When a UT Office Goes Green

Green Offices Program - ITS

Photo: ITS Green Office Team, l to r: Kara Nicholas, Geoff Nelson, Pat Scherer, Carol Lee, Greg Jewett, Megan Rucker, Olu Kole-James   Credit:John Kotarski

Last spring—and just a few short months after gaining green office status—the Systems and Applications offices within Information Technology Services (ITS) went platinum. Carol Lee and Kara Nicholas, senior project managers in their respective departments, spearheaded this effort after realizing that current office practices were sufficient to get a foot through the green door.

“I picked up shredded paper composting from ITS this morning,” said Green Offices Student Coordinator Susan Ward during an interview in December. “Their office is very involved. They even have their own compost jar for coffee grounds!”

The Green Offices Program is a points-based certification process developed to generate sustainable change in the workspace. It is coordinated by undergraduates through the Office of Sustainability (OS). Over the last three years, 32 offices across campus, including four within Financial and Administrative Services (ITS, OS, Office of VP for Legal Affairs, and the former Office for VP of University Operation) have been certified.

Going green is a relatively simple process. The first step is to form a core green team and to make certain that three-quarters of the office staff are willing to participate. After paperwork and a consultation, a baseline is developed for each office against which the staff can implement sustainable changes, including alternative transportation like cycling or carpooling, green purchasing, waste reduction and recycling, water conservation, energy conservation, and health and wellness.

Ward has noticed that most offices that she works with are already fairly green and can attain bronze without implementing huge changes. The fun and challenge is figuring out how to reach the next levels, and the two ITS departments—with around 160 employees—provide a great example.

“We were doing a lot of these practices already, but we looped in procurement, developed a few tools like signage, and started a Green Offices team*,” said Lee. “The process gave us an opportunity to work together when normally we would not have crossed paths, and we now present ourselves as a model green office and are asked by others about how to start the process!”

Nicholas agrees that the effort was minimal and the benefits in terms of comradery are huge. “We now have an avenue to make change,” she said. “The program encourages ideas, like a recent suggestion to set up battery charging stations. We ran with it.”

Within ITS, a large number of batteries are used to power equipment like computer mice. The manager of the mainframe, Robert Trent, suggested that the office switch from single-use to rechargeable batteries, and, once Lee and Nicholas figured out how this change was both simple and saved money, the greener choice was made.

“We sent an email about Robert’s new charging stations to the directors to show that one person can make a huge change,” said Lee.

Lee and the ITS team have even created a wiki of their own that focuses on sustainable work.

“We offer a cohesive way to do something that people are already interested in,” said Ward. “Next time you visit a new office, look for a green office sticker on the door and think about turning your office green.”

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*The Green Offices team in ITS includes Kevin Chang, Greg Jewett, Olu Kole-James, Emily Magee, Geoff Nelson, and Megan Rucker

This story appeared in FAS Times.