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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


Paper 101: Pushing the envelope on Reduce, Reuse, Recycle


This should be your first focus because it will save you the most money. 

  • Set defaults on your printers and computers for two-sided printing. Folks that absolutely must print single-sided can learn to override the default when necessary.
  • Learn about your printer’s features like “mailbox” and “ID” printing. They will help minimize forgotten and/or repeated print jobs. Check your manual or call your copier rep/technician if you need help with this.

Encourage thinking beyond printing/copying:

  • Switch to electronic invoicing, accounting and receipts. 
  • Consider direct deposit paychecks. (Give employees the option to print their own stub if they want one.) 
  • Set-up an electronic archive process.   


People often forget this step before they recycle their paper.

  • Collect and reuse paper: Keep a marked tray or small box on the counter, near the printer, to collect unwanted single-sided print jobs. People can dip into the stash for scratch paper, or if you build up enough, you can create notepads. 
  • Give it to the kids: If your office prints large, single-side maps, architectural drawings, advertising, etc., donate the single-sided drafts to a local school. Kids will use the blank side for drawing and the printed side for arts and crafts. (They’ll also enjoy getting a peak into the adult world by “studying” the printed side of the paper.) Call Metro for donation locations: 503-234-3000.
  • Reuse packaging material as much as possible. You can also create a custom rubber stamp to let customers know that you’ve used a recycled box or envelope to send their purchase. Such as, “Please excuse my looks, I’m re-used.”
  • Donate packaging: Check with your business neighbors to see if they can reuse the materials. Some shipping stores will accept clean packing materials.You may save them money as well.  


Even with your best reduction efforts, you’re likely to have some paper “waste.” Make sure it’s getting recycled and not going to the landfill.

Make it convenient Position recycling containers throughout your office, especially wherever there’s a trashcan. Don’t forget the break room, conference rooms and reception areas.  

Yes, you can recycle that! Let everyone know that they can put all sorts of paper in recycling:

  • There’s no need to remove staples, paperclips, or plastic coil binders if you’re busy. 
  • Envelopes with clear plastic windows can go in as is, as can tissue boxes with plastic on top.
  • Magazines and catalogs are okay, too. 

Just avoid including large amounts of super-slick or heavily-coated paper.