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The Three R's

The most important way to tackle waste is simply to avoid making it. If you don't produce it, you don't have to dispose of it.


Easy ways to reduce waste

  • Think before you print. Use USB flash drives or other drives to save work you've generated on your computer, and utilize email to send documents and memos (colleagues are less likely to misplace them anyhow, and you'll have a record of sending them out). This works great if you are doing a presentation with handouts. Take email addresses of those who are interested and send the handouts electronically rather than hauling all that paper to the presentation. Your audience will then be freed up to listen to what you have to say rather than worry about taking notes.
  • If you need to print, print and copy double-sided-many office printers and copiers can "auto-duplex".
  • Reduce your margin settings so that your printer uses less paper.
  • To conserve even more ink, print in draft mode. It will generally lighten the shade, but you'll still be able to read your copy clearly.
  • Download your software. More than 30 billion CDs are sold annually - enough to wrap around the earth. That's 5 CDs produced each year for each person on the planet. With more than 1 billion unwanted computer disks being thrown away each year, that's a huge amount of waste, not to mention the packing material-55 million boxes. Most software, including most mainstream "for-pay" productivity and office software, can be downloaded online.
  • Drop off plastic shopping bags to the residence hall front desks where they will be returned to in-store recycling drop off locations.
  • Use cloth shopping bags that can be reused!
  • Bring a zero-waste lunch to work in a reusable container. This has a two-fold benefit: you cut down on waste from take-out, and reuse what you bring.
  • Bring and keep mugs and silverware in the office to reduce use of plastic ware and paper cups.


Reusing materials is another way to avoid waste in the first place.

Easy ways to reuse

  • Keep a box of scrap paper available in the office for writing notes.
  • Print draft or informal documents on the back of once-used paper instead of using a clean sheet.
  • Bring dishware and silverware to the office to use in the break-room.
  • Instead of throwing away old documents, shred them and reuse them as packing material.
  • When you get shipments in, save your boxes so that you can use them again for shipments out.


  • Check that appropriate bins are placed in convenient locations at your workplace. Bins that are difficult to see, are not easily accessible, or improperly labeled are less likely to be used.
  • Make sure your colleagues know what can and cannot be recycled, and encourage them to recycle whenever possible.
  • Make sure recycling bins are clean. If the smallest bit of trash makes its way into a recycling bin, everything in it may be contaminated and rendered unrecyclable. This is especially an issue with greasy food waste, which ruins paper for recycling.
  • Make sure recycling bins are in good condition-all bins should be clean, with proper sticker labels on the top and sides. Stickers should be in good condition and affixed parallel to the bin. Believe it or not, studies show that small details like the angle of the sticker actually affect how much people recycle!
  • Work with your Hall Councils to start a trash takeout program. Charge residents $1 per bag of trash. Encourage them to separate recyclables into individual bags which will be removed free of charge. Save the environment and enjoy the benefits of a great fundraiser!
  • Recycle a few things you haven't thought of before:
    • The UPS Store accepts clean packaging peanuts for reuse at many of their locations. Each franchise is individually owned so you should call your local store before making the trip.
    • Wal-Mart takes plastic bags, used car batteries, motor oil, and oil filters at all of its locations.

Did You Know?

A used aluminum can is recycled and back on the grocery shelf as a new can, in as little as 60 days. There is no limit to the amount of times aluminum cans can be recycled. Used aluminum beverage cans are the most recycled item i the U.S., but other types of aluminum, such as siding, gutters, car components, storm window frames, and lawn furniture can also be recycled.

Thinking Green - more ideas for work and home.

Recycling at Northwest