Business Sustainability Tips

A Dozen Best Practices to Make Your Business More Sustainable


Click on these links for ideas on making your business more sustainable. There are 32 more great tips at the Clackamas County Leaders in Sustainability Website. Put these into practice and you can be certified as a Leader in Sustainability.

Support Sustainability Training for Your Employees

Support for sustainability can be an important factor in attracting and retaining good employees. Some ways to support your employees include:

  • Send your employee identified as a green champion to a Recycling 101 course.
  • Provide new hires with information on recycling, paper reduction, and alternative commuting in their orientation packet.
  • Celebrate Earth Day with a meeting that includes both a report on progress by your business on sustainability goals and an opportunity to gather feedback from your employees on ways to improve sustainable practices.
  • Make a written plan available for continuity of operations in case of a disaster or other unexpected disruptions.
Use Paper Sustainably
  • Use copy/print paper that contains at least 30% post-consumer recycled content— Paper made with recycled content uses less energy, water, and chemicals to produce because the fiber has already been extracted from trees.
  • Switch to paperless invoicing, billing and payroll to reduce paper use.
  • Set your printers to double-sided printing as the default.
  • Use post-consumer recycled content for other paper products such as paper towels and envelopes.


Minimize Single-use, Disposable Items
  • Eliminate paper plates, paper cups and paper items from the breakroom or kitchens.
  • Provide washable, reusable service ware (which is cheaper in the long run).
  • Ask staff to bring unused dishes from home to stock the employee breakroom-this minimizes upfront costs.
    Set up a system for dishes to be washed after meetings.
Separate Food Scraps to be Composted
  • By collecting food scraps at your business, you can keep waste out of the landfill and reduce greenhouse gas emission
  • Food scraps collected from businesses in our region are put to use as fuel for energy generation via anaerobic digestion.
  • Food establishments in our region will be required over time to separate food scraps for collection, with the first businesses impacted beginning March 2022.
  • Visit the Clackamas County Garbage and Recycling webpage on reducing wasted food for more information about the food scraps collection program or for tips to reduce food waste.
Conduct a Waste Audit and then Implement Recommendations on the Findings
  • A waste audit can help you understand your business’s waste streams–what is ending up where.
  • During a waste audit, representative samples of garbage and recycling are collected, separated, and examined. What you find can help educate employees to reduce waste and manage materials more responsibly.
  • Note which items make up the bulk of your garbage or recycling and set goals to reduce those. Finding a lot of coffee cups? Encourage staff to use durable coffee mugs instead. Is a lot of paper going to waste? Push paperless options or, at a minimum, set up double-sided printing. Switching to alternatives that reduce waste and save businesses money and time in unexpected ways.
Monitor Energy Use

As a PGE customer, it is easy to monitor and manage your energy use through their Energy Tracker to identify triggers that drive your bill up and:

  • Determine how much electricity you use each month.
  • Examine energy usage by the day, the hour, or even by 15-minute intervals to spot when and how you use the most energy.
  • Compare your current bill to last month or to last year to look for trends.
  • Monitor energy use at least annually and evaluate conservation opportunities.
Install Programmable Thermostats (Ideally Smart Models)
  • Use the programmable thermostats to set back the temperature during off-hours. PGE has incentives.
  • Smart thermostats are better than simple programmable thermostats because they adjust automatically and can recognize holidays and other irregular days off.
  • Do you have office rebels who override the thermostat’s settings? Minimize this behavior by setting the timer so that the heat/air comes on 15-20 minutes before the first employee arrives, thereby starting the temperature at the desired setting by the start of the day.
Install Power Strips with “Smart” Shut-Off Or Motion Sensors at Workstations
  • Electronics in standby mode still draw power even though they appear off (phantom energy).
  • Consider plugging devices (computer monitors, computer peripherals, etc.) into “smart” power strips, which shut down devices in standby mode.
  • Power strips with motion sensors automatically power down devices when workers leave for the day.
Use LEDs for Interior Lighting
  • LEDs last longer, perform better, and save more energy than other interior light options.
  • Replace any older magnetic ballasts with electronic ones—this will save energy, reduce flickering, and often the number of bulbs, possibly lower operating costs.
  • Energy Trust’s guide to energy-efficient lighting technologies for businesses offers ideas for efficient alternatives.
  • Energy Trust of Oregon offers cash incentives for some business upgrades.
  • Energy Trust of Oregon also offers cash incentives for some business modifications in their exterior lighting incentive program.
Set Water Heaters to 120 Degrees
  • Most water heaters work by holding water in a tank at a specific temperature, 24 hours a day, but are set to temperatures higher than necessary which can waste energy and money.
  • If the temperature is set to 120° higher-than-average demands will still be met, burns prevented, and energy saved 24 hours a day.
  • If uncertain about your water heater setting and temperature, run hot tap water over an immersion thermometer to get a fairly accurate reading of your water temperature.
Reduce the Workload of your HVAC
  • Lower window blinds or use window film to prevent the sun from heating up your space. This will lower A/C load.
  • Set ceiling fans to rotate counterclockwise in the summer.
  • Weather strip or caulk windows and doors to prevent leakage and reduce winter drafts.
Purchase Renewable Energy from PGE
  • Renewable energy can be purchased through Portland General Electric.
  • Purchase 100% renewable energy for $12 on average per month for a small business.
  • Renewable energy can reduce your long term operating costs.
  • If your utilities are through a lease, encourage your property manager to purchase renewable power.

To learn more or find out how to get involved, check out our Business page.