Increasing Recycling Through Competition

This Great Forest case study was featured in Environmental Leader’s 2012 Insider Knowledge Report–Lessons Learned from Corporate Environmental, Sustainability and Energy Decision-Makers, pg 71. (download pdf, 2012 report)

What: We conducted a recycling challenge with a single tenant that occupies six floors at a commercial office building.

The goal was to increase employee compliance with the building’s recycling program through education, visibility and awareness.

The challenge exceeded our expectations.


  • We set a baseline by tracking the amount of trash and recyclables generated from each floor for three months.
  • Once the floor-by floor challenge began, we continued tracking, and also conducted spot checks of employee desk-side trash cans to see the level of employee compliance.
  • We combined the volumes of materials with the compliance observations into an overall recycling score.
  • Each department nominated ‘Green Ambassadors’ to champion and educate employees about the competition.
  • At the end of each month employees were provided with the results.


At the end of the competition there were significant increases in the recycling score of every single floor.

The only prize offered was recognition.


The key to making this challenge a success was continual feedback to employees on how their floor was doing, combined with active engagement and support from upper management.

The tenant is so excited about this effort that they plan to continue spot checks on a monthly basis on their own and will profile employees who are doing well.


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