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Sustainability at Work

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Getting bottled water delivery? Consider the tap.

Save money and environmental impact by switching from water delivery to tap water.


bottled water dispenserWhen visiting businesses, our sustainability advisors sometimes see bottled water dispensers in break rooms and kitchens. Some offices choose to have water delivered out of concern for the quality of their tap water. Others like the ability to get hot water on demand. Some simply reply, “We’ve always had bottled water service.” Whatever the reason, it’s important to think about the impact and expense of your decision.

Environmental costs

There’s an environmental cost involved with manufacturing the bottles, as well as with transporting bottled water to and from your workplace on a regular basis. There’s also the expense of paying for a service twice: delivery of water through your taps and delivery of water by truck.  

Water quality

If you’re worried about the quality of your tap water, have it tested rather than make assumptions. Portland has some of the best water in the country, but the quality and taste can be affected by a number of factors. Portland’s Water Bureau will mail your business a free kit that lets you test for lead, copper and iron in your water. (Request the kit by calling 503-823-7525.) You’ll have results in 4-6 weeks to both inform your decision and share with staff. There are also private companies that, for a fee, will test for a broader range of contaminants. However, not all labs are accredited to test for all contaminants.  Details about accredited labs can be found at the Oregon Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program.

Options for filtered water

If you decide you still want or need filtered water, you have options other than having it delivered by truck. Consider installing a filter directly to your faucet or to the water line under your sink. If you prefer having a floor or counter-top dispenser, there are models that can be plumbed directly into your building’s water supply. In addition to filtering the water on site, many of these dispensers also have a hot-water feature. If you currently contract with a water delivery vendor, check with them about options for dispensers that use your tap water instead.  A number of companies offer both types of service.

Reusable metal water bottlesDitching disposables

Whatever solution you settle on, don’t forget to encourage employees to use durable bottles and glasses rather than paper cups. Regardless of whether you can reduce the energy impact of bottled water, you can reduce waste generated through disposable cups!

Going paperless takes the hassle out of hiring

An interview with Ashley Frias of Three Degrees restaurant.

When Portland’s Three Degrees restaurant moved their hiring process and employee resources online, they found that it made life easier for both staff and applicants. It also saved time, reduced printing costs and cut paper use by over 9,600 pages per year.

Interview with Ashley Frias, Three Degrees restaurant

Three Degrees restaurant is part of the RiverPlace Hotel, located on Portland’s west-side esplanade, overlooking the Willamette River. The restaurant and hotel are part of the Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants group.

Beet salad  Front of restaurant  Dinner

Why go paperless?

The initiative came from our parent company, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants. They wanted to move all of their properties – 65+ hotels and 75+ restaurants – to a paperless online employee system.

Kimpton already had sustainability initiatives in place for paper; they required all paper have 35% recycled content and that soy inks be used for printing. But they saw reducing paper as an opportunity to push their sustainability goals further. 

Paper reams

The amount of paper printed, per year, before the switch to an online employee system. 

What switched from hard copy to digital?

Job applications Applicants now apply through online forms. If an applicant is hired, their information is automatically transferred to their New Hire forms, and a manager helps them get set up in the Kimpton online employee system. In the old paper system, they had to fill out two sets of paper work – once when applying and again when they were hired.

New hire paperwork Personal information like social security and checking account numbers are now entered by the employee into a secure online system, rather than in paper form. Our New Employee Handbook – which is 72 pages long – used to be printed for each employee. Every time the handbook was updated, we’d give printed copies to all staff. Now the handbook is online, and staff can log on to the website to read the handbook and sign-off electronically that they’ve seen the information.

We've reduced our paper by 130 pages per new hire. That's about 800 pages per month.

Paychecks Unless an employee requests a paper paycheck, they're set up for automatic deposit and digital paystubs. Employees can also download W4s and W2s from the online employee system.

Employee benefits Each employee has their own log in to the Kimpton online employee system, where they can request time off and review their benefits and performance reviews.

Staff scheduling Scheduling for restaurant staff is now available online, making it more convenient for staff to check their work schedules.

Three Degrees bar menuMenus for staff review Whenever the menu changes, staff are provided detailed information about new items. This information used to be printed, but now PDF versions are emailed to staff.

How long did it take?

It took two years of planning and we made the switch in December (2014). It took time to learn the new system, but now everyone’s used to it, and it’s working really well.

Any tips or take-aways?

We have a computer onsite for employees who don't have easy online access outside of work. Managers help employees get set up in the online system and continue to be a resource if they need help.

The online system is available in Spanish and French, so employees can access information in whichever language they're most comfortable with. We're hoping to make more languages available in the future.

It's great to have everything in one place. Employees can access information on their own, rather than having to go through different people to track it down.

The online system automated many of the administrative processes related to hiring and HR, saving time as well as paper and printing costs.

Which software do you use?

We use Vantage through ADP.

 Log in page  Employee handbook

Employee login page and PDF of employee handbook, available through the online employee system.

What’s next?

Kimpton is looking into moving from a paper to a digital system for conveying restaurant orders to the kitchen staff.

Upcycled Bikes, Beautiful Creations

A conversation with Brian Echerer about his business, Velo Gioielli.

