Approaching Zero-Waste in Microsoft Dining Facilities

| Josh Henretig

At Microsoft, we have an opportunity to shift the needle on corporate sustainability practices a2541.image_thumbt many levels due to our size. This extends beyond initiatives such as our carbon neutrality commitment, our work in IT efficiency and our efforts to create green data centers. This is even true in Microsoft’s dining facilities, which recently achieved the distinction of being near-zero waste by diverting 99 percent of food waste to recycling and compost.

While we’re primarily known as a devices and services company, our Redmond campus is similar to a medium-sized city with more than 50,000 employees. That explains why in addition to making Xbox and Windows, Microsoft is also certified by the Green Restaurant Association (GRA), a national organization founded in 1990 to provide a convenient and cost-effective way for restaurants, manufacturers, distributors, and consumers to become more environmentally responsible.

The GRA’s certification system is based on points given for seven criteria: water efficiency, waste reduction and recycling, sustainable furnishings and building materials, sustainable food, energy, disposables, and chemical and pollution reduction. Microsoft is the first corporate dining program to receive the 3-star certification and is working toward four stars.

Getting to “zero waste” is a big challenge for an employer that feeds 30,000+ people a day in its cafes and kitchens throughout multiple campuses. Currently Microsoft reduces, reuses or recycles 99 percent of its waste on campus. To get there, we have shifted to PLA (polylac tic acid) plastics for tableware that decomposes in 60 days, administered robust recycling programs, and even worked to use more of each food item to prevent waste. A key element in getting to zero waste is working with local partners such as Cedar Grove Composting and product manufacturers to ensure the products used in our dining facilities can actually be recycled and composted in our region. Microsoft’s scale also means that we can help expand the market for sustainable dining products, like biodegradable coffee spoons that don’t melt in hot coffee, which can help these products reach a wider market.

We certainly acknowledge that achieving zero-waste on our campuses is a lofty goal. Yet through this initiative Microsoft is looking at new ways to reduce our waste output while continuing to create a high-quality experience for our employees and vendors.

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