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The City of Portland, Oregon

Sustainability at Work

Providing free tools and expertise to achieve your goals

Phone: 503-823-7037


How one company is curbing coffee cup waste

Nossa Familia Coffee is encouraging customers to reduce waste by choosing reusable coffee cups.

Three people clinking reusable coffee mugs

Gold certified Nossa Familia Coffee, a local roaster with three Portland cafes, takes sustainability seriously. They’ve looked for ways to make each step of the coffee growing, roasting, and serving process more sustainable, including energy-efficient roasting, purchasing 100% renewable energy, and reducing packaging wherever possible.

Earlier this year, they tackled disposable coffee cup waste, encouraging customers to use washable, reusable mugs rather than throw-away cups. Here’s how they did it:

Shifting the default away from throw-away

On Earth Day 2019, they changed their pricing based on the type of cup customers choose:

  • To-stay mugs: no charge
  • Bring-your-own mug: 25-cent discount
  • Disposable cup, lid, sleeve, etc.: 25-cent charge

They implemented this change at all three of their cafes after a test run at their SE Division cafe showed a substantial increase in the number of customers choosing “for here” cups or bringing their own mugs for coffee to go.

Lending a hand…or a cup

They've also set up a cup “lending library,” where customers who forgot a travel mug can grab a clean mug, and people who have extra mugs can donate them for others to use.

 Nossa Familia Coffee's sign for Little Free Cup Library Reusable cup lending library

Reducing disposable coffee cups is part of Nossa Familia's larger sustainability program. Learn more about their efforts to reduce waste and their environmental footprint company-wide at

What YOU can do to reduce coffee cup waste

If your office provides disposable cups, dishware or utensils, set up reusable dishware in your kitchen or break room. If you don’t have funds to buy mugs, host an ugly mug contest, encouraging people to bring in old mugs from home or from thrift shops.

Do staff go out for coffee a lot? Set up travel mugs by the door so they’re hard to miss and easy to grab.

Go big with borrowing

Did you know that Portland has free lending libraries for home and garden tools and cooking tools? You can also swap kids' toys in Woodlawn and St. Johns. Or check-out all sorts of things at the Library of Things in Beaverton or Hillsboro.

Find more ideas and resources for borrowing, reuse, repair and shopping smart on the Resourceful PDX blog, map and events calendar.


Learn more

Why "tanglers" should never go in your recycling bin

Plastic bags, rope, cords and clothing all wreak havoc at the recycling facility.

What are “tanglers”?

Plastic bags, rope, electrical cords, string lights and clothing are all examples of “tanglers” – long or stretchy items that get tangled up in the gears of the machinery that sorts recyclables.

Why are they a menace to recyclers?

When plastic bags and other items get tangled in the machinery, staff must cut them off the gears, one-by-one. This is dangerous for staff and shuts down the entire facility, making it slower and more expensive to sort recyclables and get them ready for the next leg in their journey to becoming new products.

This one-and-a-half-minute video shows what happens when tanglers go into recycling:

Thanks to Baltimore County Department of Public Works for the 'Tangled Up!' video.

What can you do?

Follow Portland’s recycling guidelines, which don’t allow plastic bags, rope, cords, or clothing. Label your workplace recycling bins with free posters so coworkers know what can, and cannot, go into recycling.

There are often drop-off options for recycling or donating plastic bags, electrical cords and string lights, and clothing. Use Metro’s Find a Recycler website or call their hotline at 503-234-3000. Metro's hotline is staffed six days a week and they can tell you the closest drop-off locations to your home or work.

If there aren’t any recycling options, or you aren’t able to drop them off for recycling or donation, they should go in the trash.

Thank you for recycling right!

Learn more

3 tips to bring bike riders to your business

Set up free bike racks and promote your bike friendly offerings.

attract cyclists to your business

The sun’s out and so are the cyclists! Here are some ways you can bring more bike riders to your business.

