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Sustainability at Work

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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.

4 ways to get coworkers excited about Earth Day

Try these tips during April, or any time of the year.

green team1. Give ‘em the stats

Did you know recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run your TV for three hours? Or that recycling creates four jobs for every one job created in waste management and disposal industries? 

True or False? Ten seconds of idling your car wastes more gas than restarting. (True.) Americans throw out 25% of the food they buy each year. (True.)

Which uses more water to produce? A pound beef or a pound of chicken? Beer or coffee? Find out.

We love a good infographic! Check out these graphics about electronics, idling, unplugging, and food waste.

electronics   idling   unplug   food waste

Information is key. Find more informative recycling stats and then share what you've learned with your coworkers. 

2. Don’t just tell them, show them

Videos are a great way to educate and engage. Email them to staff, show them at the start of a meeting, or organize a brown bag.

How to use a paper towel

Only 5 minutes! You use paper towels to dry your hands every day, but chances are, you're doing it wrong. In this enlightening and funny short talk, Joe Smith reveals the trick to perfect paper towel technique. (Filmed at TEDxConcordiaUPortland.)

The Story of Stuff

Where does our stuff come from, and where does it go after it we toss it in the trash? This engaging 20-minute video has been watch over 40 million times in the five years since it came out! Already seen it? Check out their other videos about electronics and cosmetics.

3. Get crafty

Make your own green cleaners

Sienna Skinner from Lensbaby, one of our gold certified businesses, shared her recipe for a counter and window cleaner:

  • ½ cup vinegar
  • 3½ cups water
  • 1 tsp liquid soap

“Put in a spray bottle and you're set! One of the things I love about this stuff is that you can use it with your regular kitchen sponge and not wonder what you're putting in the sponge you wash your dishes with. It's just vinegar!” – Sienna Skinner

Find more green cleaner recipes here.

Grow an avocado tree from a pitAvocado pit

It’s easier than you think! Check out this how-to poster. Make a big batch of guacamole, bring supplies, and encourage people to take home their soon-to-be plants, or keep them at work so co-workers can watch the evolution. (One of our coworkers tried this a few years ago, and her “desk plant” grew into a 4 foot tall avocado tree!)

4. And for the green team…

How do you motivate people to reduce their energy? Watch this engaging, eight minute TED Talk, and find out. Then talk about how these ideas could be applied at your own workplace.

What type of changemaker are you?

It takes all types of skills to make changes within your workplace. Take this quiz to see if you’re a Networker, Communicator, or Builder. Then talk with other members of your green team to see what they are, and how you can capitalize on each other’s strengths.

For Earth Month 2015, bring your own mug and win prizes

This April, drink coffee (or tea), use a reusable mug, and get entered to win prizes. Organized by a group of Green Teams throughout Portland.

Reduce Reuse Recaffeinate

April 2015 only!

In celebration of Earth Month, bring a reusable mug when you grab coffee (or tea), and get entered into a raffle to win prizes.

How does it work?

  1. Download a Reduce, Reuse, Recaffeinate punch card.
  2. Ask your barista to initial or punch your card each time you use a reusable cup.
  3. Send us a picture of your card (with at least one punch) by April 30th, 2015.
  4. Get entered to win prizes.*

*Valid for workplaces located within Portland.

punch card

Get your whole workplace involved

  1. Download a poster promoting Reduce, Reuse, Recaffeinate
  2. Download and distribute punch cards


  • Print punch cards on re-use paper (paper already printed on one side).
  • Put punch cards in an envelope attached to the poster to make it easy for coworkers to get started.
  • Give your workplace’s closest coffee shop a head’s up, so they’re in the loop.


Who’s responsible for this fun coffee and prizes thing?

A group of green teams from different Portland organizations have gotten together to promote Earth Month and get staff excited about sustainability. They’ve invited all Portland workplaces to join them in reducing throw-away coffee cups, through their Reduce Reuse Recaffeinate campaign, and will provide prizes to winners of the raffle at the end of this month. 

Where do I send the photo of my card on April 30th?

Send it to us via email, facebook or Twitter:

Plenty of coffee, fewer throw-away cups

Biggest challenges, best solutions: top take-aways from Problem Solved

Individuals from a wide variety of Portland businesses gathered to share challenges and advice around workplace sustainability efforts.

Last week, 60 individuals from a variety of organizations around Portland gathered to share challenges and advice around workplace sustainability. The crowd at Sustainability at Work’s fourth Problem Solved event was engaged, and ready to share challenges and offer solutions.

Here are some of the top challenges we heard at the event, along with advice provided by fellow attendees:

How do we get buy-in from management?

Problem Solved networking conversations

  1. Suggest piloting a new initiative.
    • It's easier to get sign-off on a trial run - and then if all goes well, it'll be easier to make it permanent. 
    • Track complaints, issues and resolutions, and outcomes during the pilot – so that if you have a few vocal dissenters, their voice is put into broader perspective about the overall workplace.
  2. Speak to their interests.
    • Improved employee retention (through engaged staff)
    • Reduced operating costs (through reducing paper, energy, waste, etc.)
    • Marketing benefits
    • Responding to client demand for sustainability 

How can I get co-workers to care?

  1. Connect sustainability to other topics they care about.
    • One workplace used pedometers (free from their healthcare providers) to kick off a #steps challenge across teams.
    • Switch to green cleaners - better for your health, and your janitorial staff’s.
    • Join forces with other staff engagement efforts – safety, professional development, etc. – and reward staff for participation and leadership in all areas. This approach had great success at Pacific Continental Bank (formerly Capital Pacific Bank).
    • This type of engagement gets staff talking and connecting - and builds a great platform for future sustainability initiatives.
  2. Invite proposals and ideas from all staff, not just the green team.
    • Don’t be confined to a committee or green team as the only way to engage.
    • Solicit ideas for your next project from all staff.
    • Make it a challenge and award prizes for ideas submitted.
    • Assign an annual budget to help winning proposals get implemented. Staff from CLEAResult (formerly PECI) had great results from their Sustainability Kickstart campaign. 
  3. Focus on one initiative at a time – and give it time.
    • Change takes time, and successfully engaging an entire workplace requires multiple strategies.
    • Read about how REACH Community Development cut their paper use in half through continued education and engagement.

Problem Solved networking conversations

We use so many paper towels!

  1. Encourage staff to use “just one” with this memorable 5 minute Portland TED Talk (that’s been watched over 2 million times!).
  2. Buy paper towels made with a high percentage of recycled content.
  3. Provide staff with individual towels or have communal cloth towels that get washed regularly by staff volunteers or a laundry service.

Looking for more ideas? Find more great tips and success stories from last year’s Problem Solved.

Have a challenge you’d like help with? Contact us, we’re here to help!

Resources for Home-based Businesses

Home-based businesses can take advantage of residential energy and water saving programs.

earth houseHome-based businesses are able to take advantage of many of the free resources for residences in Portland.

Whatever the motivation — be it cost-savings, improved working conditions, or just the good feeling of making a positive difference — here are a few great ways to improve your home-based business’s sustainability: 

  • Clean Energy Works program helps home-owners make their homes as energy efficient as possible through insulation and appliance upgrades, with zero upfront payment and a low interest loan that’s paid off through your utility bill.

clean energy works oregon logo

energy trust of oregon logowater bureau logo

clean river rewards logo