The University of Virginia has long sought to reduce its environmental impact on an institutional level by building more efficient spaces, encouraging alternate forms of transportation, retrofitting older buildings and changing over to more efficient lighting.
Now it’s bringing that effort into individual offices with a new “Green Workplace Program” to promote sustainability on the job.
Developed by the University’s Committee on Sustainability, it is modeled after the United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system, and uses a credit checklist of 60 actions that workplaces can implement to improve operations and reduce costs. The checklist is organized into eight categories: energy, transportation, purchasing, zero waste, community, health, food and bonus credits. Participating offices self-report their actions, and upon certification, earn a Green Workplace Program award based on the total points earned.
“U.Va. recognizes that everyone must be involved if we are to meet our sustainability goals,” said Rob Andrejewski, outreach and engagement coordinator in the Office for Sustainability. “Not everyone thinks about the environmental footprint of our daily habits. This program will help people to not only become aware of their impact, but also how to change their behavior to those that support the triple bottom line of social, environmental and fiscal sustainability.”
The Green Workplace Program focuses on conservation measures in areas such as electricity and waste reduction that reduce costs, and participants learn about sustainable practices on Grounds that they can take home.
Some examples: Employees can save money and energy by turning off lights when not in use, printing on both sides of a sheet of paper and turning off computers when not in use.
“You can save yourself money by bicycling to work and getting an occasional parking permit,” said Nina Morris, the sustainability program manager for outreach and engagement. “And instead of traveling for meetings and being there in person, you can have virtual meetings and save energy and reduce your carbon footprint.”
Workplaces in the Darden School of Business, the College of Arts & Sciences and Facilities Management are early adopters in the official launch this semester. The program was piloted in 2014 by workplaces in Human Resources and the Office of the Architect.
“The University of Virginia has been working on greening Grounds and tackling what might be called ‘big-S sustainability’ issues like carbon emissions, nitrogen loss and waste diversion for many years,” Andrejewski said. “These are big, high-profile initiatives that are important.
“The Green Workplace Program represents a shift to ‘small-s sustainability.’ It allows U.Va. employees to steward the environment through smaller, but no less important, concrete actions that can add up to significant change. Our people are our most important asset. You cannot overestimate the importance of including them in our sustainability solutions.”
To get involved in the Green Workplace Program, U.Va. employees can contact Rob Andrejewski at email@example.com or at 434-982-1778.