Bike racks

Bike racks attract riders’ attention. Even if their destination is further down the street, if you’ve got the parking spot, they’ll spend a few moments in front of your business both when they arrive and when they leave. 

Did you know the City of Portland will install bike racks in front of your business for free? Request a rack. Or go big and request a multi-rack bike corral!

You can also get creative and have a custom art rack created that accentuates your business. We’ve seen all kinds of great custom racks around town: giant eyeglasses, a pink doughnut, a Fremont Bridge replica, and an enormous baking whisk.

Be a Bike Friendly Business

If you run a retail store, restaurant, coffee shop or bar, show that you welcome bicyclists through Travel Portland’s Bike Friendly Business program.

The program is free, and the signs to post in front of your business start at only $26. Check it out.

Offer perks and discounts

From dentists to physical therapists, we’ve see Portland businesses offer discounts for customers who arrive by bike. Even a small perk can get a customer’s attention and build loyalty to your business.

Highlights from regional green business gathering

Businesses from Portland and surrounding areas gathered to discuss workplace sustainability on February 27, 2019.

Businesses from around the Portland metro area gathered to discuss workplace sustainability challenges and successes on February 27, 2019.

Tables filled with attendees listening to speakers

Business highlights

Widmer straws upon request signWidmer Brothers Brewing shared their success in reducing plastic straws:

  • First business to #DitchtheStraw with Surfrider’s Portland Chapter.
  • Avoided using 1,883 straws in the first month.
  • Saved money by using less straws.
  • Supported the city-wide ordinance to reduce single-use plastics.

Crave Catering explained the many ways they prevent food waste:

  • Staff consistently monitor food use to minimize waste.
  • Around 200 pounds of food are donated to Union Gospel Mission per week.
  • Vegetable scraps become chicken feed and meat scraps are commercially composted.

Laughing Planet shared how small changes have reduced waste and cut costs:

  • Serving dine-in burritos without foil ("naked burritos") has saved 4,900 feet of foil.
  • Improving recycling cut their trash by two bags a day.
  • Turning off lights at night led to substantial utility bill savings.

Attendees talking with one anotherDelta AV and The Partner's Group offered tips for workplace sustainability efforts:

  • Show how sustainability can save costs and attract customers.
  • Be vocal about your interest in sustainability and inspire others in your organization to follow their passion.
  • Start small and get help from local green business programs.
  • Connect with other green businesses to get ideas and inspiration.

Attendees share good ideas

We asked attendees to share the best ideas they'd heard in conversations throughout the event, and here's what they shared:

  • Collecting deposit bottles for donation can motivate staff to recycle.
  • Refocus a green team's efforts by asking staff for their ideas, and then having them lead a project team. 
  • A business located near Fred Meyer discovered they could bring their plastic pallet wrap to the store to be taken turned into composite decking by local manufacturer, Trex.
  • Spin Laundry Lounge pairs up left-behind socks to donate to shelters in Portland.

Behind-the-scenes tour

The Oregon Convention Center has many award-winning sustainability efforts including:

  • 6,500 solar panels, providing 25% of the facility's energy needs.
  • Rain gardens that filter water from 5.5 acres of roof area.
  • Advanced recycling and reuse sorting systems.

Rain garden at Oregon Convention Center
Water (frozen at the time of photo!) flows into one of Oregon Convention Center's large rain gardens.

Recycling sign with attached examples of recyclable items 
Recycling signs show examples of items that can go in recycling.

Learn more

Read more about the event in an article from the Gresham Outlook.

Get help with your workplace sustainability efforts: Contact us at 503-823-7037 or


Can I recycle this? (Plastics edition)

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

No. 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 (like 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. 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 are used by manufacturers to mark what the product is made of. They are not indicators of whether or not a plastic item is recyclable in Portland.

It's about 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.

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. (Also never put them in compost, at home or at work. They should go in the trash.)
"compostable" & biodegradable plastics

Order free posters for your workplace that show what goes into recycling, compost and trash.