Best Practices for Office & Retail Facilities

This is a compilation of Best Management Practices for Office and Retail facilities covers the following areas:

  1. Recycling and Waste Reduction
    1. Recycle and Compost
    2. Source Reduction
    3. Environmentally Preferable Purchasing
  2. Energy Conservation
    1. Perform regular maintenance on your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and refrigeration systems
    2. Equipment/Facility Changes
    3. Additional Measure for Building Owners or Large Tenants
    4. Employee Practices
  3. Water Conservation
    1. Equipment/Facility Changes
  4. Pollution Prevention
    1. Conduct a Pollution Prevention Assessment
    2. Additional Measures for Company-owned vehicles
    3. Additional Measures for Larger Employers


  1. Recycling and Waste Reduction
    1. Recycle and Compost
      • Set up an ongoing system to recycle and compost.  Make it easy for employees to recycle by placing clearly marked collection bins (and signs) in convenient locations. Complete the required measures and a minimum of two additional measures: Recycle or reuse all of the following fibers: cardboard (corrugated cardboard boxes); mixed paper (junk mail, scrap and colored paper); newspaper; office paper (white ledger, color paper, computer, and copier paper).
      • Recycle all glass, plastic, and aluminum in accordance with available recycling programs.
      • Compost Organics: Participate in the composting program for collecting food and yard discards, soiled paper products, and compostable food containers when available.
      • Create a written recommendation for recycling and waste reduction and post in a central location such as a break room so that all employees have access to it.
      • Conduct ongoing education about recycling, composting, waste reduction, and other environmental topics. Document dates and methods (emails, meetings, lunch presentations, etc.).
      • Designate a recycling coordinator (or coordinators) to take responsibility for monitoring and maintaining recycling and composting programs.
      • Collect items that are prohibited from the garbage (batteries, CFL’s, cellphones and other electronics, etc.) and institute a program for their safe disposal.
    2. Source Reduction
      • In the lunch/break room, encourage elimination of  disposables by using permanent ware (mugs, dishes, utensils, etc.).
      • Retailers – Eliminate the use of plastic checkout bags (paper bags, preferably made with minimum 40% post consumer waste, or Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) certified are recommended).
      • Make two sided printing and copying standard practice in your business (set printers and copiers to default to duplex printing). Make single-sided the exception instead of the rule.
      • Keep a stack of previously used paper near printers. Use it for scratch paper or internal memos, make it into notepads, or designate a bypass tray on printer for printing draft single-sided documents.
      • Practice efficient copying by using the size reduction feature (e.g. print two pages of a document on one page, set word processing defaults for smaller fonts and margins).
      • Minimize misprints by posting a diagram showing how to load paper, like letterhead or envelopes.
      • Reduce unwanted mail by the following:
        • Write to or call senders requesting removal from mailing list.
        • Return labels from duplicate mailings & subscriptions requesting all but one be removed.
        • Use an on-line service to help reduce junk mail (ex. 41 lbs., Green Dimes, Catalog Choice)
        • Purge your own mailing lists to eliminate duplication. Document the process
      • Use electronic files rather than paper ones. Draft documents can be reviewed, edited, and shared on screen. Eliminate paper documents by having electronic forms and contracts.
      • Send and receive faxes directly from computers without printing.
      • Centralize employee schedules, meeting announcements, etc. in a single location rather than distributing individual copies (ex. Use a bulletin board, white board, email, etc.).
      • Design marketing materials that require no envelope – postcards or fold and mail.
      • Do not provide individual bottles of water for employees. Install a water filtration system or use bulk bottled water instead.
      • Reduce number of garbage bin liners by reusing bags or having unlined bins (please note that recycling bins should not have liner bags. If using bags for composting bins, they must be BPI certified  For other bags use recycled HDPE trash liner bags instead of LDPE or LLDPE).
      • Purchase used or refurbished equipment and/or furniture.
      • Lease, rather than purchase computers and printers or upgrade desktop computers instead of purchasing new ones.
      • Donate, sell, or exchange unwanted but usable items (furniture, supplies, electronics, office supplies, etc.). Document donations and sales of materials.
