Microsoft HQ Switches to 100% PCR Recycled Paper

sign at Microsoft headquarters
sign at Microsoft headquarters

Companies and the office managers that keep them humming have strived for paperless offices for several years.  The reality, however, is that old habits die hard for several reasons:  many of us just do not like to read data on monitors, endless meetings require charts and proposals, you cannot highlight a screen, and not everyone has an iPad yet.

So while the software giant Microsoft has not yet gone completely paperless, the Redmond, WA-based company has announced a new procurement policy that should earn it corporate social responsibility (CSR) points at a couple levels. 

Microsoft announced yesterday that it will purchase only 100% post-consumer recycled  (PCR) paper for its offices in the greater Seattle metropolitan area, including its vast Redmond headquarters.  The company’s previous printing stock was 30%.  Microsoft’s vendor of choice?  Greys Harbor Paper, a company that operates out of nearby Hoquiam and has made printing, food industrial, and packaging paper for almost 20 years. Greys Harbor has won much recognition for its low-impact approach, environmentally-friendly operations, and for using renewable energy to fuel much of its factory capacity.  Other steps the company has taken include salvaging wood waste from forest floors and producing paper through a chlorine-free process.  The company also published a sustainability report in 2009 that follows the Global Reporting Initiative’s guidelines.

Microsoft claims that the switch to 100% PCW will annually conserve 2.5 million BTUs of energy, reduce 750 million pounds of carbon dioxide from spewing into the atmosphere, and preserve approximately 8000 trees.  Greys Harbor in turn will reduce wastewater by about 5 Olympic-sized swimming pools a year and solid waste by about eight garbage truckloads with this transaction.

The rollout begins on April 22, just in time for Good Friday, which coincides with another day that is on the calendar of many sustainability advocates, too.

Some may lament the slow drive towards a paperless office, and more work in this area is necessary.  Both companies have the opportunity to move towards more of a closed loop process where paper is gathered throughout Microsoft’s offices and returned to Greys Harbor for recycling.  Greys Harbor has already accomplished a lot, however, and deals like yesterday’s need to be repeated.  Microsoft scores highly on two strong counts:  waste diversion and supporting the local economy.

Leon Kaye is the Editor of and contributes to The Guardian Sustainable Business; you can follow him on Twitter.

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye is a business writer and strategic communications specialist. He has also been featured in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. When he has time, he shares his thoughts on his own site, Contact him at You can also reach out via Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). He is currently traveling in South America.

5 responses

  1. Fantastic news — glad to hear it! Also curious to know… what is the cost impact of this change?

  2. Really? That’s the news they come out with right before Earth Day? It is better than virgin paper but yawn…

    1. Hey Todd,

      I had the same thought at first, but the Redmond location has tens of thousands of staff members. Couple that with the 20 reams of paper the average office worker uses each year ( and you’re actually talking about a massive impact. Paper is a huge source of carbon emissions for most office based businesses, so this move takes a major bite out of the Redmond campus’s overall carbon footprint.



      1. I personally think most Earth Day “announcements” are cliche, which is why I didn’t mention it . . . and plus, it’s also Good Friday. But to me, what is important, and often overlooked in the CSR world, is the fact that they are sourcing from a local company. I say the news is great for Greys Harbor and it’s a great coup for their employees.

      2. I agree with Jen. Microsoft being a gigantic company with many workers definitely increases the use of papers for its use. I was doing some research on recycle papers and i found out that it is pretty interesting how a recycled papers have so much to do with society and environment as a whole.
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