Category Archives: Reduce

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Paper in the Office

Reducing paper use, and reusing and recycling paper will not only save your business money, but will also reduce your businesses environmental footprint.

Approximately 7 million hectares of forests are destroyed a year and 80% of the world’s original forests are gone. In addition to accelerating major losses of biodiversity, deforestation is a culprit of climate change, destroying valuable carbon sinks and releasing carbon dioxide into the air when the wood is burned for fuel or decomposes.
As a business there are many steps you can take to decrease the burden that paper production has on forests and to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emissions attributed to deforestation and paper production.
As the mantra reduce, reuse, recycle suggests, the first step to reducing your environmental footprint is to reduce the amount of paper used at your office. Follow these tips to reduce paper use:
•Pay bills online.
o Visit the website associated with the business or company that bills you, and you will find a paperless billing option.
•Stop junk mail.
o Return first-class mail to sender. Cross out the address and bar code, circle the first class postage and write “refused: return to sender.”
o You can stop mail from the following credit agencies, Equifax, Trans Union, Experian and Innovis by calling 1-888-5 OPT OUT (or 1-888-567-8688) 24 hours a day. Most mail you receive will have an 800 number listed. Call and simply request to be removed from the mailing list.
•Before you print, use print preview.
•Print double sided.
o Under printing properties, choose double-sided or duplex option.
o For printers that require manual duplexing, print the odd pages first, flip (with the back of the first page on top) and print even pages.
•Narrow margins and single space on every document possible.
•Email agendas rather than printing.
•Bookmark webpages instead of printing.
•Share a master-copy of hard documents.
•Edit papers on the computer rather than printing and editing.
•Use emails to send announcements and newsletters.
•Send and receive faxes via personal computers to avoid printing.
•Eliminate cover and divider pages.
•Keep electronic records.
•Rather than using paper dining products (cups, plates, napkins, and paper towels) invest in dishware and cloth napkins.

As you probably guessed, reuse comes next. There are a few easy ways to reuse paper in your office:
•Use paper that has only been printed on a single side as scratch and note paper.
o Collect these partially used papers in a clip-board or bind them to create a notebook.
•Reuse folders and binders. Label in pencil or white out old labels.

Finally, recycle, recycle, recycle.
According to the EPA, recycling one ton of paper would save enough energy to power the average American home for six months, save 7,000 gallons of water, and save 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space.
The EPA also reports that recycling paper instead of making it from new material generates 74% less air pollution.

•Set up a paper recycling station in your office.
o Next to the printer makes recycling easy, although don’t forget to reuse paper that has only been printed on one side.
•If your office does not recycle paper, check to see if there is a paper-retriver bin nearby: If there is no bin nearby, consider being the sponsor of a bin, which could earn your organization money.
•Purchase recycled paper products such as office paper, toilet-paper, paper-towels, napkins, plates, etc.
o Optimally, your office should purchase 100% post-consumer recycled paper products.

Finally, use the paper calculator (, to calculate environmental savings resulting from your paper purchasing choices.


Filed under Business, Buy Local, Creative re-use, Green on the GAP, how-to, in Southwestern PA, inspiration, Local Food, Outdoor/Bicycle Outfitters, recycle, Reduce, Resources, Restaurants, Retailers, reuse, Triple bottom line

Why Biodegradable Take-out Boxes and Cups Are the Way to Go

In a perfect world, we could all bring reusable food containers and coffee mugs every time we visited a restaurant or cafe. However, when we’re ordering takeout, we forget to bring our own containers with us, or if they’re just inconvenient to carry on the go, we often need to use disposable boxes and cups.

With biodegradable take-out containers cheaper than ever, now is a great time for restaurants and cafes to do away with Styrofoam and paper and to adopt greener alternatives. While these alternatives do cost more than the traditional Styrofoam and paper cups and containers, their additional cost is relatively marginal over the course of a business year.

Whereas Styrofoam cups cost $25 per 1000, biodegradable cups can cost as little as $100 for 1000. This means that if your business uses 1000 disposable cups a year, the additional cost would be only $75 per year, which is the amount of money you might make in a single business day. With take-out containers, the additional costs for biodegradables can be less than $140 a year, if your business goes through 1000 of them in that time span.

That’s all it would cost to help curb the use and disposal of Styrofoam, a product that takes a minimum of 20 generations (500 years) to biodegrade, was made using a nonrenewable resource (petroleum), and could potentially be ingested by animals when it inevitably breaks into small pieces.

