Greening your office

Every office has that one person who pulls things out of the trash and puts them in the recycle bin. The same person goes around and turns off the lights that aren’t being used. Sometimes it is a couple of people and sometimes those people make up the majority of the office.

These people are part of a growing force that is transforming our campus. They recognize that the choices we make in our work environment impact the natural environment, our health and our future quality of life. They also recognize that these are issues that are important to our students. These values also happen to fit into the university’s broader mission to promote responsible stewardship of our resources, reduce the impact of the U on the environment, and ensure the long-term success and viability of the institution.

There are currently 45 offices, centers and departments that are either Green Office certified or in the process of getting the certification. Coordinated by the Sustainability Office, the Green Office program helps provide the tools, support and guidance to institutionalize these changes. Departments and offices on campus represent a large portion of energy and material use and waste production on campus. Working through the Green Office checklist is an easy way to reduce energy, waste and emissions through smart purchasing, transportation choices and simple changes to common office practices.

So, how do you go about getting Green Office Certification? We talked to a local expert who has shepherded her office through the process. Ally Marringa is the Academic Advising Coordinator for the College of Social & Behavioral Science.

Why did you initiate the Green Office program in your office?

I really didn’t know much about sustainability when I first started working at the U. I quickly noticed that it is super important to my students. We wanted to make sure that we were upholding our students’ values. If we are trying to be role models and teach them that you can make a difference no matter what you are doing then this is a small way we can start.

What are some of the unique things you have done in your office to make it greener?

We have incorporated green office practices into how we advise—using laminated sheets and dry erase markers rather than a single paper sheet for each student. We use online fillable tracking sheets so students can plan out courses a semester by semester. We try to make the process as paperless as possible.

How did you get started?

When we got the check-list, half of it was done already. So that was the easiest part. In terms of stuff, we needed to put more time into what we purchase. Like when we need swag for tabling we find recyclable material to use now. When we need to get T-shirts for students or materials, it’s just thinking about taking the extra time to look at whether the product is sustainable, where it comes from, and all of those different things. Some of it can be pricier. So, it’s being choosy about what we get to buy.

We brought in plates and mugs for people to use in our breakroom (they have a dishwasher). They were all pretty for it.  It was pretty easy for us. It is mostly just slowly getting other people to buy in and share ideas on how they can do things differently.

What was surprising to you?

We checked off half of the things on the checklist just because we are in a LEED-certified building. So it was making little tweaks. In our meetings we have presenters send out flyers electronically instead of providing printed handouts.  That way we can post on Canvas, listservs or other tools instead of using physical handouts. Sometimes you just need one copy to hang in a central location.

What is your next goal?

We want to hit Gold. One of the next goals is to increase our supply of reusables or work with Chartwells to use reusable china so that our larger events are zero waste. Holding green events would have a big impact on students. We need to make sure these practices are visible—that we are modeling these values.

What would you tell an office that is considering certification?

It is super easy. I think most offices are doing these things. It’s just seeing what other people are doing, what other universities are doing, and how the Sustainability Office can help makes it easy. It’s just talking to your team. “This is something we are considering doing. Do you agree? What are the non-negotiables and what can we do differently?”

Oh, and I love the webpage. I use it a ton. The info is good. Use the library guide. Be sure to sign up for the Sustainability Office’s newsletter and follow social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter).

For more information on the Green Certification program, email Karren Fultz at karren.fultz@utah.edu.