      • Choose vendors that take back products after their shelf life is over (batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, and toner must be recycled. Please use other examples.) OR work with vendors to minimize product packaging:  Request that they use recyclable packaging materials (no styrofoam, bubble wrap, etc) or ask them to take back packaging materials.
      • Replace several similar products with one or two that do the same job.. If using a multi function printer/scanner/fax eliminate auxiliary printers.
      • Retailers – offer an incentive to customers who bring their own shopping bags, coffee mugs, etc. and/or use a disincentive such as charging a fee for disposable containers and bags.
      • Retailers- offer durable, reusable bags at checkout.
    3. Environmentally Preferable Purchasing
      • Buying products made from recycled materials conserves resources and is essential to support the recycling economy.
      • Copy, computer and fax paper (minimum 50% post consumer waste, recommended 100%)
      • Letterhead, envelopes and business cards (minimum 50% post consumer waste)
      • Marketing materials (minimum 50% post consumer waste) Documentation from your printing vendor will be required.
      • Toilet paper, tissues, and paper towels (minimum 35% post consumer waste)
      • Bags for retail use or boxes for shipping (minimum 40% post consumer waste)
      • Retailers – stock/sell products made with recycled content.
      • When Conducting Remodels: Use recycled content, refurbished, or salvaged materials such as building fixtures, ceramic tiles, drywall, insulation, concrete, composite lumber/wood, roofing, flooring, cabinets, ceiling tile, interior paneling, etc.)
  2. Energy Conservation
    • If possible, have your energy provider conduct a free audit of your facility’s energy use to provide you with specific suggestions to conserve energy. Review it annually to identify additional opportunities to improve energy savings.
    1. Perform regular maintenance on your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and refrigeration systems.
      • Keep a log of all maintenance activities.
      • Institute and/or maintain a written procedure that inspects permanent filters every 3 months and clean permanent filters with mild detergents when necessary (change replaceable filters every three months)
      • Institute and/or maintain a written maintenance program that checks the entire system for coolant and air leaks, clogs, and obstructions of air intake and vents.
      • Institute and/or maintain a written maintenance program that keeps the condenser coils free of dust & lint.
      • Institute and/or maintain a written maintenance program that keeps the evaporator coils free of excessive frost.
    2. Equipment/Facility Changes
      1. General
        • Use electrical equipment with energy saving features (e.g. Energy Star® logo) and ensure that Energy Star settings are enabled (manual set-up often required).
        • Use hardware programs that save energy by automatically turning off idle monitors (after 15 minutes), computers (30 minutes) and printers (10 minutes). See for information and software options.
        • If purchasing new computers, buy EPEAT certified ( If purchasing monitors, consider flat-screen LED monitors which consume approximately 1/3 less energy than larger ray tube monitors.
        • Replace inefficient refrigerators (usually older than ten years) with a new efficient model, such as one labeled Energy Star®
        • Use and maintain a written maintenance program for weather stripping (weatherizing and caulking) to seal around windows and doors to close air gaps.
        • Use motion sensors on ice, snack and vending machines and locate in shaded areas.
        • Use occupancy sensors to adjust set points for the air conditioning, and heating equipment and to control other electrical devices and appliances.
        • Use or invest in renewable energy for at least 50% of your energy needs.
        • Insulate all hot water pipes, hot water heaters and storage tanks.
      2. Lighting
        • Replace non-dimming incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescents. Replace low wattage dimming and non-dimming incandescent bulbs with cold cathodes. Use halogen lamps only for low wattage spotlighting in retail environments.
        • Replace magnetic ballasts with electronic ballasts and install T-8 or T-5 lamps.
        • Improve exit sign energy efficiency by using LED exit signs or electroluminescent (LEC) exit signs.
        • Disconnect unused ballasts in de-lamped fixtures. Replace burned out lamps to avoid ballast damage.
        • Install optical reflectors or diffusers to increase lighting efficiency and reduce the number of fixtures, lamps.
        • Install lighting controls, such as:
          • Occupancy sensors in spaces of variable occupancy, such as restrooms, private offices, storage, etc.
