green-team-hatEmployee engagement programs and Web-based tools can increase adoption of green practices and make sustainability more visible and actionable.  If you have strategic sustainability goals, the following simple tips can help align employee actions to support your goals.  And when you reduce wasted energy, water, and paper use, this translates into real cost savings.  UCSF estimates that their green office certification program alone has saved them $300,000.

Embed Sustainability into your Operations.  Start with 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.

Seven green campaign ideas to consider are detailed below:

  1. Promote Sustainable Food
  2. Engage employees kids
  3. Unplug It
  4. Purchase Recycled Paper
  5. Adopt a “Double-Sided” Policy
  6. Chuck the Cup
  7. Ban Bottled Water


Promote Sustainable Food

Eating less meat and purchasing local, sustainable food are  easy way to reduce one’s carbon footprint. What we eat has a big impact on the environment. When our food is shipped thousands of miles, it leads to a big carbon footprint. Raise awareness between the link between what we eat and the environment by hosting one of the activities suggested below.

  • Encourage employees to pick one day a week where they will only eat vegetarian food. See Meatless Monday for more ideas.
  • Promote a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program at work. By joining a local CSA, employees can receive the freshest vegetables, fruits, meats, and eggs straight from the farm. See Local Harvest for more information.
  • Host a “Farmers Market Experience” to promote awareness of sustainable food. Print out a list of local farmers’ markets around your area and provide information highlighting why shopping local is good for the environment. Bring in actual fruits and veggies from a local farmers market for employees to try and take home to their families. See Environmental Working Group’s top fruit and vegetables to buy organic for more information.
  • Give employees a small seedling they can grow at home.
  • Plant  a  small  garden  on-site if space is available.

Engage Employees Kids

Connecting to employees’ children can help you reach a broader base of employees who might not consider themselves “green”. One of eBay’s local Green Teams was determined to phase bottled water out of their office. Prior to installing filters and chillers and removing water bottles from break rooms, they 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 allowing for a successful transition. EMC got employees more engaged with an environmental poster contest for employees’ kids. This winning drawing was published in EMC’s Sustainability Report and displayed at headquarters. With over 400 entries, this strategy successfully engaged employees and their families.

Organize a poster contest for employees’ children around a relevant theme. Suggested steps:

1. Identify an engaging theme for a poster contest and organize details around how to collect, screen, and display entries.
2. Promote the poster contest among employees.
3. Gather and screen entries. Announce the winners.
4. Display and promote the winners in appropriate locations.

Unplug It

save-energy-unplugWant to save up to 5 to 10 percent on your energy bill? Just by turning off small devices and appliances, you can save money and electricity. When left plugged in, our electronic gadgets and basic appliances still use what’s called phantom or vampire energy, even when they are turned off or in sleep mode. A plugged-in cell phone charger sucks energy even when it’s not charging your phone.

Before you leave for the day, turn off your computer monitor, unplug your cell phone chargers, and switch off the computer. Train your employees to do the same. It’s just good business.  Want to learn more?  Go here.

Purchase Recycled Paper

buy-green-aspen-30Purchasing 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! for Earth Day a few years ago, “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? Go HERE to learn more tips about how to encourage creativity.

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.

Learn More

While a tad out-of-date, our White Paper Green Teams: Engaging Employees in Sustainability still has some great tips and ideas. This document also is worth checking out: The Business Case for Environmental and Sustainability Employee Education. You can also get our most recent white paper with ideas and resources for engaging employees by entering your email in the box to the right.


Sustainability Consulting Bay Area

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