Climate Protection Actions


Actions to Reduce GHGs

Greenhouse emissions reductions can be achieved through specific actions throughout a material or product’s lifecycle.  Upstream actions offer significant GHG emission reductions because emissions from some or most lifecycle phases are avoided. Source reduction strategies are especially effective approaches because they can potentially eliminate many of the lifecycle emissions phases.  Some jurisdictions are implementing source reduction actions by shifting and reducing specific areas of consumption.

A common practice in GHG reduction approaches is to set an overall target to reduce total community waste generation. From this target flows a variety of actions that will be implemented to help achieve the target.

The following actions include approaches that jurisdictions plan to take or that are already being done. 


Source reduction is a concept that can be advanced in many different ways. Here are a few examples that include policies, programs, education, research, outreach and technical assistance:

  • Partner with organizations to encourage businesses and residents to purchase durable, repairable and reusable goods (Resourceful Portland)
  • Promote the use of the City’s mini-grant programs to support “collaborative consumption” community projects like tool libraries and repair cafes (Shoreline)
  • Reduce consumption of carbon-intensive consumer goods and services (Resourceful Portland)
  • Set and achieve statutory waste generation (prevention) goals (Oregon)
  • Provide technical assistance to help businesses prevent packaging waste (Oregon DEQ website and evaluation report)
  • Educate businesses and residents about how consumption contributes to greenhouse gas emissions by partnering with community groups and environmental organizations (Eugene)
  • Create or advocate for a "do-not-mail" registry (unwanted mail) (Oregon)
    • Helped register 1,608 residents opt out of junk mail, preventing 20 tons of unwanted mail (Fort Collins)
  • In communities with pay-as-you-throw programs (also known as unit pricing or variable rate pricing), residents are charged for the collection of trash based on the amount they throw away. This creates a direct economic incentive to recycle more and to generate less waste. Common in the West Coast but less common in some other areas, pay-as-you-throw is simple and fair: the less individuals throw away, the less they pay. As a cross-cutting measure that encourages both waste prevention and recovery (recycling, composting), pay-as-you-throw can reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the life cycle of materials.
  •  Require or promote Zero Waste at events (San Francisco, Santa Monica


  • Support and expand material exchanges and reuse programs, and promote building with salvaged and reclaimed materials (Seattle)
  • Reuse business packaging  (Alameda County)
  • Promote the use of mini-grant programs to support “collaborative consumption”     community projects like tool libraries and repair cafes (Shoreline)
  • Develop, expand and support markets for reused and recycled products and for County produced renewable resources (King County)
  • Partner with haulers and recycling and composting businesses to increase productive reuse and recycling of materials (King County)
  • Intensify collaboration and outreach with second-hand stores and King County to promote textile collection and recycling (Shoreline)
  • Establishing a recycling store that offers reusable items and products made from recycled materials (Shoreline)
  • Initiate education for the public, project developers and local jurisdictions to include benefits of remanufacture (California)



  • Focus product stewardship on upstream emissions and design for appropriate durability, reparability, reusability, efficiency, and recovery (Oregon)
  • Expand product stewardship focusing on end-of-life management to cover additional materials; including life cycle GHG emissions as a primary product selection criteria (Oregon)
  • Encourage product stewardship programs, using environmentally preferable procurement practices, and encouraging cradle-to-cradle design and manufacturing (Washington)
  • Establish carpet product stewardship program (



  • Establish standards, incentives and/or mandates for carbon footprinting, labeling of products (Oregon)  
  • Create/require a carbon footprinting score for buildings, including materials (Oregon)



  • Establish grant program for construction of new facilities, expansion of existing facilities, and equipment upgrades to process greater amounts of recycled materials construction of new facilities (California



  • Identify high-carbon product categories (via a consumption-based GHG inventory) (Oregon)
  • Develop and disseminate information: easy-to-use life cycle metrics for different food types (Oregon)
  • Provide information and outreach to consumers on product GHG impacts and opportunities to reduce those impacts (Oregon)
  • Demonstrating the “cost of carbon” embedded in materials and waste (Oregon)
  • Conduct research on highest/best use for organic wastes and the carbon impact of different conversion technologies (Oregon)
  • Develop emission reduction factors for additional materials that can be recycled (carpet, paint, rubberized asphalt, concrete and others)  (California)


  • Initiate state and local government low-carbon purchasing requirements, including buildings (Oregon)
  • Adopting and promote green procurement policies and practices (Alameda County)
  • Provide education on state procurement requirements to all state agency purchasing officials and all staff within agencies, as well as state contractors, who purchase materials. (California)
  • Create a system to verify post-consumer recycled content (PCRC) of products, identify suppliers of PCRC products, and track state procurement (California)
  • Require manufacturers and suppliers to disclose product environmental information (California)


Food is the single largest and least recovered waste stream in the U.S. About 95% of wasted food is still ending up in landfills. Not only are there opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from food that goes to landfill, but upstream food waste prevention offers even more opportunity to prevent emissions from a lifecycle perspective. For more information on wasted food, visit the Forum’s Food: Too Good to Waste toolkit and read NRDC’s Wasted report.