Paper cups, in many cases, have even fewer redeemable qualities than Styrofoam, considering that they do not insulate heat nearly as well, take much more energy to produce, and cost well more than Styrofoam, at about $80 per 1000 units—which is only about $20 less than some biodegradable alternatives.

When the time it takes for many paper cups to decompose (over 20 years, if the cup is coated with wax) is factored in, paper looks even less attractive than Styrofoam from both an economic and environmental standpoint.

Thus, while large chain restaurants might save a substantial amount of money using traditional Styrofoam, paper, and plastic, small businesses can substantially reduce their environmental footprint with only a minor additional investment in biodegradable take-out boxes and cups.

Here are some resources that explain the economics and environmental impact of Styrofoam, paper, and plastic disposable containers:

And the following links provide a good sampling and explanation of some biodegradable alternatives:

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Filed under Business, recycle, Reduce, Resources, Restaurants

Get paid for your trash!

Many of the items we use on a daily basis produce a large amount of waste.  Much of our trash comes from food and beverage containers.  You eat a bag of chips, and then that bag sits in a landfill for years.  Other common sources of trash include school and office supplies, small electronics, and shipping materials.  However, there are ways to actually make money from items that normally go straight into the trash.

Here are five types of items that you can get paid to get rid of in an environmentally friendly way.

1.        Food and beverage containers

Within the last few years, a new company known as TerraCycle has found a creative way to reuse candy wrappers, chip bags, beverage containers, and even wine corks.  They take in these types of trash and then turn them into useable products, such as school and office supplies.  The best part is, TerraCycle will pay you for your trash.  By registering your organization (usually a school, scout troop, or non-profit), you can begin to keep track of what you send to the company.  The price is usually $0.02 per piece of trash, but it all adds up to help produce less trash and raise money for local schools or charities.

For more information, visit


2.       Cardboard

Businesses that ship and receive lots of items end up with lots of boxes to deal with.  They can be recycled normally, but unfortunately such facilities are not always available, or easy to take your cardboard to.  For businesses with a large amount of cardboard, a web-based company will actually pay you for your used shipping boxes.  They require loads of at least 5,000 boxes, but they will work with the business to arrange pickups and payment.

For more information, visit


3.       Appliances

If you have appliances that are still useable, they can always be donated to organizations such as The Salvation Army or Goodwill.  Often, donating any items (not just appliances) can get you a tax write-off, so you save money at the end of the year.  But if they are broken, large appliances can be sold for scrap metal.  Contact your local junkyard or metal recycler for more information and prices.


4.       Ink Cartridges

Offices, schools, and even households can go through quite a number of ink cartridges in a year.  Not only are they costly to replace, they contain plastics and many chemicals that are best not thrown into a landfill.  Thankfully there are ways to get paid for your old ink and toner cartridges.  Some companies refill them and then sell the refurbished cartridges for cheaper than new ones.  Others recycle the entire cartridge.  A quick search online will bring you to many companies that will pay you anywhere from a few cents to several dollars per used ink cartridges.  Check to find a local company, or shop around to see which service fits your needs best.


5.       Sports Equipment

Spring is finally here, and soon we’ll all be heading to the track, field, court, or diamond on our days off and weekends.  If it’s time for a new racket or bat, some stores exist that will let you trade in old items for a discount on new ones.  The company Play It Again Sports has locations across the country, including right here in Southwest PA.

For old athletic shoes, Nike runs a program called Reuse-A-Shoe.  You can donate your old shoes, which will be ground up and used to back the rubber for running tracks, padding under tennis courts, and a variety of other uses.  Individuals and send their old shoes in to be recycled.  Local schools, gyms, and other groups looking for a new athletic surface can research how to get one made from recycled shoes.

For more information, visit

And for Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe, visit

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Filed under Creative re-use, how-to, recycle, Reduce, Resources, reuse

Alternative Waste Contract Discussion at Net Impact Symposium

The 18th annual Net Impact conference, held at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, highlighted visions for a sustainable decade in the areas of waste, community development, natural resource conservation, professional sector growth, energy, and clean technologies, among other fields.

Net Impact is a web of young business students and professionals across the country who support socially-responsible business models.  It hosts conferences for individuals to network and learn about positive change in the business community.

Marc Gunther of attended the 18th annual conference at the end of October, and reported in particular on alternative recycling contracts that are at the forefront of reducing waste.


