You don’t get to be the #1 World’s Best Workplace (Great Places to Work) and the World’s #2 Most Sustainable Company (Barron’s) without making some big promises and delivering even bigger results. And, there is no question that these two accolades are intrinsically linked together. Can you imagine being the world’s best workplace without a huge focus on sustainability or being a super “green” company but with a toxic work culture?

Like love and marriage, you can’t have one without the other!

At our Cisco campus in Raleigh, North Carolina (RTP) we are doing something that no other major company in our region is even attempting – we are making Cisco RTP a Zero Waste campus!

That sounds amazing, and it is amazing, but delivering on this promise is not for the faint of heart – we’re just now approaching one year on this mission and we’ve found it takes loads of meticulous planning, plenty of resources, and the efforts of dozens of committed employees – just to get the operational components in place. We are also on a journey of creating a conscious culture in RTP that will have 7,000 employees and tens of thousands of guests each year be active and willing participants in achieving this huge accomplishment.

But, before we get to that, what the heck does zero waste even mean? Is that seriously even possible?

The term ‘zero waste’ is a bit of a misnomer. It doesn’t actually mean that as a campus, we produce absolutely no landfill waste whatsoever. To be certified as zero waste, we need to have 90% of our waste stream be recycled or composted, meaning only 10% of what comes out of our campus goes to landfills. On a side note, we are also already water and energy neutral in RTP. We do this by investing in water and renewable energy programs that save and generate more water and electricity than we use to run our campus.

Pretty cool stuff, right? But, back to “Talkin’ Trash.”

I am by no means an expert on sustainability, but I sure have learned a thing or two over the past few years by working closely with my colleagues (and the real experts on this front) in our Workplace Resource’s Sustainability Team. What has been most interesting in this journey to zero waste is seeing how many Cisco teams (café, catering, facilities, janitorial, refreshment services, sustainability, landscaping, communications, design, and construction) need to be so tightly interconnected to achieve this one goal.

Every change sends a ripple effect through all these teams, and every change gets us a little bit closer to that magic number of 90%. There is an actual science to all of this, and the most sustainable companies plan out the exact order and placement of the waste collection bins, the size of the bins, the color of the bins, where the signage should be placed, and so many other details.

As a collective, collaborative team – is our job to take the challenging task of turning Cisco RTP into a zero-waste campus and make it easy and intuitive for employees and guests.

A display showing wasteful and green dining options in the RTP cafes.

By changing our routines at work, we can help to make Cisco an even more sustainable company. So, what have employees been doing at our Raleigh Campus to help in these efforts?

We are eliminating paper cups in our break rooms. By bringing in a mug and/or water bottle from home and letting visitors use the provided guest mugs – we’re reducing waste.

We are providing reusable dishes and flatware. Instead of taking food in a ‘to go’ container, many employees are now using dishes and flatware when visiting the cafes, and then dropping them in return bins in the break room when they’re done eating.

We’re making it easy to sort waste properly in the waste streams provided. By supplying easy to read signage and fun, short videos – we’re helping employees to properly dispose of their waste.

We have also made some alterations that require no major changes to our employee’s routines, like replacing break room, café, and catering products with compostable options. These items just need to be tossed in the closest compost bin and someday in the future, they’ll turn into soil.

A display of biodegradable and compostable knives, forks, and spoons in RTP. I am just a regular facilities guy who gets a thrill out of recycling and composting at home, and I try to do the right things to make the world a “greener” place. It is my belief that if we all make some minor changes to our routines, we can leave the Earth cleaner, healthier, and safer than it is today – and I love that I’ve been able to share this passion at Cisco too.

It’s been a true honor to work on a project of this magnitude that fulfills a big promise and is bound to make a big difference for the world. I love that I work for a company that cares so much about its employees, not just while they are at work, but cares about them at the level of making sure the world they live in is a better place now and for generations to come.

Someday, when I look back at all the accomplishments in my career, being a part of the team that has worked so hard to make Cisco RTP a zero waste campus will certainly be near the top of my highlight reel.

Ready to join one of the world’s most sustainable companies? We’re hiring. Apply now.


Jeffrey Buck

Service Delivery Manager

Workplace Resources