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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

Email: sustainabilityatwork@portlandoregon.gov

Certified businesses shine in Willamette Week

The November 6, 2019 issue of Willamette Week highlights Sustainability at Work certified businesses.

Congratulations certified businesses!

We’re happy to recognize Sustainability at Work certified businesses in this week’s Willamette Week.

Grab a copy of the November 6 issue and flip to the middle of the paper to see two pages of Portland organizations proudly walking the sustainability talk.

Thank you to certified businesses for demonstrating a commitment to climate action through efforts in recycling and compost, energy and water efficiencies, sustainable transportation and community engagement.

Willamette Week 2-page ad listing all certified businessesView full-size pdf. *All businesses certified before October 1, 2019 are included in the ad. Those certified more recently can be found in the Green Business Directory.

Not yet certified?

It’s free! But it will take some sweat equity — you’ll have to make sure your workplace has its sustainable operations in order.

Download the certification application that best fits your organization and contact us if you have questions: 503-823-7037 or sustainabilityatwork@portlandoregon.gov.

Portland's new "by-request" policy reduces plastic waste

Gone are the days when your lunch order came with a side of plastic: straws, cutlery and condiment packets.

Next time you order food to-go, you may be asked, “Do you need a straw? Or a fork?”  

You’re being asked instead of automatically handed these items because of the City of Portland's new “by-request” policy

As of October 1, businesses in Portland cannot automatically include plastic straws, stirrers, utensils or individually packaged condiments with your food or drink order. These items can only be provided by request.

Available by request

The goal: Reduce plastic waste

Straws and other single-use plastic items are littering our streets, polluting waterways, and trashing our recycling and compost.

By switching the default to “ask before providing,” customers don’t end up with disposables they didn’t want, businesses save money, and less energy and resources—including fossil fuels—are needed to make things that are only used once.

Many Portland restaurants have already made changes to reduce waste by:

  • Making straws available only by request.
  • Switching from disposable to reusable cutlery and dishware.
  • Replacing individually-packaged condiments with bulk dispensers.

The City’s policy follows their lead, builds on Portland's existing single-use plastic bag and Styrofoam bans, and joins cities and countries around the world in supporting residents’ desire to reduce plastic waste. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What about “compostable” plastics? There is no exception for plastic items labeled “compostable,” “biodegradable” or “made from plants.” These items cannot be composted in Portland (read why). Additionally, they can have negative environmental impacts equal to or greater than conventional plastics and are unlikely to reduce plastic pollution in the ocean [1, 2].

Why by-request instead of a ban? Some people with disabilities find it difficult or impossible to drink without a straw, and plastic straws meet their needs better than paper or metal straws. Additionally, by resetting the default from automatically providing single-use items to giving customers a choice, the intent is to reduce all types of single-use waste.

Want to do more? Choose to reuse

Reducing single-use items is great but avoiding them altogether is even better. Using “real” cutlery, cups and dishware is the greenest option. Here’s what you can do: 

  • Bring your own: Make or buy a “go-kit” of lightweight bamboo or metal cutlery to keep in your bag, car, or desk. 
  • Encourage restaurants and cafes to provide real cutlery and dishware for dine-in customers. (And thank those that already are.)

Learn more

Find answers to frequently asked questions and more at www.portlandoregon.gov/bps/reduceplastic. Businesses serving food and beverages can download signs to notify customers of changes.

References:

  1. Packaging Material Attributes, Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality
  2. Biodegradable Plastics and Marine Litter. Misconceptions, concerns and impacts on marine environments, United Nations Environment Programme

Green plates cut waste at PDX

The Portland International Airport is expanding their reusable plate program after seeing great results from the pilot.

PDX Green Plate Pilot results

Headed to the airport? Look for the green plates

Starting later this month, the airport is expanding their Green Plate Program, which encourages travelers and airport staff to use reusable plates and cutlery instead of throw-away to-go containers.

Making this switch makes a big difference. When PDX piloted the Green Plate Program in 2017, they cut packaging waste by 73%! The expanded program will offer a rainbow of real plates from pre-security restaurants and food carts. Read the full story.

Follow their lead

Find out how to replace throw-away dishware with the real stuff in your office or restaurant.

How (and why) to properly recycle your old electronics

Learn how to recycle computers, TVs, printers, keyboards and mice, for free!

Over the last ten years Oregonians have recycled 250 million pounds of electronics through the Oregon E-Cycles program.

Recycling your old electronics is...

Good for the environment: Electronics are made with valuable materials that can be recycled into new products. The U.S. EPA estimates that recycling one million computers prevents the release of greenhouse gases equivalent to the annual emissions of over 17,000 cars.

Good for our health: Electronics contain toxic materials such as lead, cadmium and mercury: Keeping these toxics out of the environment protects our health. According to the U.S. EPA, 40 percent of lead and 70 percent of other toxics found in landfills — including mercury, cadmium and polybrominated flame retardants — are from electronics.

Required: Oregonians are prohibited by law from throwing away computers, monitors or TVs in the trash.

How to recycle computers, TVs and more for free

Oregon E-Cycles provides free recycling of computers (desktops, laptops and tablets), monitors, TVs, printers and peripherals (keyboards and mice). 

Oregon E-Cycles

Workplaces with more than 10 employees may dispose of up to seven computers, monitors or TVs at one time, but collection sites may charge for additional items. Small businesses and nonprofits with 10 or fewer employees may take more than seven (this is also true for individuals and households).

Find your nearest E-Cycles drop-off location. Questions? Check out the E-Cycles FAQs.

old cell phonesRecycling other electronics

Oregon E-Cycles does not currently provide free recycling of cell phones, speakers, scanners, game consoles or other types of electronics or appliances — however, there are local recycling drop-off facilities that do accept these items.

Call Metro’s Find a Recycler hotline (503-234-3000) or use their online search tool. They can tell you the most convenient drop-off locations to your home or work.

Before you recycle, can you donate and reuse?

If you have still usable computers, laptops or tablets, bring them to Free Geek, where they’ll be refurbished and donated to folks who don’t have access to new computers.

Free Geek also accepts electronics for recycling, so if you bring things they don’t want, they can still take them off your hands.

Learn more

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 www.nossacoffee.com/sustainability.

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