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Workplace silent auctions are a great way to raise money for a local non-profit and get sustainable gifts for friends and family.
How does this sound for your holiday shopping experience?
You can make this happen by organizing a workplace silent auction, where employees auction off their talents – baking, gardening, sailing – and bring in items they no longer use, but others would like.
It’s fun! You get to learn about, and benefit from, your coworkers’ talents: homemade baked goods, hand-knitted hats, home-brewed beer.
Plus, people love to compete over a coveted item: Usually the most ridiculous white elephant, like a one-hour video of a spinning pizza, or an adult-sized chicken costume.
It’s great place to shop for holiday gifts. Instead of the same old gift cards, socks and scented candles, get unique gifts like tickets to your friends and family members' favorite sports team, or music show, or kid-friendly activity like OMSI or the zoo. Or how about a gift of an expert-led mushroom hunting trip, cooking class, sailing adventure on the Willamette, or weekend at a beach cabin?
It feels good to give back to your community. The proceeds from the auction go directly to a local non-profit: The organizing committee can choose one, or have staff submit suggestions and then vote to pick the final one (or two) non-profits.
Our office has organized a silent auction for the past ten years and has raised over $30,000 for local non-profits. It’s also something people look forward to every year – a little friendly competition, especially over a terribly excellent white elephant gift, can be great for workplace camaraderie.
Be specific about what people should donate. Ask staff to bring in used (but still usable) items, or “gifts of experience.” Emphasize that it’s a “clean out your closet” event, and staff should not buy new items for the event.
Clean out your closet items
Timeline and tasks
Early December is a good time to hold the auction, since many people are in “gift-buying” mode. Does your workplace have a winter party? If it’s early enough in December, that’s a great time.
Start soliciting re-used items and “gifts of experience” from staff a month or two before the auction (October or November if you’re aiming for a December event).
Choose the organization the auction is raising money for. Register the auction on the organization’s website or contact them to let them know about event.
Start putting items on display one week or more before the auction day.
Remind people the week or day before the auction to bring cash and checks. Designate a volunteer to follow up with any people that haven’t collected their items or paid for them (people may not realize they were the highest bid). Collect funds immediately after the auction ends.
Contact the organization to come retrieve funds, or drop off at their office.
If you collect non-curbside plastics at work or home, Portland area recycling depots are no longer accepting these plastics, due to changes in the recycling market.
Do you collect non-curbside plastics to drop off at a local recycling depot? Commonly collected non-curbside plastics include plastic bags, take-out containers, and other plastics that can’t go into your regular work or home curbside mixed recycling bin.
If you collect these items at work or at home, please be aware that many recycling drop-off facilities have suspended their acceptance of these plastics:
Metro, the Portland area’s regional government, is tracking the issue. Read more about the change on Metro’s website. To get the most up-to-date information on where non-curbside plastics are being accepted, use Metro’s Find a recycler online database or call their Recycling Information Hotline at 503-234-3000.
For plastic bags specifically, you can also use this online tool to look up location drop-off options. For grocery store locations, it's best to call the individual location to confirm before making a special trip.
Why the change? Changes to global recycling markets are making it too difficult for local recycling depots to sell these types of plastics. The countries that typically accept non-curbside plastics for manufacturing new products have stopped buying material at this time.
Is this temporary or permanent? It is currently unknown when, or whether, the markets will improve for these plastics.
What now? For plastics that are not currently being accepted anywhere, you should put them in the garbage. You could also store them and check back with Find a recycler to see if anything changes in the future, but we don’t currently know when, or if, this will change.
These changes do not impact your work or home curbside mixed recycling.
Recycling is a great way to reduce the energy and natural resources needed to make products. However, you can save even more energy and natural resources by reducing the amount of plastics and other “stuff” you use.
This October’s EcoChallenge is a two-week-long fun, free motivator for you and coworkers to try a new green practice.
This year’s EcoChallenge starts on October 11 and ends on October 25.
Create a team – even if it’s just two people – and register. It’s free (and fun)!
Pick an action from a variety of categories — waste, food, energy, transportation, community and more — or make up your own.
