or need filtered water, you have options other than having it delivered by truck. Consider installing a filter directly to your faucet or to the water line under your sink. If you prefer having a floor or counter-top dispenser, there are models that can be plumbed directly into your building’s water supply. In addition to filtering the water on site, many of these dispensers also have a hot-water feature. If you currently contract with a water delivery vendor, check with them about options for dispensers that use your tap water instead.  A number of companies offer both types of service.

Reusable metal water bottlesDitching disposables

Whatever solution you settle on, don’t forget to encourage employees to use durable bottles and glasses rather than paper cups. Regardless of whether you can reduce the energy impact of bottled water, you can reduce waste generated through disposable cups!

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.