Waste Prevention Ideas
The ideas below are some of the ways that you can eliminate waste from your business.  There are others that you may be able to develop as well.

  • Establish purchasing guidelines to encourage waste prevention such as for durability, concentrates, reusable, and high quality).
  • Consider length of warranty and availability of repair services when purchasing equipment.
  • Use optical scanners to give more details about inventory for precise ordering.
  • Order supplies in bulk to reduce excess packaging.
  • Substitute less toxic materials for toxic materials, for instance vegetable based inks, water based glue, etc.
  • Order supplies by voice mail or electronic means (click and order).
  • Ask suppliers to minimize packaging on orders.
  • Request that deliveries be shipped in returnable containers.

  • Eliminate unneeded packaging or layers of packaging.
  • Use lightweight packaging.
  • Use reusable boxes and mail bags for shipping to branch offices, stores and warehouses.
  • Reuse packaging or find someone who can (e.g., foam peanuts, bubblewrap, and cardboard boxes).
  • Order supplies in bulk to reduce excess packaging.
  • Set up a system for returning cardboard boxes and packing materials to distributors for reuse.
  • Return, reuse, and repair wooden pallets and spools, and paper cores.
  • Order merchandise with minimal packaging such as in concentrated form and bulk.

Writing/Printing Paper
  • Make double sided copies whenever possible.
  • Reuse envelopes or use two-way envelopes.
  • Circulate memos, documents, periodicals and reports rather than individual copies.
  • Use voice mail or electronic means for messaging, or put messages on a chalkboard or central bulletin board.
  • Make scratch pads from used paper.
  • Use outdated letterhead for in-house memos.
  • Eliminate unnecessary forms. Double side forms or redesign them to fit on a half sheet or one page.
  • Use narrow ruled notebooks.
  • Seek methods to reduce production errors.
  • Save documents on external media rather than make hard copies.
  • Use central files for hard copies.
  • Print more words on each page (margins and font size reduction).
  • Proof documents on screen before printing.
  • Print drafts on paper already printed on one side.
  • Use same draft of report for corrections by several people.
  • Donate old magazines and journals to charity.
  • Keep mailing lists current and assure only one copy per address.
  • Call or mail postcards directly to senders asking that your business be removed from mailing lists.
  • Reduce advertising mail by writing to: Direct Marketing Assn., Mail Preference Service, PO Box 3861, NY, NY 10163-3861.  Request that your business be deleted from their list.
  • Accept final in-house documents with hand corrections.

Over-stocked, Exchangeable Items
  • Set up an area for employees to exchange used items.
  • Advertise surplus and reusable waste items through a commercial waste exchanges such as CalMax (call 916-255-2369 or go to

  • Rent equipment that is used occasionally.
  • Use remanufactured office equipment.
  • Invest in equipment that facilitates waste prevention including high quality durable and repairable equipment, and copiers and printers that make two-sided copies.
  • Install reusable heating, ventilation and air conditioning filters.
  • Replace incandescent with fluorescent lamps, but make sure to handle all spent lamps appropriately, and do not dispose them into the trash.
  • Institute maintenance practices to prolong the effective lives of equipment.
  • Reclaim reusable parts from old equipment where feasible.
  • Use recharged or rebuilt fax and printer cartridges.
  • Sell or give away old furnishings and equipment to employees, other businesses, or charity.
  • Find reuses for worn tires (e.g., landscaping, swings, etc.).
  • Use retreaded tires on company vehicles and rotate tires on a regular basis to prolong tire life. Make sure to keep tires properly inflated for both better mileage and lengthened use.

  • Use a mulching mower or retrofit your mower and leave grass clippings on the lawn.
  • Compost grass clipping and other yard trimmings onsite or your landscaper to send such green matter to a composting facility.
  • Use compost as a topsoil amendment or request your landscaper to use it.
  • Choose a landscape design that needs low maintenance and generates little waste such as evergreens, perennials or xeriscaping.
  • Buy a chipper and turn tree and shrub clippings into mulch.

Food and Personal Services
  • Use durable towels, tablecloths, napkins, dishes, flatware, cups and glasses.
  • Encourage employees to bring their own cups and utensils.
  • Ask food vendors to offer discounts on beverages served in own mug.
  • Buy company mugs; reduce use of disposable cups.
  • Encourage customers to take home extra food.
  • Offer smaller portions, e.g., waste saver meal with discounted price!
  • Arrange for food bank pick-up of unserved food.
  • Sell or give away food scraps to farmers or local urban gardeners who can process the materials for soil amendment or as animal feedstock (check with local health and agriculture agencies for any restrictions or conditions).
  • Collect vegetable food scraps or for coffee grounds at your office and have them composted perhaps by employees at home, onsite if permitted, or at a local composter.
  • Set up a worm bin to convert compostable food wastes into high quality potting soil (worm castings are valuable).
  • Use reusable coffee filters or unbleached disposable filters.
  • Reuse trash can liners or eliminate them where possible.
  • Consider using cloth roll towels, hot air dryers, large paper rolls in rest rooms or buy smaller, lighter sized paper towers.
  • Provide condiments in bulk containers rather than individual packets.

Consumer Choices
  • Teach your customers about the importance of reducing waste.  Effective tools include CDs, newsletters, brochures, reusable bags, etc.
  • Encourage customers and employees to bring their own bag(s) when shopping and reward them (incentives of value or compliment) when they do.
  • Offer customers a rebate then they reuse bags, containers, mugs and cups.
  • Offer customers waste reduction choices such as: items in bulk or concentrate; solar powered items, repairable merchandise, and refillables.
  • Encourage customers to return reusable or recyclable items such as metal hangers and plastic bags.
  • Promote waste prevention through advertising.