Skip to Main Content View Text-Only

Sustainability at Work

Providing free tools and expertise to achieve your goals

Phone: 503-823-7037

Email: sustainabilityatwork@portlandoregon.gov

Green Teams: Words of Wisdom from Nicole Baber and REACH Community Development

We sat down with REACH’s green team leader and sustainability professional Nicole Baber to learn more about their green team and share tips with other businesses.

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 green team and share tips with other businesses.

Nicole Baber

Nicole Baber, REACH Community Development

How it started

We first formed our green team in 2009 after a visit with Paul de Block from Sustainability at Work. Our starting team had 12 members (out of 65 total staff) and we quickly got to work grabbing all the low hanging fruit of office sustainability. Over the course of 5 years, we used the Sustainability at Work checklist to guide our sustainability actions.

The re-boot

When we ran out of low hanging fruit, out team started to fizzle out so we decided to dissolve the green team.  I stayed on to focus on sustainability in operations. After a few months, I decided to re-form a smaller green team. The new green team is five people, representing different departments, and we meet quarterly.

What our green team does:Green Scene sample page

  • Organize yearlong sustainability initiatives
  • Write and send out the “Green Scene,” our sustainability newsletter
  • Organize quarterly Green Days
  • Support participation in the Eco-Challenge
  • Plan Earth Week activities

Our green team picks, plans, and carries out yearlong sustainability campaigns. We found that focusing on one thing for a year gives us time to truly engage employees, change behaviors, and make a lasting impact. Each year when we add a new area of focus, the older ones continue alongside it as part of the status quo.

Paper reduction

Our first campaign was paper reduction. We started small with a goal to reduce paper by 10% after 6 months. The campaign was so successful, that by the end of 6 months we had achieved a 23% reduction! We decided to continue this campaign alongside others. It’s been almost 5 years since the initial campaign, and we’ve reduced our paper use by 59%! Learn more about REACH’s successful paper reduction campaign.

Highlight: 59% paper reduction over 5 yearWe found that focussing on one thing for a year gives us time to truly engage employees, change behaviors, and make a lasting impactTransportation

Our second campaign focused on transportation miles. We tracked mileage driven by each department before setting department specific goals. Since different parts of our company drive more than others, we decided that each department should compete against itself.

  • Highlight: learned structural ways to reduce transportation miles, like getting a company Zip Car membership.

Compost

We wanted to start composting, but some staff were concerned that it would smell bad and be messy. So we proposed a three-month trial: if it didn’t work well, we’d stop.

Through our newsletter, we let staff know about the new composting program, and identified “go-to” people who could answer questions.

Not only was composting a great success (we produce over 40 lbs. of compost each week!), but it increased our recycling rate by 36%! As people paid attention to what doesn’t belong in the trash, composting and recycling went up while garbage went down. It went so well, there was no discussion about stopping the program.

  • Highlight: produced over 40lbs of compost each week and increased recycling by 36%.

In the face of resistance, a short-term pilot allowed us to try something new - in this case composting. Once it was up and running well there was no resistance to keeping it going.

Waste Reduction

We’re now piloting, “Kicking the Can” - getting rid of desk-side trash cans. We’re also working on buying in bulk and reusing to further cut down waste. We send out tips in the Green Scene and include outside of work events, like swap meets, to encourage employees to take sustainability home with them.  

  • Highlight: reduced garbage by 51% over 3 months.

Where we are now

Over the last 6 years, sustainability at REACH Development has become the norm. What started as a project of passion, is now a key component of our operations. Today, I’ve gone from sustainability minded employee to sustainability professional. With sustainability as my full time focus, we’re able to take on bigger projects and grow our culture of sustainability.

Key Takeaways

  • It’s okay to stop your green team when enthusiasm fizzles and then start a new one.
  • Sustainability at Work and other organizations have checklists that your green team can use to identify low hanging fruit and more in-depth sustainability initiatives.
  • Not every initiative will go well, and that’s okay. Don’t get discouraged and try something else.

To learn more about Sustainability at Work or to contact a sustainability advisor email sustainabilityatwork@portlandoregon.gov

Sustainability at Work, a program with the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, provides free assistance to businesses wanting to improve their sustainability. Advisors are available for on and off site consultation and are a great resource for green teams or a dedicated employee. Sustainability at Work also certifies businesses using a checklist of sustainable actions, behaviors, and programs. Checklists are available online for offices, restaurants, retail stores and groceries. The Checklist is a great resource of actions to take to improve workplace sustainability.

