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Green Campaign Ideas for the Office

Want to engage employees and begin embedding sustainability into your operations?  Read on for a few green campaign tips.

Pick Something Tangible and Visible

While greening your data center, reducing packaging or cutting energy use might be your most strategic corporate initiative, to engage employees and inspire action, it is important to focus on a tangible and visible campaign.

Five green campaign ideas to consider are detailed below:

  • Purchase Recycled Paper
  • Adopt a “Double-Sided” Policy
  • Chuck the Cup
  • Ban Bottled Water
  • Personal Sustainability Practices

For more information, check out my latest post on green team best practices here and listen to a free recorded Webinar highlighting employee engagement best practices here.

Five Green Campaign Ideas

Purchase Recycled Paper

Purchasing paper with recycled content is an easy way to help your company go greener. Choosing recycled paper has a multitude of environmental benefits, including a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and protection of biodiversity and native forests.

Work with your procurement folks to phase out the use of virgin paper (paper with no recycled content) and adopt a minimum standard of 30 percent post consumer waste (PCW) recycled content for all office supplies.

Ideally, all offices should be using 100 percent recycled paper–there are a variety of choices of high-quality paper, guaranteed to work in any printer or copier without jamming. However, since 30 percent typically does not cost more than virgin paper, and 100 percent does have a cost premium, take a baby step and start with 30 percent. If you implement the double-side copying campaign below, typically you can save enough to offset the additional cost of 100 percent recycled paper.


Adopt a “Double-Sided” Policy:  Launch a new campaign that will reduce your paper use.  Increase the post-consumer recycled content of the paper you purchase, print double-sided (see Green Your tips), or better yet, go paperless. Where possible, set up computer software to default to double-sided printing. Here are a few resources to check out:  HP’s Eco Solutions, a portfolio of tools, software, hardware, services and expertise to help customers reduce their environmental impact and save money. HP helped the University of California, Davis reduce energy use 35 percent and save $68,000 per year by printing double sided.

Xerox’s web site has some good tips for reducing paper use and its Xerox ColorQube 9200 Series machines work smoothly using 100% post-consumer recycled paper.

The City of Mill Valley, my home town, has a good model one-page handout on ways to reduce paper use.

Chuck the Cup:  At Yahoo! last year for Earth Day, “Chuck the Cup” Day was held at four campuses to raise awareness about the environmental impact of using paper cups, highlighting the things employees can do to create a more sustainable workplace. A Green Team member, Kai Haley, calculated how many paper cups were consumed every 15 minutes (over 100) on the Yahoo! main campus and created hexagon domes out of thrown away cups. Along with providing incentives to encourage employees to bring their own mug, Yahoo! put the attention-getting sculptures on the main lawn along with signage to raise awareness.

How can you use art to raise awareness of an environmental issue?

Ban Bottled Water: If you are not ready to make a full commitment to eliminating bottled water at events and meetings, consider banning their use for the day or week to raise awareness about alternatives.  Have a water taste test to discourage bottled water use or hold a viewing of the new video The Story of Bottled Water (from the makers of the Story of Stuff!). Genentech has reduced its use of bottled water, saving $200,000 annually by using filtered water machines and reusable containers.

One of eBay’s Green Teams was determined to phase bottled water out of the office. It invited employees’ children to participate in a poster contest with the theme “what does water mean to you?”  Winning posters were displayed around the office, along with facts and statistics to educate employees on the environmental impact of bottled water production and consumption. The team credits the poster campaign with increasing awareness and support for the project. And again,  The City of Mill Valley has a good model one-pager on bottled water.

Business Case

If you need help bolstering the business case for doing any of the above programs, check out this recent report from the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF): The Business Case for Environmental and Sustainability Employee Education.

NEEF’s Business and Environmental program focuses on increasing the ability of business leaders to engage and educate employees to develop and meet sustainability goals.  The report highlights six business benefits:

  • Improve operational efficiency
  • Strengthen customer relations
  • Increase innovation
  • Enhance supply chain management
  • Strengthen community ties
  • Attract and retain the best employees

Deborah Fleischer is President of Green Impact, a strategic environmental consulting practice that helps companies walk the green talk. Green Impact designs campaigns to engage employees and develops sustainability communications that bring successes to life. You can follow her occasional tweet @GreenImpact.


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