Actions range from easy, like using a reusable coffee mug or taking shorter showers, to more challenging, like taking steps to insulate your home or install a rain garden in your yard.
A win for you: There are some great giveaways and grand prizes to reward you and your teammates for taking the challenge. But the long-term reward is feeling good about doing the thing you always-meant-to-do-but-never-got-around-to — that, after two weeks of doing, has become second nature!
A win for your workplace: This friendly peer-to-peer competition builds enthusiasm for workplace sustainability and is a good way to kick start or strengthen sustainability initiatives.
A win for your community and the planet: The daily actions we take can feel small, but they add up to a much larger collective impact. Here’s the impact EcoChallenge participants have had over the past three years:
Set up a workplace team
Set up a (friendly) competition
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.
About NWEI, the organization behind EcoChallenge
Based in Portland, Oregon, Northwest Earth Institute (NWEI) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire people to take responsibility for Earth. They believe the solution to many of Earth’s biggest challenges lies in the power of collective change. The EcoChallenge is an annual event to help people kick-start change and make smalls steps that lead to big changes for our planet.
Reduce waste and save money by switching from single-use items to bulk.
Next time you grab coffee or tea from your breakroom or kitchen, take a look at your kitchen supplies with fresh eyes. You may have overlooked a great opportunity to reduce waste and expense without sacrificing any perks.
First, consider your coffee and tea set up. Assuming you haven’t done so already, stop providing single-serve creamers and sweeteners in packets. Buy cream, sugar and other sweeteners in bulk.
If you contract for all of this through a beverage service, ask them to switch to bulk items on your next order. If your coffee and tea is provided in single-serve packaging, don’t forget to explore opportunities for providing them in bulk, too.
If you’ve already made the switch to bulk items, there are other opportunities for you to reduce waste. Start by replacing single-use coffee stirrers with reusable spoons. Even if your office doesn’t have a dishwasher, cleaning a cupful of dirty spoons each day doesn’t take much time, and thrift stores are a great source for affordable utensils and other kitchen supplies.
If you are fortunate enough to have a dishwasher at work (either a machine or willing coworkers), you can take a big step forward by replacing all paper plates, cups, bowls, and plastic utensils with durable dishware. Get started by asking employees to donate unwanted plates, mugs, glasses, and bowls from their personal kitchens to the work kitchen. Then fill in the missing pieces at the thrift store. Of course, if it’s important to your organization’s image that you buy new matching plates and silverware, you’ll still save resources over the long run. However, do try the reuse route first if your organization is willing.
Paper towels are often the biggest source of paper waste in large offices. Some workplaces have made a switch to cloth kitchen towels and napkins. For this, you’ll need a collection basket or box for the dirty linens and a volunteer strategy to ensure linens are washed and returned as needed. Read about a Portland office that made the switch.
If that seems too much right now, start by encouraging everyone to bring in and use their own cloth napkins. Even if only a percentage of employees embrace this approach, it’s a start and gives everyone an opportunity to make a change on their own.
Rule of thumb #1: Less is more.
Generally speaking, the less “stuff” you’re disposing of (in trash, recycling or compost), the better: Just think about all the energy, water, resources, and transportation that go into making and delivering something that gets used once and then tossed. Even if an item can be recycled or composted, it’s still better to reduce waste first.
Rule of thumb #2: “Recyclable” and “Compostable” labels don’t always mean it should be recycled or composted.
“Recyclable” and “compostable” labels are not regulated. What’s allowed in recycling and compost differs by geographic area, depending on a variety of considerations including local processing facilities, the environmental value of recycling a particular material, and the market for reusing the recycled materials.
Want more ideas for bulking up your office kitchen? See what we’ve done at our office.
And check out:
Save money and water by fixing leaky toilets or upgrading to a water-efficient one.
[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.
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 WaterSense labeled high-efficiency model. Rebates apply to tank-style toilets or urinals and flushometer-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).
Businesses pay, on average, 2 cents per gallon for water (for the fresh water coming in, plus processing the waste water that goes down the drain).
A toilet that leaks 500 gallons per day is very common, and it can be even more!
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