Green Team

Okay… um, I think I just suggested that I would set up a greening office program at work for an office of about 800 employees. Ya. Also, I did it in my written performance review. I just blurted it out at the very end and then sent it off to my boss before I could change my mind. Say whaaat?

I am not sure what his reaction will be. I hope he shares it with his boss, and that together, they think it is a good idea. Worst case scenario – they think I am a nut.

What business do I have with this idea? I am an accountant, I work in Finance, I work with numbers and excel all day long. I am not HR or Communications or Facilities Management or anything like that. I don’t even really know anyone in these departments.

I was actually inspired by Bill Gerlach of the New Pursuit. He started a grassroots movement at work to green the office. When I read about what he had done, it hit me. Why can’t I do that too? I am looking for things to DO. I want to HELP. I am greening my life, but what else? What else what else what else? I know! Green the office!

Here is a little known secret. Back in the day, when I was a mere 19 years old, I worked for Environment Canada as a co-op student. I was on the “green team” which was mostly comprised of other students. It was organized by the internal communication managers, and we were the grunt labour. We posted green “did you know” facts inside bathroom stalls (these were mostly annoying), we took away everyone’s garbage can and replaced it with 1) a recycle bin 2) a tiny garbage can that could sit on your desk and 3) a compost keeper. Then we set up worm composting in the office. Worm composting! This was 1996 people! The worms were so popular that we had to go from 2 bins to 4 and then eventually to 8 bins, to manage our office organic waste.

So I have some experience in this area I suppose. I remember that the Finance department was mad that we took away their garbage cans, so some people brought in big ones from home. C’mon people – roll with it! It was only the accountants that took issue though, which was good. I would have a bigger problem with people who study fish and wildlife rejecting the transition. But hey – now I am an accountant and look at me! I want to start a green team all on my own!

I will keep you posted on developments. I say there is a 50/50 chance of “brilliant idea Sherry” and “Um…no”.


8 thoughts on “Green Team

  1. Sherry,

    Way to go!! That is absolutely fantastic. And don’t sell yourself short — being in Finance could be one of the best places to launch something like this. Why? Demonstrating the positive return on adopting (and keeping!) sustainable business practices is critical to winning over the hearts and minds of your toughest skeptics.

    We worked with a partner in our Finance division to help us do a bunch of the number crunching for us so that we could build our business case for pursuing several initiatives. For instance, he helped us:

    >> Measure our overall energy spends in 2009 (electricity, gas, etc.)
    >> Calculate the energy cost of leaving computers and monitors on overnight
    >> Calculate budget savings by reducing paper usage

    You are positioned very well!

    If you are not networked into other colleagues in those areas that can help (Facilities, Marketing, etc.), consider placing some sort of “Calling All Greens” message in an internal company newsletter or intranet story. If you don’t know who they are, create a way for them to find you. Get a lead team together and start sketching out a few things to work on. Don’t overwhelm yourselves at first. Get some wins under your belt, prove that ROI and go from there.

    If I can be of any other help, don’t hesitate to reach out. Our Green Team had a banner year this year — so much so, we have been successful getting sustainability measures on our corporate plan for 2011! Very exciting stuff.

    Good luck,

    • Bill – Thank you for the encouragement! “Calling all Greens” is such great idea, perhaps people will come out of the woodwork to help… It would be so encouraging to see other people at work that share my views and ideas. I plan to put my number crunching skills to good use, and suspect I will need to do some good research to come up with a proposal and a plan.

      At the end of the day, it would be fantastic is sustainability measures were in our strategic plan. That is something to aspire to!!

  2. Hey, my company has a Green Team, and it was started by a girl in our Calgary office much like you. She actually set up a meeting with the president of the company, which he went to (isn’t that cool that he totally made time for this person he didn’t know?), and he told her to write up a plan and submit it to him at business plan time, and it was revised to death for sure, but it made it into the business plan and now it’s just part of the company’s culture. There’s a Green Team monthly newsletter (electronic of course) that goes out with updates on what they’re working on and tips for green living at work and at home.

