Recycling, eating more plant-based meals, and riding your bike to work are all great ways to reduce your impact on our planet. But what about your place of work? Is your office aware of its carbon footprint, and is it taking steps to reduce it?
An environmental initiative in your workplace allows you to harness the power of many people working together on a shared goal, potentially making significant progress toward a smaller carbon footprint. With enough enthusiasm and planning, your initiative could also result in fundamental changes that will help your company be more environmentally sustainable for years to come.
Here are six steps to getting started:
- Create a team. Depending on your company, this team could be as small as a couple of committed eco-warriors, or it could be much larger. Your team should include people who will help motivate others and keep the enthusiasm for your project going for the long haul. This team will be in charge of setting goals, writing the initiative, and, most importantly, spreading the word and implementing the plan. Get support from management.
- Learn. The first step toward motivating yourself and your team is to get informed. Learn why environmental initiatives matter. Study what kinds of changes your company and your industry can make to have the most impact. Start with getting your green team up to speed. This sustainability resource list from the Oregon State University Sustainability Office can get you started. It includes books, films, and other resources on climate change and what you can do.
- Create a plan. Start by calculating your office’s carbon footprint. This calculator is for California counties, but wherever you are, you can use this to assess how your company is doing in terms of sustainability. By determining your baseline, you can help bring awareness to the real environmental impact your business has. Reflect on where your company is doing well and where there is room for improvement. Does your business engage in lots of business travel? Maybe your initiative is to reduce your company’s annual travel mileage. Are you using much more electricity than other companies of your size and industry? Create an initiative to power down computers each night. Perhaps your initiative is as simple as providing silverware, plates, and cups so employees will produce less waste during their workday.
Don’t forget the basics of any plan: Get buy-in up and down the food chain. Set and prioritize goals. Define success.
- Write it down. An environmental initiative starts with a written commitment. Craft your mission statement and let this be your guide for future actions and decisions.
- Implement your plan. Blanket your company’s communications channels with information about your project. Promote, promote, promote.
- Stay committed. Sustainability isn’t always sexy. Part of the challenge is maintaining the changes everyone says they want but aren’t always willing to enact. Be prepared for pushback or just plain apathy at times. Stay enthusiastic, and remind yourself that your commitment to the environment goes far beyond the four walls of your office.
Dana Lester has a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics. During her time at Oregon State University, she worked on creating the Green Office Certification Program, which helps campus offices assess themselves for environmental sustainability. She is passionate about holistic wellness, eating fruit, and writing.