Sustainability takes flight with passport program at Capital Pacific Bank

We sat down with Kristen Connor, Senior Vice President & Client Service Officer at Capital Pacific Bank, to hear first-hand about the program.

Kristen Connor speaking at podiumCapital Pacific Bank created a cultural passport to engage employees in workplace sustainability and wellness.

We sat down with Kristen Connor, Senior Vice President & Client Service Officer at Capital Pacific Bank, to hear first-hand about the program. 

Goal: Increase staff participation in planning, executing and attending committee activities.

Capital Pacific Bank Official Cultural Passport coverThe big idea: Office-wide cultural passports

Six months ago, a few employees at Capital Pacific Bank started thinking of ideas to get their coworkers to participate more on the Green Team and other internal committees.

From the start, the passports have been successful in getting new people into leadership positions and helping people find a place where they can contribute.

Soon after the program started, people started saying, “that was kind of fun, I should do more.” Six months later, they are.

How it works:

  • Staff get a stamp in their passport for approved activities
  • 10 stamps = 1 paid vacation day (per year)

Details:

  • Activities are across all committees – Green Team, Employee Engagement, Volunteering, Getting it Fun, Wellness.
  • Staff must participate in a variety of ways (they can’t do the same thing 10 times).
  • Staff are given a physical “passport” with a photo of a Hollywood star that resembles them.
  • Committee chairs stamp passports and write a description of the action that earned the stamp.

Sample passport with stampsWhat staff have to say:

“When you do one thing, it starts to be infectious. It makes you want to do more.”

“When we started to broaden the lens of sustainability, engagement skyrocketed. People found their passion.”

“It’s fun, people get competitive.”


Sample passport with stamps.

Actions earn stamps:

Capital Pacific Bank gives stamps for a variety of activities and roles to include as many people as possible. Their qualifying actions include:

  • Participate in a Capital Pacific Bank group volunteer activity
  • Help plan and execute a Getting it Fun event
  • Take on an assignment for the Green Team to promote sustainability
  • Participate in a professional development activity
  • Attend a brown bag lunch or other educational event hosted by the bank
  • Represent the bank at a client event
  • Participate in and/or plan and execute an event on behalf of the Wellness Committee
  • Present an agenda item at a staff meeting
  • Participate in the new employee orientation committee
  • Pass the sustainability overview quiz
  • Coordinate employee birthdays for a month
  • Nominate someone for the Sustaining Excellence award
  • Serve on a nonprofit board or committee
  • Use your employee matching gift
  • Serve on the Jeans Day Committee (Jeans Day is when staff contributes money to an employee nominated nonprofit, to be matched by the bank, in order to wear jeans on Fridays)

Close up sample passport photoMaking the passports:

Kathy Swift, a creative bank employee, made each staff member a passport featuring a celebrity look-a-like – or as one staff member described it, “a wannabe doppelganger.”

The celebrity photos engaged a lot of people and got the whole office talking about their passports.

Rolling it out:

The cultural passports were presented at a staff meeting the day before they were put on everyone’s desk. At the staff meeting, the guidelines for earning a paid day off were outlined. The Green Team explained that they wanted to engage people on things they cared about, and reward staff for making time to do these things, even while they were busy with their day-to-day priorities.  They also announced a brown bag lunch planned for the following week so people could get an easy first stamp (which worked; they had a higher attendance than ever before!).

Where they are now:

It’s six months in and engagement is high.  A few staff members have already filled their passports and others are busy planning events and other activities.  Capital Pacific Bank is looking to give more prizes for people who fill up the entire passport and for people who get more than ten stamps each quarter.

Try this at your workplace!

A passport program is a great way to engage coworkers, empower others to take on leadership roles and build a workplace community.

Staff holding their passports

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

Donate

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.

Recycle

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

Recycling Fluorescent Lights

Learn how to start recycling fluorescent lights.

tube lights in a boxFluorescent lights are energy efficient and long-lasting, and when they're spent, they can be recycled.

But, they also contain mercury and lead – two toxic heavy metals considered hazardous waste if released when bulbs break. So when it’s time to replace your fluorescent lights, it’s important to do so safely.

Here are some simple best practices to follow to keep you, your staff and your customers safe the next time your fluorescent light bulbs flicker and fade.

