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Sustainability at Work

Providing free tools and expertise to achieve your goals

Phone: 503-823-7037

Email: sustainabilityatwork@portlandoregon.gov

Get a gold star from your boss

Get certified by May, and your business's name will be in our full-page WW promotion in June.

WW ad 2016

Get your workplace certified by May, and we’ll print your company’s name in a full-page promotion in Willamette Week.

Your company gets good PR, and you get credit for it. Win win.

What’s it cost?

It’s free!

But it will take some sweat equity — you’ll have to make sure your workplace has its operations in order:

  • Recycling? Check.
  • Water faucet aerators? Check.
  • Computers set to auto-sleep mode? Check.

Get started!

Download the certification application that best fits your organization.

Office application     Restaurant application   

 Retail application     Grocery application

Want some help?

We can check off what’s already done, and help you tackle what’s left. We’re here to answer questions, troubleshoot challenges, and cheer you on until you’ve got it in the bag. Give us a call (503-823-7037) or email.

There are also three levels — certified, silver and gold — so you don’t have to do it all right off the bat.

Trim your waste, no gym required

Three ways to reduce waste in your workplace.

It's the new year, and time to get your workplace in shape! Set some waste-trimming goals for 2017:

1. Cut down on paper towel use

Cut down on paper towels

Many workplace trash cans are filled with paper towels, especially in the restroom 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.

2. 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 great for you (or the environment).

Thankfully, there are a lot of things you can do to avoid 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:

3. 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.

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.

How to recycle old computers, phones and other gadgets

How, where and why to recycle electronics.

There’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 workplacesmall 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. Free Geek is a great local option, just be sure to call in advance 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. Find the nearest drop-off recycling locations through Metro's Find a Recycler or Oregon E-cycles.

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

These must be recycled separately:

To recycle like a pro, here's what you need to know

What to keep out of your recycling bin, where your recycling goes after it gets picked up, and how to reuse before recycling.

7 things to keep out of your recycling bin

  1. Plastic bags
  2. Plastic lids
  3. Plastic clamshells
  4. Frozen and refrigerated food boxes
  5. Paper cups
  6. Pizza boxes
  7. Batteries, of any kind

Why shouldn’t these go in? Find out.

Bottom line: When in doubt, keep it out. Recycling right is more important than recycling more, because putting the wrong thing in the bin (like plastic bags) can cause big problems (like jamming the machines that sort recycling).

A behind-the-scenes look at where your recycling goes

Once your recycling leaves your work or home bin, that jumble of paper, metal and plastic, all has to be sorted. The sorting involves conveyor belts, blowing air, giant magnets, and sorting by hand. See it here:

Vinod Singh explains how recyclables are sorted at Hillsboro's Far West Recycling, and where they go from there.

Once the recycling is sorted into material type – paper, cardboard, metal, etc. – then it’s sold to buyers in the region and around the world to be made into new products.

Read more.

Before recycling, can any items be reused?

We often focus on recycling, yet it’s actually at the bottom of the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle hierarchy.

If you want to save energy, water and resources, the best thing you can do is reduce the items you consume (products, packaging) and then reuse the items as many times as possible.

Learn more and then check out Portland’s many free and low-cost reuse, swap, repair and share organizations.

Thanks to our program partner, Metro, who produced the articles and videos referenced here.

What to do with an old CFL? Recycle it (safely)

Tips for recycling old CFL bulbs

cartoon fluorescent lightsFluorescent lights are energy efficient and long-lasting, but they also contain mercury and lead, so they should be handled cautiously and disposed of safely.

When your fluorescent light bulbs flicker and fade, recycling them properly keeps you safe, and allows most of the glass, metal and mercury to be reused.

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 intact. Broken bulbs release hazardous waste and require special attention.
  3. Properly recycle used bulbs within one year.

Where to recycle bulbs

Contact your property manager or garbage company to see if they can recycle fluorescent bulbs for you.

Use Metro's Find a Recycler search tool to find a nearby facility that collects and recycles fluorescent bulbs. 

 How to start recycling fluorescent light bulbs

  1. Set up a bulb collection area:CFL 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.

And what about LED bulbs?

If you’re looking for a replacement bulb, LEDs are even more efficient and longer-lasting than CFLs.

When an LED bulb burns out, it’s safe to throw it in the garbage.* Or, you can collect LEDs and find a recycler who can recycle them. (They can have quite a bit of nickel, which makes them worth recycling.) As with any bulb, they should NOT be put in with your mixed or glass recycling.

*Colored LEDs (red, blue, etc.) can contain lead and arsenic, so should be disposed of through a recycler that can process them safely, rather than thrown in the trash.