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Waste Reduction, Recycling, and Enforcement

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Getting Started | Tell us your story | Recycling Right | Go above and beyond


Go Above and Beyond

1. Start a Green Team.

Starting any recycling, waste prevention or buy-recycled effort is much easier with the support of a Green Team. Teams share the workload and build support for the effort. The following steps can help create a strong, cohesive, effective team that gets the job done.

Obtain managerial support

  1. Obtaining managerial support for your team will ensure participation and facilitate project successes. Present management with waste reduction and recycling ideas. Use company policy, success stories from other divisions or companies as justification for starting a team.
  2. Clarify for management the kind of projects the team might work on, how much time the team estimates spending in meetings and on projects.
  3. Once you have obtained management support, assist management in sending out a memo to employees informing them of their support and soliciting volunteers for the team.

Form the team(s)

Seek committed individuals who are interested in efforts to make their workplace more sustainable. If possible, ensure that team members represent an appropriate cross-section of your organization, including all levels of employees and different departments. Be sure to include a representative from facilities, maintenance and purchasing. These employees will be directly affected by the program and should help with its design.

Get things started

A kick-off meeting can really get things going; new members can meet each other, administrative details can be explained and project ideas can be generated. Be prepared to cover communication methods, clarify roles and expectations and develop goals, objectives and/or a mission statement.


Develop a meeting schedule and identify a regular meeting place. Decide the communication methods you’ll use to distribute meeting agendas, minutes and project updates, and who should be included in the distribution list(s).

Sample: Green Team Kick-Off Meeting Agenda

1. Greeting (5 min)

2. Introduction of members (15 min)

3. Why are we here? (15 min)

– The need and benefits

4. Identify roles (15 min)

– Group leader

– Secretary

– Finances

– Other roles?

5. Create mission statement (25 min)

6. Goals and objectives (benchmarks)

7. Frequency and format of future meetings (10 min)

Clarify roles and expectations

During the planning and implementation stages of projects, the green team(s) will be active and may require frequent meetings and communication. Make sure each team member knows his or her role in the specific project, and how his or her responsibilities fit into the team’s timeline.

Monthly meetings will also likely be required to continue the momentum of the team and identify future projects. Expect to schedule about one hour a month for these meetings. This time can be used for updates, for recognition of achievements, for guest speakers or training. Roles that commonly need to be filled at these meetings include team leader, secretary and finances.

Establish goals and objectives

During the first meeting, the team should establish their goals and objectives. Developing a mission statement may help team members stay focused and articulate reasons for having a team. A sample follows. Be sure to include the goal, objectives and/or mission statement as well as the initial goal in the first set of minutes.

Example: Mission Statement and Objectives

The Business X 's Green Team promotes environmentally sustainable operating practices by:

  1. reducing waste
  2. conserving energy and water
  3. promoting sustainable purchasing practices
  4. encouraging the use of alternative transportation

Members distribute information, attend meetings and presentations, and organize projects, events and outreach. The team provides a place for employees to share ideas and accomplish goals.

2. Reduce Junk Mail.

US mailboxes receive an average of 675 pieces of junk mail per year. That adds up to four million tons of paper per year, nationwide. Following are some steps your company can take to reduce the junk mail you receive.

Step #1: Remove your name from junk mail lists.

Send letters to notify mail houses that your business wishes to be removed from their list.

National Mail House addresses:



Attn: Consumer Assistance

PO Box 249

Windsor, CT 06095


Donnelly Marketing, Inc.

Attn: Database Operations

416 S Bell

Ames, IA 50010


Metromail Corp.

List Maintenance

901 W Bond

Lincoln, NE 68521

(Source: National Waste Prevention Coalition Junk Mail Reduction Project, 2003)

Step #2: Notify individual mailers that you wish to be removed from their lists (use the following methods to stop specific types of junk mail your business receives).

Postage paid mail with return envelope

Write ‘Please Remove’ on the piece of mail. Place the mail in the return envelope and mail it back to the sender. Be sure to write your name and address exactly as it’s found on the mailing label.

Bulk mail and postage paid mail with no return envelope

Write ‘Please Remove’ near your address on the piece of unwanted mail. Place that section in an envelope, apply proper postage and mail it to the sender.