          • Bypass/delay timers
          • Photocells for exterior lighting and/or areas with significant natural daylight
          • Time clocks for large banks of lights on circuit breaker that generally operate during off hours
          • Install dimmable ballasts to dim lights to take advantage of daylight. Use daylight dimmers that turn off automatically when there is sufficient light
      3. HVAC
        • Use ceiling fans to promote air circulation and reduce the need for air conditioning.
        • Apply window film to reduce solar heat gain. Shade sun-exposed windows and walls to mitigate the effect of direct sunlight during the summer. Use awnings, sunscreens, shade trees or shrubbery.
        • Use all variable frequency drives (VFDs) on fan and pump motors
        • Use Variable Air Volume (VAV) systems for central air conditioning
        • Install an Energy Management System (EMS) for central air conditioning systems.
    3. Additional Measure for Building Owners or Large Tenants
      • Convert electric hot water heaters to natural gas, unless building has on-site renewable electricity production.
      • Plant native shrubs or trees near windows for shade.
      • Use a solar water heater or preheaters.
      • Replace or supplement on A/C system with an evaporative cooler.
      • Use economizers on A/C to reduce the operation of the compressor and ensure the system is operational.
      • Replace single or package A/C unit with one meeting the Energy Star requirement.  Seasonal Energy Efficient Rating (SEER) >13 for most common size of equipment.
      • Convert electric heating system to a natural gas system, unless building has on-site renewable energy production.
      • Replace inefficient or broken windows with double pane energy efficient windows.
      • Provide shading for HVAC condenser, especially for roof-top units exposed directly to the sun.
      • When repainting building exterior and roofs, choose light colors to reflect more sunlight.
      • Use an Energy Management System for central air conditioning systems to adjust temperature, speed or other settings to reduce energy use.
      • Use variable speed drives on motors when appropriate.
    4. Employee Practices
      1. General Facility and HVAC:
        • Set thermostat at 76ºF for cooling, 68ºF for heating; use timing devices to turn system down after hours.
        • Set refrigerator temperature between 38ºF and 41ºF and freezer between 10º F and 20ºF.
        • Seal off unused areas from A/C and/or heating. Block and insulate unneeded windows and other openings.
        • Use a small fan or space heater to condition a small area during off hours instead of heating the entire office.
        • Institute a written procedure that ensures blinds and curtains are closed during peak summer period (white reflects) or use ceiling fans to reduce A/C load.
        • Install or use plug load controllers for office equipment that switches equipment off after working hours.
        • Institute a written policy to turn off equipment when not in use.
        • If available, use the standby mode on equipment (e.g. energy saver buttons on copiers).
      2. Lighting
        • Maintain a written policy that checks and adjusts, when necessary, lighting control devices such as time clocks and photocells.
        • Use “task” lighting with energy efficient bulbs where extra light is needed, rather than lighting an entire area.
        • Rearrange workspace to take advantage of areas with natural sunlight, and design for increased natural lighting when remodeling.
        • Maintain a written policy to turn off lights when leaving and post reminders.
        • Maintain a written policy to clean lighting fixtures, diffusers and lamps so that they are lighting as effectively as possible (dirt can reduce lighting efficiency by up to 50%) and replace aging fluorescent tubes.
  3. Water Conservation
    • Understand your water bill and review it monthly for indications of leaks, spikes or other problems.
    • Learn how to read your water meter. (It is recommended that the meter is read twice a day for early detection of water consumption spikes that may indicate leaks or other high use problems)
    • Regularly check for and repair all leaks in your facility (toilet leaks can be detected in tank toilets with leak detecting tablets). Train your staff to monitor and respond immediately to leaking equipment.
    • Use “dry sweeping”, water efficient “spray brooms”, or low flow (<3 gpm) spray nozzles with automatic shut-off rather than a garden hose to wash down concrete or asphalt surfaces.
    1. Equipment/Facility Changes
      1. General Facility and HVAC:
        • Replace all pre-1992 flushometer valve toilets with maximum flush volume of 1.6 gallons per flush. Replace pre-1994 tank style toilets (>3.5 gpf) with high efficiency toilets (average flush volume 1.28 gpf).  Best practice: utilize dual flush toilets.  Use WaterSense labeled fixtures.