    Anyway I know about how she started this because I was the coordinator and editor of the capital portion of our business plan that year and I read/edited her work. It was good. The key though is to focus on the low hanging fruit. The easiest stuff to do that has the most impact. She had some high-cost low-impact stuff in there that will probably be done eventually, but it’s not the stuff to start with. Start easy to get momentum, then try introducing the more difficult stuff.

    My company no longer buys styrofoam or paper cups. It’s policy. We have like 100 offices all over the province and not a single one has a paper cup. It’s amazing, really, when you think of how much that saves. 2200 employees… that’s a lot. Some of the offices had to go out and buy a few mugs to make sure there were adequate supplies, but so what. Company paid for them, and the cost of a few mugs compared to no longer buying paper cups forever more is a no-brainer.

    We also have a double sided printing policy. All printers are defaulted to double sided unless you go in and change it each and every time you print. The printing and the cups are pretty easy things to do that most people don’t balk at. You’ll get the odd grump who MUST have his styrofoam and he will be pissed. The the vast majority will be on board.

    Good Luck!!!

    • That is so cool that you were also involved in a greening plan at work! You will have to let me know of any other high impact ideas that made it into the plan. Besides being good for the environment, it might get regular people thinking about things differently, and perhaps who knows, they might then think about their electricity use and waste at home and other areas of their life. It would fantastic if it was part of the corporate culture. Like if they are so used to using mugs at work, that they are now more likely to bring a travel mug when they go out for coffee breaks? Also, I am just curious – did your plan include more web-based conference call meetings over flying or driving to other cities?

      • Something to consider: We have made a strong push to adopt virtual meeting practices (WebEx, Live Meeting, etc.) to avoid travel between locations. We also promote the use of projector equipment to eliminate unnecessary copying. For both of these, we have targeted our outreach to Administrative Assistants and Project Managers as they often are calling/facilitating the meetings. We’ve run special training sessions with them to get them comfortable with all of this. And it’s paid off!

      • Yes, we promote video-conferencing (moreso than web-based) over travel. But this has been going on for longer than this Green Team has been in place. It stemmed mostly from practicality, convenience, and cost. My company is incredibly spread out. To have a Manager’s meeting, which we do monthly, would involve travel for around 25 people from all over the province if we were to have it in person. So we have video-conferencing equipment in every major operating centre and do that instead. Video-conferencing is weird at first (you feel a bit self concious) but now that everyone’s used to it, it’s easy peasy and most people prefer it. Who wants to waste a whole day travelling for one meeting? Plus its better than conference calling because you can actually see the person who is talking (the tvs are really big widescreens), which makes larger meetings much more productive than they are over the phone. Usually we’ll video-conference between Edmonton and Calgary, with the outliers (Lethbridge, Red Deer, Grande Prairie, Fort Mac) on speaker phone in each video-conference room. It works surprisingly well.

        And, the video-conferencing equipment we use allows any presentation materials in one city to be viewed on the screen in the other city if you need to go over something visually. You just plug the computer right into the equipment in one city and they can bring it up on their screen in the other city.

  3. Good for you! I started a recycling program at my tiny (5 people!) office. Haven’t persuaded the boss to give up styrofoam cups, but gave my other female coworker a pretty mug and have been otherwise subversively trying to shift things towards the green. I really hope this works out for you, and brava for having the guts to bring it up. 🙂

    • It is amazing to me that some offices don’t recycle paper… Is it because the infrastructure is not set up, so it is extra work and inconvenience? Where I live there are as many recycling trucks carrying away recycling as there are garbage trucks carrying away garbage, more even. So it is super easy so everyone just does it. The problem though is printing all the paper in the first place. Things can be stored electronically!

      I love that you gave your coworker a pretty mug. Coffee in a pretty mug just is better somehow isn’t it?

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