 

 

 How to start recycling fluorescent light bulbs:

  1. Set up a bulb collection areaCFL recycling poster
    • Find a cardboard box: for tube lights, the box the bulbs came in works well. For smaller bulbs, any box will do.
    • Place box in a safe area where it won’t get knocked around.
    • Label the box with a poster about proper CFL handling.
  2. Find where your business will recycle the bulbs
  3. Create a plan for who will take the bulbs to be recycled when the collection box fills.
  4. Let coworkers and janitorial staff know about CFL recycling, and show them the bulb collection area.

For more, see How to establish a recycling program for mercury-containing light bulbscartoon fluorescent lights

What to do when a fluorescent light bulb burns out:

  1. Carefully remove the bulb and mark an “X” so you can quickly identify old bulbs when you grab a new one.
  2. Store used bulbs in a safe place that keeps them in-tact. Broken bulbs release hazardous waste and require special attention.
  3. Properly recycle used bulbs within one year.

Note: do not put tape or rubber bands on fluorescent bulbs.

Where to recycle bulbs:

  1. Contact your property manager or garbage company to see if they can recycle fluorescent bulbs for you.
  2. Join a mail-back service.
  3. Find a nearby facility that collects and recycles fluorescent bulbs. The find a recycler feature on Metro’s website and Earth 911 are both helpful resources.

Why recycle fluorescent bulbs:

  • When fluorescent bulbs break, they release hazardous mercury that is toxic to people.
  • Businesses in Oregon discard several million bulbs each year, making them the largest source of mercury in our waste stream.
  • When recycled properly, most of the glass, metal and mercury in bulbs can be reused.

How are fluorescent lamps recycled?fluorescent light recycling infographic

  1. Lamps are crushed in a controlled environment.
  2. Glass, aluminum and mercury bearing phosphorus powder are separated and captured.
  3. Mercury is recovered from the mercury phosphorus powder and purified.
  4. Recovered mercury is used in new fluorescent bulbs, thermometers, barometers and electric devices. Recycled glass can be used to manufacture new glass products or as a cement aggregate. Aluminum is recycled as a metal scrap.

Quick Links:

2015 New Year’s Resolution

Jumpstart 2015 with a New Year’s Resolution for your workplace - and win prizes!

2015

Win prizes by starting a NEW sustainable practice in your workplace 
between now and Valentine’s day!

How to participate:

  1. Pick a NEW action to implement, from the list below.
  2. Let us know your goal action(s).
  3. Let us know the action has been completed by February 14th.
  4. We’ll do a quick verification visit & you’ll be entered to win.

More chances to win - Each action gets you one entry into the raffle; the more new actions you complete, the greater your chance of winning!

Prizes:

prizes

  • $35 gift certificate to Hopworks Urban Brewery
  • $25 gift certificate to Fire on the Mountain
  • 2 bags of Portland Roasting coffee + a free drink at their café

Action list:

checkboxDonate or recycle electronics.

  • Create an area to store computers, monitors, keyboards, mice, and printers.
  • Provide clear instructions for where to recycle them.
  • Email us for a poster you can use or modify.

checkboxRecycle fluorescent lights.

  • Create an area to safely store burned-out fluorescent lights.
  • Provide clear instructions for where to recycle them.

checkboxSwitch to recycled copier/printer paper.

  • Must contain 30% or more post-consumer content.

checkboxCreate a sustainability plan or policy.

  • Create guidelines for one thing (“extra plastics are collected for recycling”).
  • Create guidelines for multiple areas (purchasing paper and food, and/or recycling batteries and extra plastics).
  • Contact us for template language.

checkboxStart using green cleaners.

  • Depending on your workplace, this can mean 3rd party certified, food safe, diluting properly, etc.
  • Find information and how-to here.
  • Or contact us for help!

checkboxStart composting, or donating edible food.

Already doing all of the above? Contact us to discuss other actions that qualify.

We’re here to help!

We’re happy to help by phone or email, or at your workplace!

we're here to help

We can help you:

  • Write a sustainability policy.
  • Find out which cleaners are really green.
  • How to work with your property manager or janitorial service.
  • Where to donate edible food.
  • How to start composting.


Eligibility: 
All business, non-profit & government workplaces within the City of Portland are eligible to participate. One location (site address) per raffle entry. Action must be newly implemented at entire worksite between the start and end of the raffle. One winner per gift certificate will be drawn at random from list of entrants who complete one action on or before the deadline. Winners will be contacted directly.