        • Replace all pre-1992 urinals that flush more than 1.0 gpf with high-efficiency models that flush 0.5 gallons or less.  Best practice use waterless urinals.  Use WaterSense labeled fixtures
        • Install low flow aerators with flow rates not to exceed 1.5 gpm for sink faucets and lavatory sinks and 2.0 gpm for kitchen sinks, and 2.0 gpm (or lower) low flow showerheads. Infrared faucets (automatic hands free faucets)  should not exceed .5 gpm.  Use WaterSense labeled fixtures
        • Post signs in restrooms and kitchen areas encouraging water conservation.
        • Install low flow, self-closing faucets, either infrared or spring-loaded.
        • Indoors, use dry floor cleaning methods, followed by damp mopping, rather than spraying or hosing with water.
        • Reduce water pressure to no higher than 70 pounds per square inch (psi) by installing pressure-reducing valves with pressure gauge.
        • Change window cleaning schedule from “periodic” to “as needed.”
        • Adjust boiler and cooling tower blow-down rate to maintain TDS (total dissolved solids) at levels recommended by manufacturer’s specifications.
        • Replace water-cooled air conditioning units with air-cooled models.
        • Install conductivity controller on cooling tower, if it does not exist.
      2. Lighting
        • Test irrigation sprinklers 4 times per year for leaks, water runoff, over watering and dry spots and make necessary adjustments to ensure proper operation and coverage.
        • Repair all broken or defective sprinkler heads/nozzles, lines & valves.
        • Adjust sprinklers for proper coverage – optimizing spacing and avoiding runoff onto paved surfaces.
        • Adjust sprinkler times and/or durations according to seasons, water during non-daylight hours (generally before 7 am or after 9 pm).
        • Mulch all non-turf areas, preferably with recycled wood chips.
        • Use repeat cycles when watering lawn or shrubs in clay soils (if you’re planning to water for 8 minutes, water twice for 4 minutes each).
        • Modify your existing irrigation system to include drip irrigation or soaker hoses where feasible.
        • Use rain shut-off devices as part of irrigation/landscape control measures.
        • Plant drought tolerant ground cover or shrubs (preferably native species), instead of turf.
        • Replace water intensive turf with woodchips, plant based mulch, loose stones or permeable pavers. [Brick and cobblestones will block water from penetrating the ground since they are typically installed with concrete].
        • If installing new turf, limit area and use drought tolerant species (water efficient landscape guidelines are available from your local water agency/utility).
        • Renovate existing landscape to include drought tolerant plants.
        • Hydrozone: Group plants with similar water requirements together on the same irrigation line, and separate plants with different water requirements on separate irrigation lines.
        • Plant and maintain a street tree next to your business. If there is no space for a tree, install a sidewalk garden with drought tolerate plants.
  4. Pollution Prevention
    1. Conduct a Pollution Prevention Assessment
      • Assess your facility to identify all hazardous materials at the worksite and determine if those items get used regularly. Consider products like – cleaning products, building materials, pesticides, fertilizers, toners, backup generators, etc. If you contract out for some of these services, your service provider needs to provide you with an inventory of the items to be included in your list.
      • Restrict the use of any harmful products by purchasing them in small quantities, store securely and limiting access to authorized personnel
      • Reduce or eliminate the use of chemical pesticides by implementing an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program which utilizes planting locations, pest resistant plants, proper irrigation and cultivation procedures, biological controls and less toxic pesticides to prevent pest harborage. If using a pest control operator, specify IPM techniques in contract.
      • Implement a “just in time” purchasing policy and a “first-in/first-out” chemical usage policy to use old material first.
      • Use low-toxic cleaners and properly dispose of leftover and expired materials.
      • Buy recycled and low VOC paint products when available (paint, paint removal products, etc.).
      • Buy paper that is produced by a company with a stated commitment to environmental stewardship and to minimizing ecological impacts and ensuring long term sustainable production.
      • Replace aerosols with non-aerosol alternatives (such as pump sprays for fresheners and cleaners).
      • Replace standard fluorescent lights with low or no mercury fluorescent lights.
