photos courtesy Port of San Diego
When it comes to implementing green policies and practices at your business or organization, much of the success depends on being flexible, open to change and willing to work with like-minded businesses. That’s a lesson from the Port of San Diego and its Green Port Program. The port achieved a number of its goals for the first year of the program, but was willing to adapt and partner.
The Green Port Program covers six areas: water, energy, air, waste management, sustainable development and sustainable business practices.
Kelly Makley, associate environmental specialist in the port’s Environmental Services Department, said the port intended to have a green purchasing policy in place by the end of 2008. “It was one of those things that was taking a lot longer than we thought, but it ended up being a good thing,” Makley said.
Working closely with the port’s Procurement Department, the goal was to assess and consider environmental impacts during the procurement process and make selections that would have the least detrimental impact on the environment. “We thought it would be easy,” Makley said. “We started working on it and realized how much it was going to change the way the Procurement Department does business.”
Rather than tossing out the whole idea, the port was flexible and decided to test its plan internally, trying out some products, such as recycled paper and toner cartridges as well as some hybrid vehicles. “We’ll take this year to test it out internally in the Procurement Department, so when we go to the (port) board at the end of 2009 or in early 2010, we’ll have the data to give them,” Makely said.
And then there are the surprise opportunities that make going green a truly worthy endeavor.
One of the Green Port Program’s most exciting initiatives, Makley said, was forming a partnership with San Diego Gas & Electric. The two signed a memorandum of understanding to work together on energy issues. The public utility company conducted an energy audit and created an Energy Road Map with recommendations for how to retrofit the port facility to make it more energy efficient.
SDG&E recommended about $120,000 of retrofits, including changing out light fixtures and using a Vending Miser, a product that manages power usage of a vending machine by monitoring temperature changes and whether someone is in the same room. Modifications to outdoor lighting and the some use of solar panels also were on the list of recommendations.
The best part is SDG&E offers loans to fund these retrofits. For example, Makley explained, SDG&E would loan the port $1,000 for a new energy-efficient light fixture. The savings on the port’s energy bill goes back to SDE&G to repay the loan. Once the loan is repaid, the port will start seeing that savings on its bill.
“SDG&E is interested in working with public entities,” Makley said. “SDG&E has to increase its renewable energy use, so it’s trying to be proactive and work with people like us to be more efficient.”
The port also partnered up with Nissan and SDG&E to showcase Nissan’s new line of electric cars. The port hosted a news conference on its Broadway Pier earlier this month and community leaders took the vehicles for a spin. San Diego is one of the first markets to try out the new electric vehicles. And Makley said she expects the port will test a couple. By adding 13 hybrids to its fleet last year, the port has saved 550 gallons of fuel.
In your company’s efforts to go green, what surprise encounters have you had? Did you partner with another business or organization to achieve your green efforts?
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A big Green Thumbs Up this month to Sprint. At the Sprint headquarters campus in Overland Park, Kan., the company has been committed to green efforts for a number of years. When the headquarters was constructed about 12 years ago, it turned a water recapture system into a duck pond that houses a variety of wildlife and captures water runoff from the 225-acre campus. The company does composting on site (pictured below), and 75 percent of the HQ energy use comes from wind power.
But that’s just some of the many ways Sprint is green. The Green Office Blog talked with Alicia R. Martin, sustainability manager, real estate for Sprint, and Alex Hahn, Sprint community and public relations manager, about the company’s green efforts. Martin shared a long list of green initiatives, including green parking, composting, an energy management program, waterless urinal trials, LED garage lighting trials, a bicycle commuter incentive program, prairie grass restoration, natural pesticides, green cleaning and discounted refills for drinks in reusable cups.
An important part of Sprint’s green office program is executive-level support. Even though the company has been focused on the environment for more than a decade, CEO Dan Hesse – who joined Sprint in December 2008 – has made it a top priority. “He made it clear to all that the environment is and will be a key priority for Sprint and he published it as one of the pillars of his corporate scorecard,” Martin explained. This kind of executive support, she added, is one of the best ways Sprint has been able to maintain its focus on green efforts.
Show them the money
In this down economy, businesses may be tempted to cut “unnecessary” items, such as recycling programs or switching to energy-efficient light bulbs. But Sprint has shown green efforts can save companies a sizable amount of money.