First class, first class pre-sort, express and priority mail

Write on the outside of the envelope “Not at this address” or “Refused” on the outside of the envelope. The post office will return it to the sender at no charge to you. This also applies to standard mail labeled “address service requested”, “Forwarding service requested”, “Return service requested”, or “Change service requested”.

Mail for former employees

Junk mail that is addressed to former employees can be stopped using a free service provided by Ecological Mail Coalition. The service is available online at, or by phone at 800-620-3975.

Implementing these junk mail reduction strategies will save time and natural resources. However, you may have to be persistent and patient; these strategies can take two to six months to work. Many businesses have found it helpful to have one person coordinate stopping junk mail for the office.

Step #3: Avoid getting on junk mail lists

  1. Include “Please do not share this name or address with other mailers” on purchase orders, registrations, and subscriptions.
  2. Make it standard practice for employees to ask businesses they deal with not to share their names.
  3. Screen callers who ask for company information and ask them not to add your business to their mailing list.

3. Reduce Paper Waste.

The typical US office worker uses about 10,000 sheets of copy paper each year. That is a 100-pound stack of paper, rising over four feet high! Below are some tips to help guide your paper waste prevention and recycling efforts.

Setting the stage for green printing – The foundation for printing green starts with a purchasing policy that commits to the following practices:

  1. Select paper that contains the highest percentage of recycled content available and/or is third –party certified as using wood products from sustainably managed forests (FSC).
  2. Print on recycled paper products that are chlorine free. Unbleached papers are whitened with more benign chemicals.
  3. Set printers to print double-sided by default.
  4. Collect single-sided print paper to be reused in designated printers or as scratch paper.

Individual practices add up. Be sure that everyone in the workplace knows how to reduce paper use in completing their day-to-day tasks:

Before printing

  1. Use spelling and grammar check
  2. Review and edit draft documents on screen rather than paper.
  3. If you need to print large reports, consider reducing margins and font size to allow more text to fit on each page.
  4. Use Print Preview to avoid printing unwanted pages.

When printing

  1. Print one copy as a test before printing multiple copies of a document.
  2. Print multiple pages to a single sheet of paper.
  3. Set up your printer’s mailbox option to reduce unnecessary print jobs.
  4. Print documents double-sided.
  5. Learn how to cancel print jobs from your computer and printer.

When faxing

  1. Send and receive faxes from your computer.
  2. Program your fax machine so it will not print confirmation sheets.
  3. Eliminate fax cover sheets by using fax Post-it Notes.

File Storage – Dramatically reduce paper use and eliminate the cost and space needed for bulky file cabinets by storing data electronically:

  1. Employ office Intranet solutions that allow open or password-protected access to documents, presentations, and databases through an office network or via the web.
  2. File documents electronically.
  3. Store older documents in electronic archives using data compression software.
  4. Create a central storage area to file important documents, rather than storing several copies at locations throughout the office.

Distribution – Cut paper use by utilizing electronic distribution where possible:

  1. Use email.
  2. Eliminate duplicates on mailing lists.
  3. Make copies only as needed.
  4. Consolidate mail that regularly goes to specific businesses or individuals.

Publication – When designing brochures, magazines and other informational resources, consider these tips:

  1. Create and distribute publications electronically.
  2. Consider using a lighter weight paper. Less weight means less paper.
  3. Reduce trim size. Shaving 1/4 inch off your book, magazine or catalog might save thousands of pounds of paper per year. Lower weight also reduces postage costs.
  4. Avoid bleeds. Bleeds occur when text, color or images spill off the page. To achieve this, print shops often print on larger sheets and cut off the white margin, thus creating waste. To avoid this, be sure to size documents with the margins of the sheets used by the printer.
  5. Reduce print runs. Look in your supply closet, back room and/or warehouse to identify printing jobs for which you ordered too many pieces. Cut back on the quantity printed to avoid waste.
  6. Use standard paper sizes. Design your printed pieces to take maximum advantage of common sheet sizes.
  7. Use print-on-demand technology. Print manuals, catalogs, newsletters and even books as needed.
  8. Use bindings such as staples and tape that are acceptable in the recycling process.
  9. For documents that are cut to size, lay out the document to fit as many as possible on each sheet.
  10. Save electronic versions of documents so it’s easy to reorder.
  11. When printing, request paper with the highest percentage of recycled content available and/or is third-party certified as using wood products from sustainably managed forests (FSC).