Three notable initiatives:

1.  RecycleBank

Homeowners rewarded with points for recycling that are redeemable at over 1500 businesses.

2.  TerraCycle

This business collects hard-to-recycle materials and sells them for re-purposing.  According to Gunther, “the company gets paid by brands whose products it recovers, by manufacturers who buy its materials and by marketers who use its logo on finished products.”

3.  Waste Management, via Greenpolis

WM intends to put interactive kiosks on public streets where people can redeem cash and points for recycling, as well as improving its website to better engage potential recyclers.


In the Trail Towns:

What incentives are needed in your community to encourage residential and commercial recycling?

If your waste contractor agreed to adopt three recycling practices or incentives, which three would be most effective for your business?

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Filed under Business, In the News, inspiration, Reduce

More ideas for Recycling: 21 Items

Phones, appliances, clothes, cardboard…when it comes to recycling irregular items in a rural location, the task at hand seems daunting.

Thanks to the internet, finding recycling resources doesn’t have to take up all your time.  Consider placing a couple calls, writing a few emails, and you  can potentially link up with a buyer.  Literally.  This site, for instance, may be able to buy your cardboard packing boxes!

Check this list of 21 items that aren’t always easy to recycle for an effective approach to lightening your landfill load.

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Filed under recycle, Reduce

Packaging waste

As a follow-up to compostable materials for restaurants, this article from Mother Jones Magazine offers a quick read with some revealing statistics and a dash of wry humor about the social, psychological, economic and environmental implications of packaging and waste in the U.S. Just something to chew on…

A few standouts:

Nearly 10% of a typical product’s price is for packaging.

The global packaging market is worth $429 billion.

Nearly 1/3 of Americans’ waste is packaging. Just 43% is recycled after use.

In 2007, Americans threw away 78.5 million tons of packaging—520 pounds per person. That’s a 71% increase from 1960.

35% of Americans say that they seek alternatives to excessively packaged goods, and nearly 1/2 of consumers worldwide say they’d sacrifice convenience for more environmentally sustainable packaging.

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Filed under Data, recycle, Reduce, reuse

Greening your one-time-use food service supplies

There are three areas to think about when greening your food service operation. Your building envelope and energy consumption, waste management strategies and the food itself. In this article we focus on how to reduce the environmental impact of the waste you generate through your business.

Of course, the greenest option is to serve food and beverages on reusable plates, in glasses or mugs and offer cloth napkins, which also makes for a very pleasant and memorable dining experience for your customers. However, if that is not possible, another strategy is to use compostable and/or biodegradable dinnerware, silverware, take-out containers and recycled paper napkins. These products are made from plant-based and other renewable materials rather than petroleum products and break down more quickly than traditional plastic and styrofoam options. The benefits are great: less dependence on non-renewable and foreign oil, less waste in landfills, less toxins leaking into our food and bodies, and creation of useful compost material. ( Polystyrene— aka Styrofoam— is one of the worst offenders. The GAP SBN encourages members to discontinue their use of styrofoam whenever possible. Read more about the environmental and health impacts here. )

Of course, there are cons to think about when making the switch to biodegradables and compostables. The cost for these containers is sometimes double that of conventional options, which can be a hindrance for even the most well-intentioned business owner. However, member businesses of the SBN who use these products say they help build relationships with customers who inquire about the practice and appreciate the efforts of the business. Trail users expecting to support a green business may be disappointed to receive their otherwise delicious meal on a plastic or styrofoam plate. First impressions are important, and serving food in a more sustainable container is a great, visible way to show your commitment to sustainability. This can encourage repeat business and word of mouth endorsements, which are very important along the Great Allegheny Passage.

Think about partnering with other SBN members when placing orders to reduce overall costs! For take-out containers, some businesses charge a minimal fee (as little as 5 cents) for customers using the items. Most won’t mind once you explain the reasoning, plus it will make them consider the true cost of their decision as well. Still other businesses offer a small discount for customers who bring their own reusable containers for their leftovers. Post any other creative solutions in the comments section!

Below is a brief list of resources on eco-friendly food service containers. Be sure to do your own research too to find what will work best for you!

An quick read from USA Today about compostable dinnerware: trends, pros and cons. offers the necessities for greening your single-use food-service items. is a good starting place for finding green products used in the food-service industry., based in VT, offers a full range of products to order (and their specs), as well as some interesting facts about composting, waste and recycling.


Filed under B&Bs, Business, how-to, Reduce, Resources, Restaurants