Skip to Main Content View Text-Only

Sustainability at Work

Providing free tools and expertise to achieve your goals

Phone: 503-823-7037


EcoChallenge 2016: Get your co-workers excited about sustainability

This October’s EcoChallenge is a fun, free tool to get your coworkers to try a new green practice.


2016 EcoChallenge Details

When: October 14-28
What: Choose a new sustainable action to take, at home or at work, for two weeks.
How: Create a team – even if it’s just two people – and register. Bonus: it’s free!
Why: Build team spirit and get into new (good) habits.

Why join the Challenge?

The Northwest Earth Institute’s annual EcoChallenge is a great way to engage your workplace around sustainability – it’s no wonder over 15,000 people and businesses have taken the challenge!

This friendly peer-to-peer competition builds enthusiasm for workplace sustainability and is a good way to kickstart or strengthen sustainability initiatives.

What does the Challenge involve?

You choose one action to reduce your impact and stick with it for two weeks. The challenge action(s) people choose can take place outside of work and still contribute to your workplace team.

You pick your challenge and set a goal that stretches your comfort zone and makes a difference for you, your community and the planet. Common wisdom says it takes two weeks to change a habit: if you can stick with a new behavior for 14 days in a row, you’re a lot more likely to keep it up forever.

EcoChallengers share their progress and earn points for taking action. The combination of collective inspiration, camaraderie and friendly competition makes change a little easier and a lot more fun. 

See what other businesses have taken on the challenge!

EcoChallenge actions

What are the challenge actions?

There are many different actions to choose from across six categories: waste, transportation, energy, water, food, community, nature and simplicity – or create your own action.

A few example actions include: use a reusable coffee mug, take a short (5-minute) shower, volunteer in the community, eat meatless meals, or turn down your thermostat. More challenging actions include: Reduce clutter in your home and donate unwanted goods, research or take steps to insulate your home or upgrade to an electric car, or install a rain garden in your yard.

“It’s amazing how all of us changing a minor habit can have such a huge impact on our environment in so many different ways.”
– EcoChallenge Participant

How to participate

1. Register for the EcoChallenge

2. Connect with your team. To start your workplace team, select “start a team” and NWEI will help you invite coworkers to join (find tips for being a Team Captain). Or, select “join a team” to join an existing team. *If your workplace doesn’t have a team, you can join the Sustainability at Work Team.

3. Choose your EcoChallenge action(s).

4. Make a plan to achieve your EcoChallenge. Think through what you’ll need to take your new action. If you need to prepare anything, get it ready now so it’s easy from day one!

5. Share your participation far and wide. Let family, friends, and coworkers know what you’re doing and invite them to join!

6. On October 14, start working on your challenge goals and log in daily to chart your progress.

Did you know you can compete against another team? Team captains can challenge another team, and the team with the greatest number of EcoChallenge points wins. Do you share a building with other businesses? Get to know your neighbors through some friendly competition.

How to engage your co-workers

Take the lead in creating a workplace team, and then follow these helpful tips to get your co-workers involved. Download printable posters and other promotional materials to help get the word out.

Relive that first-day-of-school excitement

Find your people at GoGreen and get in the team spirit with EcoChallenge.

Remember when you were excited for the first day of school? This October offers two ways to experience it again.

Find your people

GoGreen speakers

Do you remember when you finally found "your people?" Whether they were the nerds or the jocks, the socialites or the rebels, they understood you, you understood them, and it felt good.

If you're reading this, you probably want to do good in your work—whether that’s getting your coworkers to recycle, giving back to the community, or solving global challenges. Sometimes it may feel like you're the only one who cares. But you're not alone! You just have to find your people.

And one of the best places find your people is at the GoGreen Conference on October 5. You'll meet others who care about doing good at work—some who are just starting, and others who have been at it for a while and are doing really impressive things (kind of like that cool kid you always looked up to).

So take a look at this year's conference program and get 30 percent off your ticket with code SAW.

Fresh start, big goals

EcoChallenge actions

If you played sports in school, or were on the debate team, or in the school play, you know how it feels to start the new year fresh, feeling like you have another chance to work hard and reach your goals.

Relive that feeling with this October's EcoChallenge. It's meant to help you pick a new green habit—something you've probably felt like you should do, like taking shorter showers or biking to work, but haven't gotten around to yet—and cheerlead you through two weeks of doing it.

You can go it alone, but it's even better to do as a team. Much like the team activities of your youth, it's more fun to do things together, and it's nice to have others pushing you to do your best.

Start building your team now, at work, or with family or friends.

Team fight song optional (but recommended).

Don't flush your Franklins down the toilet

Save money and water by fixing leaky toilets or upgrading to a water-efficient one

A leaky toilet can cost $.

Is your toilet running?

[No, this is not a prank call.]

You could be losing $300 a month* in unnecessary water costs if your toilet’s running.

The good news is, you can often fix a toilet leak yourself with a little elbow grease and a low-cost replacement part.

Use this short, easy-to-follow guide to find and fix a toilet leak.

