note from the editor: Earlier this year, Brightergy signed up to participate in the RCGA St. Louis Green Business Challenge. While we consider ourselves a sustainable business as a solar energy company, we recognize that there’s always room for improvement, and we were impressed by the challenge and it’s variety of participants – from 2-person offices to sky-rise office buildings with multiple tenants. We see a similar range in our clients, and that range is reflected in the sustainable business ideas and measures, for there is no action too small or too big. St. Louis Business Development Manager Cindy Bambini took charge of the challenge, and formed our Green Team, of which I am a proud member. You can read her account in an earlier blog post, as well as a guest post from our Challenge Mentor, Jean Ponzi of the Missouri Earth Ways Center. We’ve been counting down a few of the measures we’ve learned and implemented during the challenge on Facebook – you can find the full list of 10 Tips for a More Sustainable Office just below.
It was 7:30 am on a Tuesday morning when I found myself having breakfast with over 350 people all assembled to celebrate our individual and collective efforts to make our St. Louis businesses more sustainable. 84 companies were represented in the 2012 Challenge class – companies as small as Brightergy and as large as Boeing, Edward Jones and Wells Fargo. This was the St.Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association’s St. Louis Green Business Challenge awards ceremony and I was there to pick up Brightergy’s Award of Achievement for the efforts we made to make our company operations more sustainable.
The Challenge is based on the accumulation of points for the implementation of sustainable practices and actions across six categories – Outreach, Energy, Indoor Environmental Quality, Waste, Water and Transportation. We rent our space in St. Louis so our green team focused on defining policies around the simple tasks (recycling, double sided copying, green cleaning, sustainable caterers, etc) and on one very large task – minimizing the waste on our work sites. Out of a maximum possible 250 points, Brightergy started with 39. Through our green team efforts and supportive executive team, we were able to institute policy and program changes over a 6 month period to raise our point value to 112 – enough to earn an Award of Achievement. The good news about this whole process is that we all win (us as individuals, Brightergy as a company and our region as a whole) no matter what as each point is awarded represents a environmental change for the good. The even better news is that there is still opportunity for even more change when we sign up again next year!
At 9:30 am I walked out the door, award in hand, proud that our little company was doing important work to minimize the impact of our operations in St. Louis and ready to take the challenge to a greater level in 2013.
10 Tips for a More Sustainable Office
Tip #1: Form a Green Team to get the ball rolling.
Ours was led by Cindy and formed by members on both sides of the state: Patrick, Rachel, Sage, and Matt. Each office is different, so it’s important to have representation from all locations. Green Team members can brainstorm ideas, lead internal campaigns, put forward new initiatives for policy, and implement new sustainable programs.
Tip #2: Establish a recycling policy.
Brightergy already had one in existence before the Challenge, but we still thought a few of our tips were worth sharing. For example, consider placing individual blue recycling bins at each employee’s desk. You’d be surprised how much recyclable waste they catch! You might want to consider getting office furniture with all these requirements met to begin with and this will allow you to keep the costs low.
Tip #3: Establish a Bottled Water Policy.
All of our offices have a policy to use reusable water bottles and drinking glasses – like the awesome orange Brightergy cups each employee receives – in place of disposable plastic bottles.
Tip #4: Enact or Support a No-Idling Policy.
Many cities have no idling policies in place, like the City of St. Louis, where an ordinance states that no motor vehicle may idle for longer than 5 minutes (except emergency vehicles). The St. Louis Regional Clean Air Partnership, or Clean Air St. Louis, has provided a sign for outside of our office that serves as a gentle reminder to motorists.
Tip #5: Support a Green Cleaning Policy.
Just as we use reusable drinking glasses, we use reusable dishes, silverware, and napkins. Our Kansas City office has a dishwasher on-site – filled with environmentally friendly detergent, of course – and napkins and towels are laundered. We’re also proud to have our St. Louis office cleaned by Herb n’ Maid, a green cleaning service.
Tip #6: Daylighting.
Not as practical as we head into the winter months, but our Kansas City office especially is host to some spectacularly large windows. On days where the sunshine streaming in is plentiful, we use the sun as a source of light, keeping our overhead lights at a minimum, or turned off completely. And if you can’t resource natural daylight, make a plan to replace your incandescent bulbs to CFL or LED lights. Moreover it is also no secret that investing in high quality windows can significantly reduce your energy bills. For example, upgrading to double glazed windows can help your office to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. For more information about making the most of your windows from an energy efficiency perspective, take a look at this guide to repairing vs replacing a glass window.
Tip #7: Fuel Efficient Car Rentals.
We see many of our employees traveling across the state in between Kansas City and St. Louis, and to Boston as well. We’ve made it a policy that when an employee rents a car, it is a hybrid or a smaller, fuel efficient vehicle. It reduces our fuel costs, as well as our emissions contributions.
Tip #8: Virtual Meetings and Work-From-Home Policies.
Speaking of travel, though often nothing can beat in-person meetings, most of our cross-office meetings take place virtually. We also offer a flexible work-from-home policy that allows employees to, well, work-from-home when it suits their schedules, thereby reducing their time on the road commuting. One quick tip though. If your workforce is going to be working from home, then it is vital that you have a security system in place to protect your office. A deserted office filled with expensive equipment is, unfortunately, a prime target for burglars, but installing an alarm and security cameras can act as a deterrent. Nowadays, it is even possible to purchase a Wireless smart alarm that can be controlled remotely, so do not be afraid to research a few different options to find the best security system for your workplace.
Tip #9: Cloud-Based Computing.
We’re a Google Docs and Salesforce-friendly company, and getting friendlier. In addition to our paper policy to only print what is needed, and to print double-sided, we store the vast majority of documents on the cloud.
Tip #10: Conduct a Building Comfort Survey.
We all know we’re supposed to turn down the thermostat in the winter, and keep it turned down in the summer, but not everybody can work at 68 degrees – not to mention, 68 degrees feels differently from office to office. Our downtown Kansas City office is beautiful, with high ceilings, but also prone to drafts and temperature fluctuations from room to room. Conducting a building comfort survey helps give us an idea of what temperatures our colleagues are comfortable at, reach a temperature compromise, and reduce the use of space heaters. Whilst you are conducting this survey, it might also be a good idea to make sure that all your electrical are in order. If not, you can check out someone like these commercial electricians in Perth to help give you a better idea of what you need to do and how much it will all cost. Your employees will be incredibly grateful if you do this, as safety should come first.