Microsoft recently received Zero Waste Certification from the US Zero Waste Business Council.

In a white paper written exclusively for CoreNet Global, Katie Ross, Sustainability Program Manager, Microsoft Real Estate & Facilities explains:

“To be zero waste certified, a company must prove it is diverting at least 90% of its waste from landfills. Microsoft is the first technology company in the U.S. to receive this endorsement. They have been pursuing this achievement for nearly a decade by exploring, piloting, and introducing sustainability programs across nearly every aspect of the company.”

With more than 44,000 employees, the Redmond campus in Puget Sound is the size of a small city and produces an average of 120,000 pounds of waste a day. The biggest waste sources are the on-campus dining venues and landscaping; other sources are materials that have regular turnover, such as furniture, computers, and office supplies.

There are more than 90 dining destinations on the Microsoft Puget Sound campus, including 33 cafés, 32 espresso shops, and 25 @Market stores, plus over 500 kitchenettes. Together they serve more than 40,000 meals daily.

How does the company go from that level of output to a Zero Waste Certification? Here are few examples Ross cites:

“All food used in the kitchens must arrive in compostable or recyclable packaging, and almost every takeaway dish, wrapper, piece of cutlery, and condiment package is compostable or recyclable. To reduce overall packaging and create less waste, dining facilities cook foods from scratch, make meals to order, and grow tons of fresh greens and microgreens in on-campus hydroponic “urban farms” for arms-length food sourcing. Hundreds of gallons of frying oil a week are converted into biodiesel by local recyclers, and kitchen and dining food waste is composted. The company tests all new dining products to verify that they are biodegradable.”

And if you are the kind of employee who thinks of the office supply closet as a trip to the mall, think consignment shopping instead:

When a Microsoft employee needs five binders, a keyboard, a whiteboard eraser, or monitor stand, they can grab what they need from the revolving inventory of the company’s Office Supply Recycle program. In 2016, this program collected, sorted, and redistributed more than 21 tons of surplus office and computer supplies among buildings on campus, instead of sending them to a landfill.

Old furniture is reused or donated. PC’s are recycled appropriately.

And the company monitors its activities closely. In 2010, the company’s zero waste numbers hovered a little over 70% for the Redmond campus. By 2016, Microsoft had reached 90.62% zero waste.