Skip to Main Content View Text-Only

Sustainability at Work

Providing free tools and expertise to achieve your goals

Phone: 503-823-7037


Engaging Employees to Reduce Paper

Words of wisdom from REACH Community Development

Nicole Baber

Since introducing sustainability into their strategic plan in 2009, REACH’s green team has been engaging employees and building a workplace culture of sustainability. We sat down with REACH’s green team leader and sustainability professional Nicole Baber to learn more about their campaign and share tips with other businesses.




Nicole Baber, REACH Development.

In 2009, we formed a Green Team and set a goal for our first campaign: to reduce paper consumption company wide.

5 year goal:

  • Reduce paper use by 50 percent.

First campaign:

  • We started small, with a goal to reduce paper use by 10 percent in 6 months.
  • By the end of 6 months, we had achieved a 23 percent reduction!


  • We’re almost at the 5 year mark, and we’ve reduced our paper use by 59 percent!

What helped us succeed

Leadership Support

Our previous executive director prioritized sustainability and included the goal of reducing paper use by 50 percent in 5 years in REACH’s strategic plan. We were fortunate to have this leadership, but don’t feel discouraged if your efforts are initiated from the ground up. A push from above was a great kick-start for us, but it was the green team and on-the ground staff that made it possible to reach, and exceed, our ambitious goal.

Goals and prizes

To engage employees, we created monthly reduction goals and displayed them publically using a “reverse thermometer.” As a team, we competed against ourselves to motivate employees to do more. Our Green Team then used the money saved from reducing paper to throw the office a pizza party.

Measure & track

To measure our progress, we tracked the reams of paper we purchased. It was an easy tracking system to set up since we already record our purchases. It was also nice to have the visual of the ream of paper, so staff could connect with the amount of paper being used. To account for fluctuations in paper use throughout the year, we calculated how much paper we purchased the previous year and averaged it per month. 

Paper Usage Reduction sign
Our reverse "thermometer" showed monthly paper reduction goals and publically tracked progress toward meeting them.

Give Feedback

Our Green Team created the “Green Scene,” a monthly sustainability newsletter. Through the Green Scene we told staff about the reduction goals, showed them how they could reduce paper, and kept them informed about how we were progressing towards our goal. We also sent out biweekly emails with updates, pictures and tips.

Don’t be afraid to use technology

Our Green Team worked with IT to set all printers to print double sided automatically. Changing the default made double-sided printed the easiest option, thereby reducing the amount of single sided print jobs.

We also started using new software that allowed us to scan documents and email them to clients. Previously, multiple copies of multi-page documents had to be printed. Not only did this reduce paper, it made keeping up-to-date documents much easier for staff. And it freed up an entire wall in our office that was used to store paper documents.


At the start of the campaign, our green team needed to educate staff on how to reduce paper and why. We communicated information in multiple ways – weekly emails, the Green Scene newsletter, staff meetings, and the thermometer poster showing progress.

We recognized that everyone learns differently and we wanted to connect with all different types of learners. The repetition also kept the campaign goals on people’s minds.

Maintaining momentum

Today, paper reduction is the norm at REACH. We’ve done many campaigns since 2009 - on transportation, recycling, composting - but we continue to keep paper reduction on people’s minds.

We still track paper use quarterly and continually engage employees on reducing paper and waste. Since we’ve grown in size, we now include staff numbers in our calculations. But even with staff growth, we continue to see paper use go down!

LED lighting: why upgrade?

Get a better looking workplace & reduced energy bills: upgrade to LED lighting

Lighting makes a big difference in how we feel in a shop, restaurant or workplace. Think about it – would you rather walk into a bright, sunlit cafe or a dimly lit conference room with a flickering, buzzing light overhead?

By upgrading your lighting, you can improve employee and customer experience, thereby boosting productivity and sales.

LED lighting has rapidly developed as an excellent lighting option. It produces great quality light with a fraction of the energy use of standard lighting. 


Save money

Lighting systems account for about 1/3 of your workplace energy use. If your current lighting gives off heat, you also may be paying to cool the space.

New LED replacement bulbs on the market can cut your costs by up to 75 percent. LEDs also last a long time, saving you the hassle and cost of replacing burnt-out bulbs.

Plus, in many cases, Energy Trust of Oregon incentives can cover up to half of the eligible project costs. 

What types of lights can LEDs replace?

Track and flood lighting are easy to upgrade to LEDs.

track lighting

Track and flood lighting are common in restaurants, shops, and office conference rooms or hallways.

Overhead tube lighting does have LED options, but the whole light fixture – not just the bulbs – must be replaced. Do not mix regular tubes with LED replacements – this could be hazardous.

Read more about how to properly, and safely, install LED tube lighting.

New limited time instant incentives!

For a limited time during 2014, Energy Trust of Oregon can help you save energy and money with LEDs - a discount of nearly half the original cost!

When you purchase from a distributor participating in the Lighten Up with LEDs promotion, you can apply at order time to have your distributor instantly reduce the purchase price of qualifying LED lamps by the Energy Trust incentive amount.

Questions about where to start, or want free assistance? Contact us, or contact a no-cost Energy Trust lighting specialist of Trade Ally lighting contractor.

For more information, visit Energy Trust’s website on commercial lighting.

Or, click here for a list of participating distributors.