• In January 2008, Sprint removed all foam cups from break rooms across the nation and offered reusable cups to interested employees. The savings: $135,000 a year. And this effort kept 5 million cups a year out of the trash.
• Last year, the company implemented Sprint Mobile Workforce, which allows employees the opportunity to work from home. Not only does it foster work/life balance and give employees greater flexibility, it saved Sprint $20 million annually.
As Martin pointed out, it’s tough to argue with policies and practices that save millions of dollars.
Think before you print
Most offices use plenty of paper, and Sprint was no exception. Martin said printing less was one of the easiest ways to make the office greener.
• Think about which documents are really needed in hard copy form.
• Use virtual or online tools. Sprint’s iDigitize program encourages employees to use PDF printing to desktop or eCopy Desktop as well as scanning or e-mailing documents.
• Fax from the desktop, using WebFax or other software.
• Eliminate cover pages.
• Use laptops. Hahn said Sprint likes to use PowerPoint presentations, but instead of printing a copy of the presentation for everyone, employees simply bring their laptops to the meeting and follow along on the computer.
In 2007, Sprint purchased 59 million fewer sheets of 8 ˝ x 11 paper. The savings: $295,000 annually, not to mention saving about 7,000 trees.
Good-bye, trash cans
Hahn works in the company’s Reston, Va., office where desk trash cans have been replaced with recycling bins. The goal is to change employees’ habits, he said. It gets them consciously thinking about whether they should throw something away or recycle it.
Martin said the Sprint HQ will be eliminating a similar trial program on a smaller scale. The short-term goal is to recycle more, she said, but the ultimate end goal is to see recycling numbers go down because the company is simply using less.
It can be easy to get wrapped up in the green movement and think you have to take on the biggest project, but Martin advises to start small.
“Do not get caught up in trying to have every initiative and every program perfect before rolling it out. Take small steps when and where you can, track your metrics from the very beginning and add new programs as opportunities arise. Eventually, the small steps and new efforts will evolve into a robust program that you and your company can be proud of. “
Want more info on Sprint? Follow the company on Twitter @SprintGreenNews.
If your company would like to be featured as a Green Office Profile, send an e-mail to holly (at) hollyannfisher.com.
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You’re just about ready to give yourself a nice, big green pat on the back only to find your customers, your suppliers, your vendors or maybe even your industry colleagues are sucking the green out of your office with their not-so-sustainable actions.
So, what’s a green office to do? If you’ve fostered great business relationships, you don’t want to dump them just because they have Styrofoam cups by the office coffee pot.
First and foremost, walk the walk. Put “lead by example” into practice. The next time a customer comes in, offer her coffee or water in a mug or glass. Offer to send documents via e-mail rather than handing him a thick folder of paper. Or suggest a teleconference for the next meeting. Often a message comes through loud and clear without a big speech. Besides, you want to seem helpful, not condescending.
Second, give concrete examples of what has worked for you. Consider sharing how you’ve saved energy costs by using a programmable thermostat or turning the heat down a couple of degrees. Talk about how allowing employees to telecommute two days a week hasn’t lessened productivity and has helped air quality. Plus, employees are happy to save a few bucks on gasoline.
Some people will embrace the idea of going green simply because they have an appreciation for the environment. Other people need to know what’s in it for them, so don’t be afraid to share how green has benefited your company. Here’s a good article from treehugger.com on seven ways to save money by making your office green.
Third, give a green gift. When you’re looking for a way to thank a big client or recognize a vendor who went above and beyond, think green. Send over coffee mugs with your company logo (sending the subtle message your customer can dump the throw-away cups). Drop off some information on local recycling or composting programs. Give away some energy-efficient light bulbs.
We posed this question via Twitter and found folks are thinking along similar lines:
• From @SprintGreenNews: For wireless recycling, we focus our efforts on increasing 3 items: 1) incentive, 2) ease 3) awareness.
• From @environmentsite: Show them the money.
• From @operationcarbon: I think it's a perfect opportunity to introduce ideas to them and explain the benefits of going green.
How do you handle this situation? How have you shared your green ideas with customers, vendors or industry colleagues?
This week’s Green Thumbs Up goes to Frito-Lay and UPS. Check out this story from GreenBiz.com about how Frito-Lay is adding fuel-efficient delivery vehicles to its fleet, while UPS adds compressed natural gas delivery trucks.
