By Brittney Dunkins
The Department of Undergraduate Programs at the George Washington University School of Business was recognized for its sustainability efforts on Friday, becoming the first university department to complete the Green Office Certification program.
The Divison of Operations initiative, developed by the Office of Sustainability in partnership with the Zero Waste team and the Environmental and Energy Management office, launched in July as an opportunity for schools and departments campus-wide to actively engage in sustainable behaviors.
There are currently eight offices in the process of certification.
“Sometimes it can seem too intimidating or challenging to change habits that are unsustainable, but this certification gives people tangible things that they can do to be more sustainable and help the environment,” said Susanna Bains, sustainability outreach intern in the Office of Sustainability.
Through the program, each office nominates a “green leader” to manage sustainability efforts, which include a range of activities from posting recycling signs over the appropriate bins to eliminating bottled water in the shared kitchen and encouraging co-workers to use public transportation during their commute.
Ms. Bains has been working with the Office of Sustainability to develop certification checklists that outline the goals laid out by the offices. Certification is organized into four levels and offices are assessed based on a point system. Assessment is tailored to fit the commitments made by each office.
Robin Kuprewicz, department operations supervisor at the GWSB Department of Undergraduate Programs, wanted to become a green leader because she noticed that her coworkers were already practicing sustainable behaviors, such as using coffee mugs instead of paper cups and purchasing recycled paper products.
“I decided that this program would be a great way to push our office even further and really make a difference,” Ms. Kuprewicz said. “It provides fun and unique ways for everyone in our office to get involved.”
Ms. Kuprewicz implemented simple changes including starting a battery recycling program, installing a plastic bag recycling bin in the shared kitchen and reusing scrap paper for inter-office forms.
Each of these actions supports the 19 sustainability goals outlined in her office’s certification checklist.
“I hope every office, even if they don't apply for the program, at least takes the time to reflect on their sustainable practices,” Ms. Kuprewicz said. “Reaching the first level of certification can seem daunting, but it's really worth taking a hard look at your office practices and seeing where you can make small changes.”
Ms. Kuprewicz stands beside the plastic bag recycling bin that she installed as green leader for the GW School of Business Department of Undergraduate Programs.
The Green Office Certification program is an extension of the Green Office Network, a campus-wide initiative to encourage the university community to improve sustainability on an individual and office level. As part of the network, green leaders attend quarterly meetings to share strategies and discuss sustainability goals.
“We were looking for a way to broaden the scope of the network and get more people involved,” Ms. Bains said. “Certification gives green leaders the chance to get their whole office involved in practicing more sustainable behaviors in the workplace.”
Offices interested in the certification program or the Green Office Network can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Our hope is that members of the university community will turn these actions into habits that carry over outside of the workplace,” Ms. Bains said. “Because small actions can make a big difference in the long run.”