LED lighting: how-to information and free resources

Before upgrading lighting, bring in the (free) experts

When considering any lighting upgrade, we recommend bringing in a no-cost ETO lighting specialist or Trade Ally lighting contractor to consult with early in the process.

light bulb evolution

The evolution of the light bulb. Photograph by Levi Brown.

You’ll get the most out of your upgrade and save yourself the headache. They’ll know what questions to ask, and where to get the information. Things like: 

  • How well new LED technology would work in the existing fixtures.
  • How to reduce the number of fixtures yet still get superior light.
  • Which lights to prioritize replacing first if you’re on a budget.
  • Steps to take to get Energy Trust incentives.

A call to the Energy Trust or a Trade Ally lighting contractor will help you quickly sort out the best lighting for your space. They can study the product literature and take into account the many complexities of lighting systems – from wiring compatibility to lumen output; from the color rendering index to warranties – so that you won’t have to!

Energy Trust

An outside expert can also help with replacing fluorescent lights with LEDs. We especially recommend working with an expert if you want to upgrade overhead tube lighting, as incorrect installation of LED tube lighting can be hazardous. Read more about how to properly, and safely, install LED tube lighting.

Questions about where to start, or want free assistance? Contact us, or contact a no-cost Energy Trust lighting specialist of Trade Ally lighting contractor.


LED lighting: upgrading tube lighting

Use caution when buying 4’ LED replacement tubes

LED light tube products are being sold as easy replacements for your existing fluorescents without having to replace the fixture. However, without the right expertise, you could end up with one or more of the following issues:

  • Increased glare
  • Poor light distribution
  • Light patterns that are distracting to customers and employees (think lighting that casts out in the shape of bat wings instead of a glow)
  • Poor light color
  • Worse efficiency or light output

It’s also very important not to mix fluorescent and LED tubes in the same fixture. In some cases, the bulbs will not only fail, but could be a hazard.

LED light tube

The bottom line is that most fixtures with fluorescent tubes are not designed for LEDs. LED 4’ tubes work best in fixtures designed for LEDs. Work with an outside expert from the Energy Trust or a Trade Ally lighting contractor when switching from fluorescent to LED lights.

For more information on LED lights visit Energy Trust’s website, or visit the Oregon Department of Energy for more energy information for businesses.  For technical details, see these two reports written by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for the US Department of Energy.

How to clean up a broken fluorescent bulb

If a florescent light bulb breaks, safe cleanup practices are key.

Fluorescent lights are long lasting and when recycled properly, most of the glass, metal and mercury in them can be reused. However, because fluorescent bulbs contain mercury, when a fluorescent bulb breaks, it should be handled as hazardous waste.

Broken fluorescent bulb
Broken florescent bulbs can be a health hazard if not cleaned up properly.

Which bulbs are hazardous & why are they a safety concern?
Fluorescent light bulbs are either linear fluorescent (long skinny tubes) or compact fluorescent (small and sometimes spiraled). Linear fluorescent lights are common in workplaces and compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) are more common in households. Regardless of the type of fluorescent bulb, it contains mercury and must be treated like hazardous waste if it breaks.

Safe clean up instructions
Be thorough when collecting broken glass and visible powder and keep the mess contained. Clean the area where a fluorescent breaks without vacuuming or sweeping to avoid spreading mercury containing powder and mercury vapor. Do not use cleaning products, as they may react with the mercury.

Whether at home or at work, cleaning up a broken fluorescent bulb is the same.

Materials for cleanupWhat you need

  1. Stiff paper or cardboard
  2. Sticky tape, such as duct tape
  3. Paper towels or baby wipes
  4. A glass jar with a metal lid or a sealable plastic bag
  5. Best practice: wear gloves and a dust mask


Before cleanup

  • Have people and pets leave the room – especially children and pregnant women.
  • Air out the room for 10-15 minutes by opening a door or window to the outdoor environment before starting to clean.
  • Shut off the HVAC system if you have one.
  • Remove jewelry before cleaning; mercury can attach to gold or silver.

During cleanup

  • Use stiff paper or cardboard to scoop up glass fragments and powder.
  • Use sticky tape to pick up remaining small glass fragments and powder

Using tape to pick up small fragments
Sticky tape captures small fragments and powder.

  • If cleaning a hard surface, wipe the area with a damp paper towel or disposable baby wipe.
  • Place all bulb fragments, powder, and cleanup materials (stiff paper or cardboard, sticky tape, paper towels or disposable baby wipes, gloves and dust mask) in the glass jar or plastic bag.

Bulb fragments in plastic bag  Bulb fragments in glass jar
Bulb fragments and cleanup materials should be placed in a sealed plastic bag or glass jar, and taken to a hazardous waste facility.

After cleanup

  • If powder got on your clothing, dispose of your clothing in the same way as other materials used to clean up the break. Laundering clothing that comes into contact with the powder can contaminate the washing machine and water flowing into the sewer system with mercury.
  • Continue to air out the room where the bulb broke for at least 12 hours and keep HVAC shut off.
  • If the bulb broke on carpet, periodically ventilate the room with open windows and doors because mercury vapors can be released from the carpet into the room.
  • Label the container and place it outdoors or in a protected area until it can be properly disposed of.
  • Take the sealed container to a hazardous waste facility or collection event that can properly deal with hazardous waste. Call 503-234-3000 for help locating the nearest facility or collection event.

Quick links and additional information

Guest post written by Mia Reback, Sustainability at Work intern.