Reducing waste at work

Info for You 2 good 2 toss image
where do i image
talkin trash icon

Read the latest edition of Talkin' Trash.

Reducing the Use of Items in the Workplace

On this page:

 Reduce paper waste

printerToday’s average office worker uses about 10,000 sheets of paper each year, according to the Environmental Defense Fund. Your business can reduce paper waste by following these tips.

  • Purchase or lease copiers and printers with 2-sided capacity. Set the default to double-sided copying/printing.  Require double-sided printing for multi-page documents.
  • Use software that allows you to fax directly from your computer, without printing. 
  • Eliminate duplicate mailings and subscriptions. Send mailing labels back to the sender and request that only one address remain. Circulate the single copy among staff. 
  • Remove your staff members and company from junk mail lists.
  • Keep your own mailing lists current. "Suppress duplicates" in address databases.
  • Identify and eliminate unnecessary forms and redesign forms to use less space or print double-sided. Have forms available on your computer or posted on your Web site to be printed as needed.
  • Eliminate fax cover sheets by using "sticky" fax notes.
  • Proof documents on your computer rather than printing them.
  • Order supplies by e-mail or voice-mail rather than fax or mail.
  • Send e-mails and establish e-bulletin boards to communicate among staff, rather than writing paper memos.
  • Reduce the size or frequency of reports, or distribute them electronically for on-screen viewing.
  • Design marketing materials that require no envelope -- simply fold and mail.
  • Use continuous-circulation envelopes within your business.
  • Instead of making duplicate copies of reports, memos, newsletters and other documents, print one copy and circulate it around the office. Or, post the information on an office intranet site.
  • For new software, order only the number of manuals needed and encourage employees to share.  Do the same with phone books, or arrange for an online phone book.

Hold "green" meetings

  • green meetingE-mail the agenda and documents to all participants before the meeting. Those who feel they need to have paper copy at the meeting can print the documents and bring them along.
  • Don’t print out an agenda, use a white or blackboard instead.
  • Discourage circulating paper copies at the meeting. If possible, use a projector to review documents and presentations. If this is not possible, duplex print (double-sided) only enough copies to share.
  • Appoint a person to take notes and e-mail the notes to participants. Using a laptop for this task makes it easy!
  • Ask guest speakers or moderators to comply with your paperless philosophy.
  • Don’t use disposable paper cups, supply reusable cups or request that people bring their own.
  • For more "green meeting" tips, visit this EPA Web site.

Reduce landscape waste

commercial mowerYard debris makes up a large percentage of waste produced in Thurston County. Follow these tips to reduce waste, and make sure yard debris is recycled into valuable mulch and compost.   

  • Replace all or part of turf areas with plantings native to the Pacific Northwest. Native plants reduce fertilizer, herbicide, maintenance and water needs.
  • Anticipate how large plants will grow when they mature, and plant them in the appropriate-sized places. Otherwise, the plants will have to be sheared frequently.
  • Compost landscape waste at the Waste and Recovery Center or contact your garbage and recycle hauler to sign up for compost collection service.
  • Use recycled-content construction and landscaping materials. Examples include  plastic lumber, edging, tree guards, irrigation equipment and paving.

Purchase wisely

  • purchase wiselySelect products with the least packaging and/or which have easily recyclable packaging.
  • Work with vendors to minimize product packaging. Eliminate inner-pack dividers in shipping containers for miscellaneous supplies. Ask vendors to take back used or damaged products for reuse and recycling (choose vendors that offer these services).
  • Require deliveries to be shipped in returnable containers (e.g. durable crates).
  • Purchase reusable items instead of disposables. Examples include mugs, silverware, dishes, cloth towels and rags, rechargeable batteries, refillable pens, erasable wall calendars, and reusable coffee filters.
  • If you must buy disposable food service items, buy biodegradable products or paper, rather than plastic or Styrofoam.
  • Buy products in bulk or in concentrated form. Also choose items that are durable, repairable, and/or recyclable. Make sure to order only what you need. 
  • In the lunch/break room, use refillable or regular containers of sugar, salt, pepper and condiments to avoid individual condiment packets.
  • Centralize purchasing to eliminate unnecessary purchases and enforce all waste-reduction policies.
  • Use less toxic products for cleaning, inks and paints.
  • Purchase used office products on or craigslist.

Maintain inventory

  • inventoryWork with vendors and Thurston County’s to sell and buy excess, unneeded, off-spec, or expired stock.
  • Purchase products with longer shelf lives.
  • Track time-sensitive materials and use a "first-in-first-out" policy.
  • Control access to office supplies and raw materials to reduce over consumption.
  • Maintain proper storage conditions to reduce material degradation (e.g. temperature, humidity).

Package products carefullypackaging

  • Design products with reusable or recyclable components.
  • Eliminate unneeded packaging (e.g. use rubber bands or paper strips to divide large quantities of brochures, rather than shrink-wrap).
  • Use lightweight, recyclable or reusable packaging.
  • Print messages on your products that encourage consumers to reuse or recycle the packaging/product.

Contact us

Contact us at or call 360-867-2491

This page last updated: