Green Business: Office/Retail Tips and Ideas for Pollution Prevention

  • Assess your office to identify ways to prevent pollution. Review the plan annually for new measures to implement.
  • Check Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and labels for all cleaning products, building maintenance materials, pesticides, and fertilizers you use. Identify safer alternatives.
  • Evaluate each area of your business to identify actual and potential sources of pollution, and ways to prevent it.
  • Call the Snohomish County Household Hazardous Waste Drop-off Station at 425-388-6050 for disposal of hazardous substances not in use.

Prevent pollution in the following ways:
All Areas:

  • Locate all potential pollutants away from food preparation, service and storage areas as well as sewer and storm drains.
  • Provide containment for large amounts of liquid supplies.
  • Routinely check storage areas, pipes and equipment for leaks, spills and emissions of chemicals, paints, and cleaners; repair any deficient items found.
  • Use enclosed delivery systems for transferring cleaners and/or other chemicals to prevent spills.
  • Store any potentially hazardous materials securely, control access and rotate stock to use oldest material first.
  • Store deliveries and supplies under a roof.


  • Routinely check for leaks and establish a "ground staining" inspection routine in parking lots.
  • Keep receiving, loading docks, waste container and parking areas free of litter, oil drips and debris.
  • Keep waste containers covered when not in use.
  • Do not wash cars, equipment, floor mats or other items outside where run-off water flows straight to the storm drain; this wash water should be directed to a sewer drain.
  • Monitor subcontractors to ensure their activities are not polluting storm drains.
  • Clean parking lots by sweeping or using equipment that collects dirty water (which must be disposed of to sanitary sewer).
  • Post signs at trouble spots (e.g., loading docks, waste container areas, outside hoses) describing proper practices to prevent pollutants from reaching storm drains.
  • Label all storm water drains with "No Dumping, Drains to Stream" message.
  • Regularly check and maintain storm drain openings and basins that are located on your property. Keep litter, debris and soil away from storm drains.
  • Clean private catch basins annually, before the first rain and as needed thereafter.
  • Use shut-off valves at storm drains or keep temporary storm drain plugs at loading docks or outdoor areas for quick spill response.
  • Use secondary containment or berms in liquid storage and transfer areas to capture spills.
  • Keep a spill kit handy to catch/collect spills from leaking company or employee vehicles.
  • Use landscaping to prevent erosion problems, especially during construction or remodeling.
  • Mulch, use ground cover, or use a barrier to prevent exposed soil from washing landscaped areas into storm drain.
  • Have an outdoor ashtray or cigarette "butt" can for smokers.

Reduce chemical use in the following ways:

  • Restrict use of hazardous products by: Buying them in small quantities. Limiting access to authorized staff.
  • Use one or a few multipurpose cleaners, rather than many special-purpose cleaners.
  • Replace harmful products with safer alternatives. List specific replacements for Disinfectants, Sanitizers, and cleaners.
  • Replace aerosols with pump dispensers.
  • Buy recycled paint and low VOC products when available (paint, paint removal products, etc.).
  • Buy cleaners, paints, batteries, and other supplies in optimally sized containers for your office to avoid unnecessary packaging, as well as left-over and expired materials!
  • Replace standard fluorescent lights with low or no mercury fluorescent lights.
  • Use rechargeable batteries and appliances, such as hand-held vacuum cleaners and flashlights.
  • Use recycled oil for vehicles/equipment.
  • Use unbleached and/or chlorine-free paper products (copy paper, paper towels, napkins, coffee filters, etc.).
  • Replace toxic permanent ink markers/pens with water-based ones.
  • Print promotional materials with vegetable or other low-VOC inks.
  • Use natural or low emissions building materials, carpets or furniture.
  • Use electric (not gas) powered tools.
  • Use wet scraping, tenting or HEPA-vac instruments to reduce dust and debris when removing paint; avoid chemical paint stripping.
  • Use high-efficiency paint spray equipment.
  • Do business with other "green" vendors or services. Eliminate or reduce use of chemical pesticides by implementing an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program:
    • Specify in pest control contracts that primary pest management methods include non-chemical pest prevention and pest exclusion.
    • Use traps, barriers and less toxic pesticides (such as soaps, oils, microbials and baits). Apply on an as-needed (vs. set) schedule.
    • Set up storage and sanitation procedures and planting, irrigation and cultivation (e.g., pest-resistant plants) to discourage pests.

Recycle/reuse the following potential pollutants :

  • Excess paint/solvents (keep only what's needed for touch ups, then give remainder to hazardous waste collection program, donate to anti-graffiti program, or return to contractor or manufacturer).
  • Used copier toner cartridges (take back to supplier or send back to manufacturer for recycling or refilling).
  • Ink jet cartridges (send or take back for recycling or refilling).
  • Car fluids from company vehicles.
  • Donate for reuse (not just recycle) electronic equipment, such as computers, phones, pagers, etc.

Reduce vehicle emissions in the following ways:

  • When possible, arrange for a single vendor who makes deliveries for several items.
  • Patronize services close to your business (e.g., food/catering, copy center, etc.) and encourage employees to do the same.
  • Carefully plan delivery routes to eliminate unnecessary trips.
  • Keep company vehicles well maintained to prevent leaks and minimize emissions; encourage customers to do the same.

Commute Alternatives

  • Make transit schedules, commuter ride sign-ups, etc. available to staff.
  • Offer telecommuting opportunities and/or flexible schedules so workers can avoid heavy traffic commutes.
  • Hire locally.

Commute Alternatives for Larger Employers

  • Offer lockers and showers for staff who walk, jog or bicycled to work.
  • Offer secure bicycle storage for staff and customers.
  • Offer employee incentives for carpooling or using mass transit (e.g. guaranteed ride home or subsidized transit passes).
  • Set aside car/van pool parking spaces.
  • Provide commuter van.
  • Encourage bicycling to work by offering rebates on bicycles bought for commuting.
  • Offer a shuttle service to and from bus stops or ferry terminal.

Other Greenhouse Gas Emissions

  • Complete a CO2 or eco-footprint calculator to determine your own greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Convert company vehicles to low emission vehicles (electric, hybrid, natural gas or alternative fuels).
  • Offer electric vehicle recharge ports for visitors and staff using electric vehicles.
  • Use biodiesel (100% or blends) or vegetable diesel in place of petro diesel in vehicles.
  • Install renewable energy sources, such as solar panels or wind generators.

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