4. Follow the Paperless Path.

Stepping away from a paper-heavy office is all about evaluating the paper-based systems specific to your workplace. This page of tips shows you how a small team of employees can take those steps and easily bring everyone on board.

Step #1: Plan your course

  1. Evaluate your current consumption to see which paper uses to target. Take a survey of both printer/copier and professional printing materials.
  2. Pull together key staff members from each department. This will help you make effective change and gain office-wide buy-in.

Step #2: Start with the basics – Before investing in new technology, start with easy first steps

  1. Share documents by posting them online, saving them to a shared drive or attaching them to emails.
  2. Establish a standardized naming system for your documents so they are easy to locate and identify.
  3. Compress files before saving them so they take up less space.
  4. Use password protection for confidential documents.
  5. Scan your signature and insert it as an image into letters and other documents.
  6. Convert these documents to a pdf before sharing to protect your signature.
  7. Train staff to become comfortable using existing technologies. Set company policies that support their use. For example, establish that specific documents be reviewed and shared electronically.

Step #3: Use technology to gain efficiencies – Decide which technologies make the most sense for your office. Start small and test a new technology or procedure for your specific needs before converting office-wide:

  1. High performance scanner—Create electronic copies of documents to share and save.
  2. Desktop faxing—have faxes sent to your computer desktop instead of automatically printing at a standard fax machine.
  3. Tablet PC—Take notes and sign documents in the field on a touch-sensitive screen and save as a pdf. Go further and use handwriting recognition software to convert notes to Microsoft Word files.
  4. Dual monitors—As much as you use your desk to spread out papers as you work, a second screen can give you a separate space to organize your documents.
  5. Software—Perform many business operations, including billing and bill paying, auditing, inventory management, preparing taxes, scheduling appointments and managing your calendar, without paper.

Step #4: Get everyone on board

  1. Let everyone know how much paper your company will be saving each year with your new systems. Translate that number to environmental and financial benefits.
  2. Make sure effective training programs are in place for both current and new staff.
  3. Identify key people on staff who will be available to answer questions and assist staff as problems arise.
  4. Check your progress annually. Brag about accomplishments and evaluate setbacks.

5. Buy Recycled.

Contribute to a more sustainable future

Buying recycled-content products ensures that the materials collected in your recycling programs will be used again in the manufacture of new products. When buying recycled, your company is demonstrating concern for the environment. If you’re using recycled products, let your customers and co-workers know about it.

Complete the recycling loop

The commonly used “recycling loop”, the three-arrow recycling symbol, represents the essential stages of recycling: Collecting recyclable materials, manufacturing the materials into new products and using the new recycled products.

Products with “post-consumer” recycled-content actually contain waste materials that are recycled from our homes. Consumer demand for these products ensures an end use for the materials we separate for recycling in our homes and businesses.

Conserve natural resources, energy, wildlife habitat and landfill space

Overall, producing recycled products requires fewer resources than manufacturing products without recycled content. As a result, less energy and water is used. Less pollution is generated and less wildlife habitat is disturbed. Recycled products are made with materials that might otherwise be buried in a landfill.

Facts about natural resources and energy

  1. According to the World watch institute, 19 percent of the world’s wood harvest is used to make paper. Using recycled paper lessens the pressure put on natural resources and helps to keep functioning ecosystems intact.
  2. Conservatree, a national authority on recycled paper estimates that approximately 7.2 full grown trees are saved for every 40 cases (or 1 ton) of 30 percent post-consumer recycled paper purchased instead of virgin fiber paper.
  3. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that this amount of recycled paper also saves 2,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, 3000 gallons of water and keeps 30 pounds of air pollution out of the sky.
  4. The energy required to produce a pound of virgin rubber is 15,700 BTUs, while that spent in the production of an equivalent amount of recycled rubber is only 4,600 BTUs, a savings of more than 70 percent.