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What to expect from the Site Visit:

Green Business staff will go over the waste reduction and recycling portion of the checklist with you and ask you to furnish supporting documentation for all measures checked off on your checklist.


During the site visit, our staff may need you to:


  1. Submit your garbage bill to us. This document will allow us to evaluate waste disposal options, including recycling and composting.
  2. Verify that you are implementing all checked measures. Be able to verify products purchased by your business that are made with recycled content, reduce resources used by your business, and employees sort waste correctly.

Please use the following resources to help your business implement and meet the San Francisco Green Business Program Waste Reduction standards.

The city of San Francisco has set the goal of reaching Zero Waste by 2020. We are challenging ourselves, our citizens, and every other city in the world to stop sending waste to landfills and incinerators. In 2012 San Francisco diverted over 80% of all discards from landfill. In order to get to 100% diversion, or "Zero Waste", we need the help of all business and residents to recycle and compost, reduce waste at the source, and make smart consumer choices. If each business does its part and the City continues passing producer responsibility legislation that builds the infrastructure for recovering resources, San Francisco will be able to reach Zero Waste, or darn close. San Francisco Green Businesses are making a public commitment to reducing waste and leading the way for others to do the same.

To get started, check out the Zero Waste Toolkit for business training materials, signage, case studies, helpful videos and more.

There are three sections in the Waste Reduction portion of the San Francisco Green Business Program standards:

  1. Waste Diversion
  2. Source Reduction
  3. Environmentally Preferable Purchasing



1 . Reduce your waste that goes to landfills by participating in San Francisco's recycling and composting programs.

Disposing of unwanted items so they do not end up in a landfill is fundamental to achieving Zero Waste. In order to qualify for Green Business recognition, businesses must help San Francisco meet its zero waste goal by setting up recycling and composting programs.

The "Fantastic Three" carts

San Francisco‘s 3-cart recycling program is designed to make recycling easier, reduce waste, and control litter. It is easier to sort your recyclables by combining all bottles, cans, and paper in the blue cart. The green cart is for all compostable items, such as food scraps and yard trimmings. Anything that goes in the black cart is sent to landfill, but remember that hardly anything truly belongs in the black cart. If you do not currently have service or would like to request change in service levels, call Golden Gate Disposal, 415-626-4000 or Sunset Scavenger, 415-330-1300 to arrange for service.

For information on setting up waste diversion programs and to learn about the cost savings achieved through waste diversion, visit

Increase your waste diversion

In San Francisco, all Green Business Program applicants are assessed for the quality and the success of the waste diversion programs in their facilities. If you pay your own garbage bill, you can easily evaluate the success of your program by identifying the waste diversion number (indicated as recycling %) on your bill. If you do not pay your own bill, you can peek inside the recycling and composting bins in your office to look for "contamination". The one area that reduces, if not eliminates, the value of recycling is contamination. There are several steps an applicant can take to ensure that less waste is generated, contamination is minimized and diversion is maximized. Use these tools to strengthen your waste diversion program:

  • Collection - Participate in the commingled recycling recycling-waste-basketsprogram to recover almost all types of paper and plastic, glass, and metal containers. To recover all recyclable materials generated by staff, set up recycling bins at central, strategic locations (for instance - by large copier stations) as well as at each desk. If your business shreds paper, ensure that shredded paper is bagged in paper or clear bags if not collected by a document destruction service. Set up compost bins to recover all food and yard discards as well as any food related paper products such as paper take out boxes, paper coffee cups, napkins, tissues, paper towels, sandwich wrappers, and pastry bags. Make sure you collect all compostable materials from all kitchens, kitchenettes, and bathrooms.
  • kitchen-pailfoodTraining - Conduct regular trainings for your staff on materials that belong in each bin. Send electronic reminders to your staff on items that (you find) are often placed in the wrong bin (such as coffee cup sleeves, soiled napkins etc).
  • Signage - Use signage to educate staff about materials that belong in each bin. Visit our Downloadable Signage for some samples to print out and use in your business.
  • eWasteDisposal Strategies for items that do not belong in the 3 bins - Collect batteries, electronics, fluorescent lights, plastic bags, and/or scrap metal for proper disposal with a small, well-marked bin near the waste stations. Use the RecycleWhere to find out how to dispose of these and other items.

For free technical assistance or information on how to start your program please contact SF Environment's Zero Waste program at 415.355.3745.


2. Source Reduction

In addition to a robust waste diversion program, green business applicants must also implement waste reduction practices listed on the green business standards. Use the tools below to learn more:


  • Use only durable dishes, both at your facility and for events. Demonstrate your environmental commitment to reduce
    energy and natural resource consumption, and reduce ongoing financial costs of disposable foodware. 
  • For restaurants with take out containers and cutlery see the Environmentally Preferable Purchasing section below. Absolutely no polystyrene (styrofoam) can be used in your business according to a City-wide banOnly fully compostable items can be labeled “compostable” because these items have been certified by a third party like Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI). There are many companies who manufacture compostable or recyclable food service ware and bags.
  • Set all company computers to print default double-sided. You will save resources and money by reducing the amount of paper used. You can also instruct staff to use size reduction features or print multiple pages per sheet to further reduce paper consumption.usebothsides


3. Environmentally Preferable Purchasing

The purchasing decisions your company makes should be responsible both upstream and downstream. The easiest way to make smart consumer decisions is to source products such as paper and office supplies that are made from recycled materials. If possible, build with reclaimed or Forest Stewardship Certified materials, buy Fair Trade Certified agricultural products, and local and organic produce and meats. We ask you to buy, contract, and get professional services from SF Approved and local Green Businesses whenever possible.

  • Purchase paper products made from recycled paper. For copy, computer and fax paper the minimum standard is 50% post consumer waste (PCW) recycled content, however we encourage all businesses to purchase paper made with 100% recycled content. All collateral (business cards, letterhead and custom printed envelopes) and marketing materials should also meet this standard. Large format or plotter paper must contain a minimum of 30% PCW recycled content. Other paper products such as folders and sticky notes should also be purchased with the highest recycled content available. Purchasing chlorine-free office paper with at least 50% PCW will qualify your business for double-credit.

    There are many companies that offer high quality recycled paper such as the local SF Green Business The Green Office, or paper suppliers like Conservatree, New Leaf, Treecyle, and Neenah Paper. Additionally, bigger brand name retailers, such as Staples are now also offering paper with up to 100% recycled content.
  • Purchase janitorial papers with the highest available post-consumer waste (PCW) recycled content. Toilet paper and tissues must contain a minimum of 20% PCW recycled content and paper towels must contain a minimum of 40% PCW recycled content, however we recommend that you use the highest PCW content available.

    A few places to find these supplies are: Cascades, Conservatree, Marcalpaper, The Green OfficeWhole Foods and Kimberly-Clark.