  • Launch programs to support edible food donation, help commercial kitchens find efficiencies and reduce waste, and help households and businesses reduce food waste through better planning, purchasing, storage and preparation (Seattle)
  • Reduce (prevent) waste of food at the retail and consumer levels (Oregon)
  • Seek grant funds to launch a “Food: Too Good to Waste” campaign (supported by the EPA) to encourage food waste reduction by residents (Shoreline)
  • Disseminate information: easy‐to‐use life cycle metrics for different food types (Oregon)
  • Transition to agricultural methods that reduce GHGs (Eugene)
  • Food:  Too Good to Waste Toolkit
  • King County:
  • Thurston County:
  • Reduce consumption of carbon-intensive foods (Eugene)
  • Implement a “Buy climate-friendly first” food purchasing policy for public institutions


  • Establish higher standards for new buildings: "net zero" carbon including offset for materials life-cycle emissions (Oregon)
  • Create/require a carbon footprint score for buildings, including materials (Oregon)
  • Encourage/incentivize changes in urban form (Oregon)
  • Change code: larger homes must also be more energy efficient (Oregon)
  • Expand existing energy efficiency review requirements for public buildings to include evaluation of materials-related impacts (Oregon)
  • Develop educational programs for construction professionals about advanced construction and demolition waste diversion techniques (Alameda County)



Recycling reduces CO2 emissions by avoiding the energy used during the extraction and processing of virgin raw materials to manufacture new products. Also, reducing landfill disposal, especially organics diversion, reduces the amount of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, released into the atmosphere.

Many jurisdictions have existing recycling programs, and use WARM to calculate the GHG reduction benefits. Jurisdictions are also expanding residential and commercial recycling policies and programs to capture even more benefits. The examples below illustrate these efforts.

Recycling and Composting Policies

  • Statutory diversion goals (Ft. Collins)
  • Provide financial incentives to promote composting/anaerobic digestion infrastructure
  • Provide financial incentives for recycling manufacturing facilities
  • Promote front end design parameters to foster recycling and recyclability
  • Mandatory residential recycling and composting (San Francisco)
  • Mandatory commercial recycling
  • Mandatory construction and debris recycling
  • Landfill ban on specific materials, e.g., yard waste, cardboard (Ft. Collins)
  • Set goal of 75% percent recycling, composting or source reduction of by 2020, California, 2011
  • Focus grants on schools to establish system-wide collection for food and yard waste (Seattle)
    • Provide tools and support to King County schools and other partners to improve waste prevention, resource conservation and efficiency efforts (King County)
  • Expand bottle bill (Oregon)


Residential Recycling and Composting

  • Curbside recycling (San Francisco)
  • Establish recycling and composting at events (San Francisco)
  • Institute curbside greenwaste (San Francisco)
  • Institute curbside food waste pickup (San Francisco)
  • Increase curbside food waste collection and decrease collection of garbage (see report(8) "Beyond Recycling: Composting Food Scraps and Soiled Paper")
  • Make policy that requires recycling collection to be at least as frequent and convenient as garbage collection (Oregon)
  • Establish multifamily homes collection, (StopWaste MultiFamilyHomesRecyclingGuidelines.pdf(8))
  • Identify priority materials recovery, (Ft. Collins)


Commercial Recycling Programs and Policies



  • Reduce frequency of garbage collection (Portland)
  • Landfill design, operation, and closure: see Technologies and Management Practices for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Landfills. This report, prepared for the California Integrated Waste Management Board, summarizes a large number of landfill practices that offer the potential to reduce methane emissions, including:
  • Horizontal collectors or surface collectors
  • Tighter spacking of landfill gas wells
  • Mixed horizontal and vertical well systems
  • Connection of gas collection system to leachate collection and removal system
  • Deep multi-depth vertical wells
  •  Larger borehole and well diameters
  • Enhanced seals on landfill gas wells and boreholes
  • Dewatering of gas wells
  • Other best practices for gas system piping
  • Barometric control of landfill gas system
  • Redundant flare station equipment to reduce downtime
  • Maximize capacity of gas mover equipment and gas control equipment
  • Enhanced maintenance
  • Early installation of landfill gas systems
  • Landfill gas master planning, and design for closure and post-closure
  • Enhanced monitoring of surface emissions and gas migration
  • Timely coverage of the leachate collection and removal layer
  • Blockage of permeable layer within the landfill
  • Deeper landfills
  • Designing covers for landfill gas collection
  • Limit delays on final cover systems
  • Modify, limit, or remove intermediate cover systems
  • Design landfill gas systems to recirculate leachate
  • Bioreactor landfills
  • Biocovers to increase methane oxidation in the landfill cover
  • Bale waste prior to disposal
  • The California Air Resource Board's Landfill Methane Control Measure webpage provides additional information on landfill methane controls.
  • Alternative Daily Cover Options - limit use of recyclables