Brian holding one of his upcycled wheelsBrian Echerer is passionate about bikes. He has raced, toured and ridden the dirt all by bike. In 2010, Brian started Velo Gioielli to sell upcycled bike art and jewelry. Velo is French for bike, and Gioielli is Italian for jewelry. Brian got started making bike jewelry as a fundraiser for his bike club. Then his mom, who makes jewelry, helped him get started selling bike jewelry and bike themed art at Portland’s yearly bike craft show, Bike Craft, and Portland Saturday Market. 

Brian works closely with his customers to make what they want. Often they ask him to make something and it becomes the start of a great idea.

Business Support

Velo Gioielli has received a lot of small business support along the way from Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon (MESO), Portland State University and Saturday Market. Brian received an IDA savings grant from MESO to get a new welder and a branded canopy for his booth. MESO connected Brian with PSU Business School, where a group of students helped him build the art side of his business. The Saturday Market also provided Brian with an opportunity to incubate his business with other local craftspeople and customers. 

Upcycled from bicycles.Gears sorted in Brian's workspace

Brian upcycles used bike wheel rims, gears and chains into beautiful art. He’s developed great relationships with the local bike shops where he sources worn out and damaged parts, including Metropolis Cycle Repair, Upcycles Bicycle Shop and WTF Bikes. Brian collects, cleans, and sorts the parts by size and type, so they’re ready to be turned into art.

A lot of Brian’s pieces feature stained glass within the steel structures he creates. Since he only needs small pieces, he's often able to purchase "ends" and irregularly shaped glass from Portland stained glass manufacturers, which might otherwise be sent to the trash.

The future of upcycled bike art.

Brian is continuing to grow his business using reused materials. This year he’s attending the Recycled Arts Festival in Vancouver and Cracked Pots in Portland, where everything needs to be 75% recycled.  At Brian’s last event, he sold every piece of yard art he’s made, so he’s listening to his customers and making more. 

Brian's Corgi with garden art

Upcycled bags, empowered youth

A conversation with Rachel Hestmark about her business and youth entrepreneurship program.

Rachel Hestmark outside of her workspaceRachel Hestmark designs and sews upcycled bags from upholstery material that would otherwise be landfill-bound. She’s also passionate about fostering young entrepreneurs, through her newly created Ignite Youth program. 

Rachel’s fourteen years of experience making upcycled bags began when she made a “mom bag” shortly after her first son was born. At her mother-in-law’s urging, Rachel got a small upholstery machine and started making bags out of upholstery fabric and selling them at holiday fairs, bazaars and art walks. 

When Rachel realized that she wanted to make her bags full time, she enrolled in a three year program with Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon (MESO). MESO connected Rachel to a Portland State University class that helped her write a business plan. Rachel also took classes on marketing 101 and trademarks, and got a grant through MESO to buy equipment in her early stages. “Everything they offered, I took advantage of.”

Rachel holding a flower print bag Rachel holding a bag Rachel at her sewing machine

An acquaintance suggested Rachel contact the 42nd Street Business Association, who was looking to offer retail and workshop space to local small business. It was a great fit, and she’s using the space for her youth entrepreneurship program, and to get a feel for what kind of space she really needs for her business.

Rachel buys leftover upholstery fabric from Layton-Newport, a furniture manufacturer in St. Johns, and turns it into different styles of bags and pillows. Because the fabric “ends” are small, she often has only enough of a particular print to make a few bags. This means all of her products are limited edition; a quality her customers love.

As Rachel designs new bags, she keeps an eye out for other creative re-use opportunities, sourcing fabrics and other materials from SCRAP and the Rebuilding Center.

“People love kid’s art!”

Rachel is passionate about developing young entrepreneurs, and recently created Ignite Youth, a 12-week summer program. Rachel coaches the kids on how to package, price, market and sell the crafts they already make. The youth then sell their crafts at their own booth at Cully Farmer’s Market. She teaches the kids about profit and loss, and how to keep up their materials and inventory. At the Cully Farmer’s Market, the kids do their own selling; Rachel is there just to supervise. 

Youth BoothYouth selling crafts at the Cully Farmer’s Market Youth Booth. 

Rachel models the program after her relationship with her own kids. Rachel’s son and daughter both make crafts – her daughter makes a variety of things including wallets, bracelets and headbands – and Rachel has been helping them sell them for years.

“I will teach your children what I taught mine.”

Participating youth are welcome to work on their crafts in Rachel’s workshop on Tuesdays from 11-4. She and other parent volunteers supervise the kids while letting them be the drivers of their own creation. "It's a great way for kids to have something to do all summer, to stay out of trouble, and make a little money to buy the things that they want." Rachel also works with the kid’s parents so they have support at home, including introducing them to places like SCRAP, for affordable re-use craft supplies.

“It’s also about teaching kids how to feel comfortable with themselves and what they make.”

Youth entrepreneurship is about more than selling a product; it’s also about teaching kids how to feel comfortable with themselves and what they make. Rachel is working to get more youth selling their own crafts at the school bazaars that she frequently sells her own goods at. She hopes this will be contagious and that those participating will “start infecting their friends with the possibilities of their own success.” Rachel is instilling in these kids that you “do a good job, present well, and people will appreciate your work.”

Follow @hestmarkdesigns on twitter and visit her Facebook page for more info about Hestmark Designs and Ignite Youth.