What does sustainability in the workplace mean? Here at 3R, we define sustainability using the triple bottom line approach. Sustainability is not just about the environment, it’s about the economy and the people as well. Improving the quality of the environment, benefiting your local economy, and improving the health of your employees should be the goals you target when trying to be sustainable. There are many ways for companies to put sustainable practices in place.
Sustainability in Our Workplace
3R Building Sustainability took advantage of our recent move to a new office to make our new workplace as sustainable as we could. The following are sustainability practices we put to use in our office. Most were simple changes we made to make our office a better place to work.
- We pursued and achieved Gold certification under the LEED Interior Design + Construction rating system for our office. This was definitely not a simple task, but it was a high priority for our company. Read our press release to see what major changes we made.
- We had an Earth Day trash clean-up around the Strip District. We would highly recommend that everyone participate in one of these at some point in their life. Not only does it help the environment directly by removing objects that cannot naturally decompose, it will also prevent people from littering just from what they find when they participate in the clean-up. Not to mention, it results in nicer views and a more attractive neighborhood to visit and live in!
- We have multiple waste bins. In addition to garbage bins, we also have recycling and composting bins. We began composting with the help of Shadyside Worms, check out their website for more information.
- We have purchased many high-efficiency fixtures and appliances. All of our lighting is LED, all of our water fixtures are low-flow, and most of our appliances are ENERGY STAR rated. Minimizing our reliance on water resources and fossil fuels is a priority for our company.
- Our company encourages alternative means of transportation. Vehicle emissions account for 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, having our employees cut back just a little helps tremendously. We are located within walking distance of a bicycle network and several bus lines. Making a simple change like walking or riding a bike to and from work is great exercise as well. We have a shower and changing facility for those who like getting in their workout early in the morning or during their lunch hour.
- We participate in a group fitness activity everyday. This usually takes the form of a walk on the beautiful trail along the Allegheny River or through the markets in the Strip District. This 15 minute break is well loved among all of our employees. It feels great to get some fresh air, and having the short break increases productivity by allowing us to re-focus.
- Part of our wellness program includes fresh produce in the office to snack on throughout the day. We purchase all produce from a local produce stand to benefit the local economy and minimize harmful emissions from transportation.
- We have a purchasing policy in place to buy paper products with a minimum of 50% recycled-content whenever possible. More often than not, we buy 100% recycled-content paper.
- We are active members of the Green Building Alliance (GBA) and participate in their activities and events. The GBA is the local U.S. Green Building Council chapter for western Pennsylvania. Check out the USGBC website to find your local chapter.
Sustainability in Your Workplace
So now that you have read some of the reasons we choose to be more sustainable, you may be asking yourself, “how do I actually accomplish this?” Here are some more tips which you can use to help make your workplace a little bit greener.
- Start small to build momentum then add to it over time. Sudden changes can be jarring to employees and can result in an increased chance of resistance to the changes.
- Create a designated “Green Team” to work towards sustainability goals. Ideally, team members should be passionate about the environment and co-worker health.
- Get your company to support the Green Team. Try getting higher-ups to push for this, even better if you receive financial incentives, such as gift cards for winning or participating in wellness competitions.
- Take on low-hanging fruit! In other words, tasks that are easy to accomplish with high participation from employees. This could be something like sending out sustainability tips to all employees. This can be a weekly stand-alone e-mail, or an addition to a monthly company newsletter. Or, encourage employees to participate in “Meatless Mondays”. Did you know it takes approximately 2,000 gallons of water to make one pound of beef? Not only will this reduce the strain on water resources, it is great for the health of your employees and their families. You can even include a meatless recipe in every newsletter.
- Create a suggestion box or survey to gather green ideas for the office.
- Have fun! The easiest way to encourage others to be more eco-friendly is to make it seem like a game. One example would be to plan a 3-point shootout challenge with items from the recycle bin such as soda cans or balled up pieces of paper. Everyone can benefit from polishing up their athletic abilities! Another idea is to start a competition to see who can be the most sustainable. Include a small prize, or at a minimum, bragging rights, to the winner! Game ideas include, planting the most trees using Ecosia’s search engine or picking up the most trash during a neighborhood clean-up.
- Buy locally sourced materials. This has a major impact on the emissions related to the transportation of the materials.
Check out the following links to learn more about creating a greener workplace.
- Salesforce suggests 5 steps for creating a Green Team
- Attend a Green Drinks event (Green Drinks is an organization that plans monthly informal meetings with opportunities to network and share ideas with others who are interested in sustainability)
- Yale University has a variety of resources for companies wanting to certify their office as a Green Workplace
- Read through the Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge Action Checklist for suggestions.
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