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Sustainability at Work

Providing free tools and expertise to achieve your goals

Phone: 503-823-7037


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


How could a restaurant cut its energy in half? Ask Tamale Boy.

Learn how Tamale Boy uses 50% less energy than similar restaurants.

owner Jaime Soltero Jr. poses next to tamales

Tamale Boy owner Jaime Soltero Jr. grew a brick-and-mortar business out of his popular tamale truck. When it was time to build his restaurant, he wanted it to be as efficient as possible.

And he succeeded! The Tamale Boy restaurant uses about half the energy of a restaurant he formerly helped manage.

Here’s how:

  • Tamale BoyEnergy Star rated equipment everywhere: fryer, ice machine, refrigerated cases, and dishwasher
  • Super-efficient LED lighting
  • A tankless water heater, which provides both energy savings and improved performance
  • A NEST thermostat that is smart enough to learn the restaurant’s schedule, program itself, and can be managed from Jaime’s phone
  • A vent hood with a Variable Speed Drive exhaust fan that automatically senses when to ramp down
  • Occupancy sensors in the bathrooms
  • Insulation in the walls and ceiling

Thanks to the investments in energy efficiency:

  •  Air flows better in the restaurant, especially in the kitchen
  •  Power and gas bills are about 40% lower
  •  And, his staff enjoys working in an environment that is conscious of being energy efficient.

Don’t forget the food!

Not only is the building sustainable, the food is too! Tamale Boy buys organic local vegetables and meat when possible and has plenty of vegetarian and vegan options on the menu.

The tamales are made following a recipe passed down in Jaime’s family for years, “it’s tradition that makes them so special.”

tomatoes   women behind pile of kale at Tamale Boy   pile of tomales

Tamale Boy is located at 1764 NE Dekum St, Portland OR 97211.

Want to green your restaurant? Get in touch with a sustainability advisor and visit our website to learn more.

How to recycle old computers, phones, and other gadgets

How, where, and why to recycle electronics.

electronics in recycling bin graphicThere’s gold in those laptops!

Q) Which has more gold and copper?
        a. circuit boards 
        b. raw ore mined for these metals
A) Circuit boards!

Circuit boards can contain 40 to 800 times the amount of gold and 30 to 40 times the amount of copper as the equivalent weight of ore mined in the US.

In addition, recycling one million laptops saves enough energy to power 3,657 US homes for a year [1].

Want to learn more? Check out the short video, The Story of Electronics.

How to start recycling electronics at your workplace:small electronics recycling poster thumbnail

  1. Set up collection area.
    • Find an empty box.
    • Place box in easy to access area.
    • Label the box with a poster about microelectronics recycling.
  2. Decide where your business will take microelectronics.
  3. Create a plan for who will take the microelectronics when the collection box fills.
  4. Let coworkers know about microelectronics recycling, and show them the collection box.

Donate vs. Recycle


Many electronics can be donated, refurbished and used again.

Where to go? Free Geek!

  • Call to ensure they can accept your e-waste: 503-232-9350
  • Donations to Free Geek are tax deductible and pickups can be arranged for a small fee.


Broken or unusable electronics can be recycled and component parts made into something else.

Where to go?

Third-party certification, such as e-Stewards certification, ensures environmentally sound and humane recycling practices.

Removing personal or sensitive information:

To remove personal or sensitive information before donating or recycling your electronics,

  • Call Metro at 503-234-3000 for options to have data removed.
  • Free Geek takes data security very seriously: all data containing gadgets are either wiped clean using Department of Defense standards or are destroyed (safely) on-site.

tvs, computers, pritners, scannersLarger electronics

Contact Oregon E-Cycles for free drop-off locations for

  • Personal computers, monitors, laptops and tablets
  • Computer peripherals – keyboards and mice
  • TVs, including VHS or DVD/TV combos
  • Printers, fax machines and large scanners

According to Oregon E-Cycles’ website: Participating recyclers must meet DEQ's Environmental Management Practices. The practices ensure electronics are recycled in a way that protects human health and the environment.

These must be recycled separately:

Learn more

EPA's FAQs on e-waste