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Photos courtesy Sun Harbor Marina
It’s one thing to add some recycling bins to your office or install a programmable thermostat. It’s another to build more than 17,000 square feet of buildings and 100 boat slips with a mission of sustainability.
Sun Harbor Marina did just that. Located in the San Diego Harbor, the marina complex became the first marina to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. And what makes this feat even more impressive is that the project started in 2003 at a time when sustainable building – even in California – wasn’t as easy as it is now.
Much of the credit for the marina’s LEED certification and green vision goes to former managing partner Mary Lou LoPreste, who purchased Sun Harbor Marina and undertook a marina renovation project like none other.
Kathy OBrien, property manager, says LoPreste felt strongly about the environment and wanted to make sure she was doing whatever she could to preserve the environment and make it a healthier place – not just for today but for future generations.
LoPreste partnered with architect Caitlin Kelley and the green efforts began. The project was completed in March 2005 and the U.S. Green Building Council awarded LEED certification the following year.
Sun Harbor Marina is three buildings and 100 boat slips. Whenever possible, sustainable materials and green building practices have been used. Sun Harbor followed the LEED specifications, one of which is purchasing building materials locally.
One of the challenges at that time, OBrien says, was finding sustainable materials that were available locally or if they did exist, there weren’t multiple suppliers. “That has changed greatly,” she notes. “For several products, now there are more options. Now you can go to Home Depot.”
Some of the sustainable products used to construct Sun Harbor Marina include:
• VOC-free paints.
• Bamboo cabinetry.
• Recycled carpet.
• Rubber baseboards.
• Low-flow facets and toilets.
Also the glazing on the windows reflects the heat, keeping the heat out in the summer and the cool air out in the winter. The number of windows also provides plenty of natural light and eliminates the constant need for overhead lighting. When the lights are used, they automatically adjust to match the natural light, only getting brighter as it gets darker outside.
The facility’s thermostats are only active when someone is physically in the space, and office equipment shuts itself when not in use.
The marina has its own recycling center, and tenants – including yacht brokers, law offices and a restaurant – are encouraged to recycle. OBrien says many tenants came to Sun Harbor specifically because it is LEED certified (take note, developers).
A few additional pieces of advice from OBrien:
• Take advantage of all the resources that are available now. Jump on Google and search any item you want and chances are hundreds of resources will appear.
• Look to CFL light bulbs or LED lighting.
• Check the amount of recycled content in the carpet you’re installing.
• When having your HVAC system serviced, make sure proper filters are being used.
• For cabinetry, use sustainable materials, such as bamboo.
• Sun Harbor has slate and tile in the restrooms – easily available and sustainable materials.
• When looking for a physical location, consider your proximity to a bus stop or other mass transit options.
• Offer parking for bikes and a place to shower, making it easy for employees to bike to work.
• Take a look at the kinds of supplies you’re using: toilet paper, soaps, cleaning products. There are plenty of green options.
Finally, OBrien suggests talking to people who have green buildings and offices. Find out how they did it and visit their facilities. Some people think building green means having an ugly building, but Sun Harbor Marina is anything but ugly, and OBrien encourages people to take a look. “It doesn’t have to be ugly. You can be proud of the facility.”
And we offer a hearty Green Thumbs Up to Sun Harbor Marina for taking on green even at a time when green was a lighter shade than it is today. If Sun Harbor can go green, surely the rest of us can take a few more steps in the green direction.
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One character stands for danger; the other for opportunity.
In a crisis, be aware of the danger-but recognize the opportunity.
Never has that been more accurate than now, for with the green approach business can not only help the planet to forestall long term danger (for which they themselves will have to pay in increased costs as resources become scarce and as business becomes impacted by inclement weather), but they also reduce their bottom line while improving morale and productivity of their workforce.
How is this done?
The first place the office can look is to technology that uses or relies upon electricity. This can range from the simple coffeemaker left on all night to the replacement of servers to a thin client (pictured below) resulting, in some cases, in a significant reduction of a company’s annual expense.
But other efforts can pay dividends, as well, in ways that are not quantifiable, such as organizing the workforce to come together as a green team to unplug adaptors when not in use or to compete with one another for prizes or dividends by recycling ink cartridges and other expensive items.
