The U.S. Zero Waste Business Council has awarded Microsoft with the Gold Level of Zero Waste Certification for our Redmond campus. The certification recognizes our work to divert at least 90% of our food, office, and construction waste away from landfills through employee-driven reuse, recycling, and composting programs and sustainable community partnerships.
Microsoft is the first technology company in the country to achieve this important benchmark. It underscores our commitment to being responsible corporate citizens and supplements the zero-waste certification we have held for eight years from the Green Restaurant Association (GRA) for our sustainable dining practices. Our goal is to continue diverting as much of our waste as we can from landfills.
There are 33 cafés, 32 espresso cafés, and more than 500 kitchenettes on campus. Yet of the 189 million pounds of food, packaging, and other dining-related items that went through these venues from July through December of 2015, a whopping 99.5% never made it to a landfill.
All food used in the kitchens arrives in compostable or recyclable packaging. To reduce packaging and create less waste, we cook foods from scratch, make meals to order in most cafés, and grow some of our own greens in hydroponic urban farms on campus. Thousands of gallons of frying oil a week are converted into biodiesel by local recyclers. Condiment packets are compostable, and 100% of our tableware is made from plants. We test all new dining products to verify that they are biodegradable.
Microsoft’s environmentally-minded partners also help advance our zero waste goals. For example, several beverage vendors remove plastic packaging and 6-pack rings before delivery, and produce vendors deliver fresh vegetables and fruits in containers they reclaim and reuse. We also work with local organic farms and sustainable fisheries and ranches, reducing the impact of transportation-related waste and pollution.
Recycling and composting
Together, recycling and composting get us to the 87% mark in our zero waste management goals, and they are the foundation of our waste stream management programs. Employees use bins to segregate standard trash such as cans, glass bottles, plastic bottles, compostables, office paper, and so on. Specific programs recycle specialty items, such as cardboard, shredded confidential materials, electronics (e.g., PCs), wooden pallets, carpets, batteries, fluorescent bulbs, and more. Alongside dining, landscaping is our greatest source of composting: 100% of our green waste (acres of lawn clippings, trimmings, leaves) is transformed into nutrient-rich mulch offsite and returned to campus to feed next year’s growth.
Microsoft has many reuse programs to extend the life of office supplies, furnishings, and computer equipment. Surplus binders, power cords, laptops, whiteboards, and the like are made available to others around campus via an onsite/online “store.” We repair and reuse furniture whenever possible, and we donate decommissioned furnishings to nonprofits through our global furniture reuse program. When a building is remodeled, we often find creative ways to reuse existing materials in the new design. We extend the life of IT equipment through partners that rebuild and reuse devices to help people, businesses, and communities around the world embrace sustainable technology. In 2016 in Puget Sound, we recycled over 173,000 units and reused more than 95,000, avoiding nearly 3.5 million pounds of landfill waste.
Achieving Zero Waste Certification is a significant milestone that was made possible by the dedicated participation and responsible decision-making of our 44,000 Redmond-based employees and our many community partners. We look forward to expanding our waste diversion program in Redmond and at our facilities around the world, to make our operations even more sustainable in the years to come.