Program creates competition, rewards for offices that go green
UCLA's new Green Office Certification program just named the Center for the Study of Women the greenest office on campus – and center Director Kathleen McHugh hopes the news will inspire competition from other offices.
By Alison Hewitt
Originally published in UCLA Today
"We're happy to have a green throw-down with any unit on campus," said McHugh. "We would love to be beaten."
The Green Office Certification program was developed by Nurit Katz, the UCLA sustainability coordinator, and after a successful summer pilot program, Katz is ready for more offices to take the challenge.
"This will have a big impact on helping UCLA go greener," Katz predicted. "Saving resources also means there are certainly potential cost savings from this program for the university."
A handful of offices participated in the pilot program over the summer. Each office appointed a staffer as a sustainability ambassador to act as liaison for the program, and Katz's student interns interviewed them, gave them a copy of the Staff and Faculty Sustainability Handbook and showed them how to use a downloadable green calculator to add up their green score and consider where they could do more.
"It was a learning experience," said Susan Oh, ambassador for the Dashew Center for International Students and Scholars, where she counsels international students. "I got to know my coworkers better, and I found out that three-quarters of us take the vanpool, public transit, or bike or walk to work." Cheers went up when she announced the office’s preliminary score.
Interns Nauman Charania and Valerie Rose, both environmental science majors, learned more about the practices of each office and advised staffers on where they could do more, such as buying recycling bins, turning off lights in offices with windows or switching to double-sided printing. Easy fixes, as opposed to costly ones like buying energy-efficient refrigerators, fit tight budgets, the students learned.
But small steps by many people quickly become significant. While the campus can put motion sensors in every room to save on lighting and update air-conditioning systems, "the rest of the change has to come from us," said Katz, recalling a headline from the spoof news site "The Onion." It read: " ‘How Bad For The Environment Can Throwing Away One Plastic Bottle Be?’ 30 Million People Wonder."
UCLA can only reduce energy use so much without employee participation, Katz said. To meet goals for zero waste and reduced energy use, Bruins have to recycle more and cut back on power usage. "Our little choices by 20,000 staff and 60,000 total people add up," Katz said.
Participating offices got their certification based on an office walk-through and a final tally of points. The Dashew Center earned a bronze certification, as did the Access and Delivery Services office in the UCLA Library, where sustainability ambassador Jonathan Wilson provides office computer support.
"The biggest thing we had to improve was just awareness, just knowing some of the green tools we have out there," Wilson said. "Some of us had been thinking about making the office greener for a while, so it was nice to get some pointers – and some validation for what we were already doing."
Elsewhere, the Center for the Study of Women is certified platinum, and three other departments earned a silver rating. At its preliminary audit, the Department of Neurosurgery barely made bronze, "and now they're silver, edging on gold," Charania said. "It's astonishing." They did it with energy-star appliances and fewer lights.
With almost a dozen sustainability ambassadors already appointed across UCLA, Katz believes awareness will grow exponentially.
"It's a train-the-trainer model: first the student interns learn, then the staff ambassadors learn, and they teach their coworkers," Katz said. "It should have quite the ripple effect."
Published: Tuesday, November 09, 2010