These efforts can become rallying points for the office or cooperation which then leads to increased productivity.
Another area is with computers and monitors that use less energy and that will, eventually (hopefully) be made without the intense greenhouse gasses that are now part of the LCD and Plasma manufacture process. There are companies, such as VIZIO (see below; note: this is not an endorsement), that are introducing a line of energy efficient models likely to drop in price over time (some are low cost now).
These products are rated to pull less electricity to run. Put that together with any sized office and one can see significant savings on their bill over time.
The paperless office is another area that has been talked about but how realistic has it become? Most work situations do require the use of paper and that is another potential for savings.
I am reminded of a scene in Robert Graves’ I CLAUDIUS, where Antonia, the daughter of Marc Antony, complains that her family has thrown away perfectly good paper that had barely been written upon.
(There’s that other part of the story where she finds a plot against Tiberius Caesar on one of those discarded scraps… while intrigue and politics can be an inevitable part of the office, I doubt we have to worry about it to the extent of the trials and tribulations of Ancient Rome).
But Antonia had a good idea that still holds true. While many companies buy 95 brightness or above virgin paper and spend a great deal to see most of it discarded, recycled paper of a lesser or equal brightness can work perfectly well for the day to day activities in an office and, again, the effort to then recycle afterward can be an opportunity to build community within the office.
Then there is telecommuting as not every community needs to be in the same physical location and here’s where significant savings can be achieved. There’s been resistance to this option in offices as managers struggle to keep their workforce motivated and in communication with one another. However, the combination of technology and incentives can help to cut the wheat from the chaff and allow an office to then reduce its energy footprint and the need to buy equipment (as many home office workers provide their own).
How is this done? Start slowly and use incentives to allow workers to take one day or half day a week at home so that you can evaluate their performance. Use meeting software (such as virtual e-rooms) that allow real time interaction and set up video to video (most computers can provide this now) for meetings. This can then be part of a reward for the recycling efforts that help to reduce the bottom line (a new ink cartridge can cost many times more than a refilled version).
When a worker does not show the discipline to turn in their work effectively or requires more communication than had been indicated by their onsite performance, offsite work can also be a valuable tool for assessing strengths and weaknesses. Such a worker can then be mentored by another who does not have performance issues with offsite effort. If that does not work, you’ve identified who you can rely upon for offsite (and reduced cost work) and who will be the worker you will assign to the office to be the anchor you will need onsite.
As for the thin client concept, this requires onsite evaluation as it is one of the most significant financial commitments a company can make to their infrastructure. The advantages are that thin client server configurations can also reduce a company’s power consumption by such a significant percentage, while upgrading the company’s systems to a more modern technology, the company will see a direct return on investment within a very short period of time while enjoying – again – increased productivity by their workforce through better systems.
Thin client technology can also eliminate the need for controlled environments, such as specialized air conditioning; quite often a company’s most significant power outlay.
It is important, however, not to rush to the thin client model in isolation. It requires, in my opinion, an experienced consultant to perform a requirements and business reengineering analysis or it could cost a company more than it saves.
One of the most rewarding areas for greening your office has to do with green space and sustainability for those who have that control over their environment. Planting trees for shade on a building’s western exposure can cut significant consumption costs in a hot climate while reducing the need to water lawns – or better yet – the drought resistant plants (aka xeriscaping - symbol below) you’ve put in place instead of your lawn.
Finally, there are the easiest and most socially responsible options for greening your office. Using soy ink in your toners is an example. Furniture produced from sustainable forestry is another (this is a very important consideration as the EU has just reported that the cost of forest loss exceeds the current financial crisis). LED or compact florescent light bulbs, of course (I prefer LED; longer life, less consumption, easier on the eyes and not full of harmful chemicals). There are many cleansers and solvents that don’t pollute the earth and break room supplies that are recycled (or better yet, mugs for employees instead of paper cups!).
The list is endless as are the supplies that are now available. It only requires only the decision to order one thing over another by incentivizing your procurement personnel to choose the green option over the alternative. None of it has to cost more than you already spend and, in many cases, it will be less and that is opportunity in a recession to receive dividends for the earth.
The timing for the green office has never been better.
Janet Ritz is the publisher and managing editor of THE ENVIRONMENTALIST, an environmental contributor to The Huffington Post and a green consultant that specializes in reducing costs and carbon footprint.
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