Replacing an old toilet?  

Choose a water-efficient toilet and get $50 per toilet!

The Portland Water Bureau is currently offering a $50 rebate for replacing an old toilet or urinal with a high-efficiency model. Rebates apply to tank style toilets or urinals and flushometer (commercial) style toilets.

Have more than one old or broken toilet? Businesses are allowed rebates for up to twenty toilets.

Before purchasing toilets, read the full rebate details, including eligibility requirements and steps to obtain your rebate(s).

*$300 a month from one running toilet?! Yes, it’s hard to believe. Here's the math:

2 cents per gallon is what businesses pay, on average, for water (for the fresh water coming in, plus processing the waste water that goes down the drain).

500 gallons per day is how much water a running toilet can use.

10 dollars per day is how much you’re paying for a running toilet (2 cents x 500 gallons per day).

$10 per day x 30 days = $300 per month

Can I recycle this?

Find out which plastics can go in your recycling bin, and which can’t.

You’re holding a plastic cup, hovering over the recycling bin, but doubting yourself. Does it go in recycling? Or maybe trash? 

Plastics are especially confusing when it comes to recycling. Here’s a run-down of what goes where and why:

Can I recycle these?
Plastic lids, cups, containers, straw and utensils


These plastics should not go in your regular recycling container.Plastics not allowed in city-wide recycling system

At work, and at home, the only plastics you should put in your recycling container are bottles, tubs (6oz or larger), buckets and jugs.
Plastics allowed in city-wide recycling system


Sometimes it’s because the items are too small (think lids), making them too hard to sort out from paper, cardboard and other recyclables.

Other times it’s because the global market for a particular type of plastic changes too frequently (to-go containers, for example). Recycling only works if it makes financial sense for companies to buy the used plastics to turn into new plastics.

What about the numbers on the bottom of plastics?

1-7 Recycling number labels for plastics

Ignore the numbers. The numbers on the bottom of plastics refers to the materials they are made from and play no role in what is recyclable in Portland

Just think size and shape. The allowed plastics – bottles, tubs, buckets and jugs – are the right shapes to get successfully sorted, and they’re the types of plastic that recycling companies want to buy.

Is there any way to recycle these extra plastics?

Yes. Even though you can’t put these items in your mixed recycling, they can still be collected separately and dropped off at many places around town. Find the closest drop-off location to you by using Metro’s Find a Recycler website, or calling their hotline: 503-234-3000.

To set up extra plastics recycling at work, check out our helpful guide.

What about plastics labeled “compostable” or “biodegradable?”

Never put plastics labeled “compostable” or “biodegradable” into any recycling container. These “plastics” are made to break down quickly and will contaminate the plastics recycling process and reduce the quality of goods produced from the recycled materials.
"compostable" & biodegradable plastics

Go the extra recycling mile: Leave no plastic behind

How to set up “extra plastics” recycling at your workplace.]

If your workplace is already doing a good job recycling, and you want to up your recycling game, consider collecting extra plastics for recycling. What are “extra plastics?” They’re plastics that can't go in your regular recycling.

Here’s how to set up an extra plastics recycling collection program at your workplace:

1. Determine what items you want to collect

Pay attention to the “extra” plastics that you see thrown away at your workplace (or misplaced in regular recycling). Plastic to-go food containers, cold drink cups and lids from soda bottles and yogurt are commonly found in offices. For plastic bags, bubble wrap and shrink wrap, you’ll need to set up a separate container.

Plastic lids, cups, to-go containers and utensils

2. Choose a collection area

The kitchen (or very nearby) is often the most convenient, but a storage room or extra large hallway could work, too.

3. Set up collection containers

These can be as simple as a few boxes or bags, or as formal as custom cabinets. For light-weight but bulky plastic items, like to-go containers, we’ve found these containers work well with large clear bags. For small items, like lids, a small bag or sturdy box or bucket is all that’s needed.

4. Label the containers

Use these posters to make it clear what plastics go in the containers: 
Click to download Extra Plastics poster Click to download Plastic Bag recycling poster Click to download Garbage poster
Click on poster images to download printable PDFs.

We recommend using this garbage poster, which has the extra plastics removed to avoid confusion.

5. Set up a drop-off or pick-up system

Decide who will take items to a recycling facility when the collection containers are full.

Look first to your green team or like-minded colleagues. If you have some colleagues who drive to work, one of them may already be commuting near a drop-off location. They might not mind making a delivery now and then. There are many drop-off locations around Portland: find the closest one to you by using Metro’s Find a Recycler website or calling their hotline: 503-234-3000.

If you work in or near downtown Portland, another option is B-Line bicycle delivery service. They will pick up and deliver your extra recyclables for a small charge.

6. Let everyone know!

Once your system is in place, get the word out. Tell your staff what additional items are now being collected and where the containers are located. Be sure to explain any prep that needs to happen (no food residue, “nest” containers to minimize space needed, etc.) and who to talk to if they have any questions. Some businesses encourage staff to bring in these plastics from home as well.