      • Use unbleached and/or chlorine-free paper products (copy paper, promotional paper, paper towels, coffee filters, etc.)
      • Use recycled or remanufactured laser and copier toner cartridges.
      • Use rechargeable batteries and appliances, such as hand-held vacuum cleaners and flashlights.
      • Use non-toxic water-based markers rather than toxic permanent ink markers/pens.
      • Print promotional materials with soy or other low-VOC inks.
      • Do business with other “Green” vendors or services such as Certified Green Businesses (printers, landscapers, etc.) or vendors using environmentally preferable practices (e.g. vegetable-based print inks).
      • Use natural or low emissions building materials, carpets, or furniture.
      • Retailers – stock/sell products, which are less toxic or less polluting than conventional products.
      • Recycle or reuse all of the following wastes:
        • Grease, oil and solvents.
        • Excess paint (give to hazardous waste collection program, donate to anti-graffiti program, or return to manufacturer).
        • Spent fluorescent tubes.
        • Electronic equipment (such as computers, cell phones, and pagers).
        • Batteries
        • Send used toner cartridges back to the manufacturer for recycling or refilling.
      • Spent florescent tubes should be managed as Universal Waste.
      • Prevent pollution of stormwater runoff and wastewater entering the sewer system.
      • Keep dumpsters covered when not in use.
      • Keep receiving, parking, landscaping and dumpster areas clean and free from litter, oil drips and debris.
      • Clean private catch basins once a year, before the first rain.
      • Regularly check and maintain storm drain openings and basins that are located on your property. Keep litter, debris and soil away from storm drains.
      • If company owns any vehicles, routinely check for leaks and establish a “ground staining” inspection routine. Keep a spill kit handy to catch/collect spills from leaking company or employee vehicles.
      • Label all storm water drains with a message such as “No Dumping”.
      • Divert run-off water from washing cars, equipment, floor mats or other items away from storm drains and into a sewer drain.
      • 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, dumpster areas, outside hoses) describing proper practices.
      • Keep a spill kit handy to catch/collect spills from leaking company or employee vehicles.
      • Use ground cover or use a barrier to prevent exposed soil in landscaped areas from washing into storm drains.
        • Store deliveries and supplies under a roof.
        • Have an outdoor ashtray or cigarette “butt” can if there is regular smoking by employees or visitors.
      • Encourage commuter alternatives by informing employees, customers and others who visit your office about transportation various options (post bicycle route maps, and transit schedules before driving directions).
      • Post bicycle route maps, transit schedules, commuter ride sign-ups, etc. in a visible area for employees.
      • Offer telecommuting opportunities and/or flexible schedules so workers can avoid heavy traffic commutes.
      • Offer lockers and showers for employees who walk, jog or bicycle to work. Provide your own, or subsidize the cost of locker rentals and shower passes at a nearby health club.
      • Encourage bicycling to work by offering rebates on bicycles bought for commuting, or provide employees a stipend or subsidy for bicycle maintenance.
      • Offer secure areas for bicycle storage for employees.
      • When possible, arrange for a single vendor who makes deliveries for several items.
      • Patronize services close to you business (e.g., food/catering, copy center, etc.) and encourage employees to do the same.
      • Retailers-Provide bicycle parking for customers.
    2. Additional Measures for Company-owned vehicles
      • Keep company vehicles well maintained to prevent leaks and minimize emissions and encourage employees to do the same.
      • Enroll in a car sharing program for company business.
      • Carefully plan delivery routes and errands to eliminate unnecessary trips.
      • Convert company vehicles to low-emission cars, using natural gas, electricity or alternative fuels.
      • Purchase carbon dioxide offsets for you vehicle.
    3. Additional Measures for Larger Employers:
      • Have a bike kit for employees who may have bicycle emergencies or problems.
      • Set aside car/van pool parking spaces.
      • Provide a commuter van.
      • Offer a shuttle service to and from bus, train and/or light rail stops.
      • Offer electric vehicle recharge ports for visitors and employees’ electric vehicles.


Acknowledgement:  This compilation of best practices is based upon Green Business Certification Standards provided by the Monterey County Green Business Program.