By Mare Van Dyke
Sept. 19, 2013
We've all experienced the mundane chatter that defies the boundary between our work and personal life. Some stories from home should be kept private, and office gossip around the dinner table can be destructive. But there is a positive "green" conversation that could take place, crossing the line with lively discussion inside and out of the office. Talking about interesting daily actions that we've discovered and taken to improve our environment and workplace is a discussion worth having.
Let's make the assumption that a large majority of us share more than a general interest in bettering our planet. Buzzwords like sustainability, corporate social responsibility, and corporate shared values come to life in business presentations with directives to lower our corporate carbon footprint. Seasonal events hosted to pick up trash or recycle electronics are ticked off the list like obligatory tax deadlines. How can we create an environmentally friendly workplace lifestyle that includes the flow of green information to and from our personal lives? Can we transition into a new way of living and exchange that will benefit our employees and families in a manageable and expansive way?
Here are three tips that will have personal, longer lasting benefits to your green office initiatives.
Take notice and respect the efforts of others.
Look around you. People have a tendency towards daily rituals and adding an element of green can be as simple as taking notice, providing access and information, and then acknowledging what works. For example, if there is a free and clean source for fresh, cool water for employee refills, can you implement a "no disposable plastic water bottle" policy? Companies and employees can save the costs of purchasing, disposing, and even recycling plastic bottles. In many business environments, equipment is installed and the effort stops there. There is little or no communication or ongoing engagement with the team about the greater benefits of this simple act of refilling a personal water bottle.
Even in restrooms, the ongoing need to reduce water use has resulted in the development and installation of revolutionary water-saving flush valves. But it's doubtful that any communication regarding the cost savings and reduced water consumption is shared with employees to create awareness and encourage participation. Karl Pearson said, "That which is measured improves. That which is measured and reported improves exponentially." Providing feedback on actions involving employees creates a cycle of action, education and lasting improvement. More importantly, it shows respect for the efforts of others and engages everyone to participate. This holds true no matter how seemingly insignificant the task.
Discover the camaraderie of becoming green
Once you've made the commitment to provide feedback to your team, it's time to create an atmosphere of discovery. Can you create an environment where a small example becomes an overwhelming movement, creating performance behaviors for the greater good? There's a comment made on a YouTube video about one lone and crazy dancer who, by example, engaged others to join him. The posting reads "He is weird until it becomes cool to join. Then everyone is in."
In many cases, it's a matter of one visual, green example, one expression of encouragement that peaks the interest of a larger group. If a simple decision in a restroom can add up to saving water, imagine what other initiatives can be taken if the team is aware of the opportunity, has a say, and participates. Consider a directive to purchase office supplies manufactured from recycled materials, and to source all fresh food purchases from local growers. Examples set by middle managers on seemingly insignificant business functions, when broadcast appropriately and regularly, can increase awareness and acceptance.
Spread the word and take your workplace home with you
It's time to share our green ideas, stories and successes across the dinner table and around the boardroom table. Involvement in community symposiums can expand our view and connect us to new ideas and people. We must make ourselves available to look past what may be intimidating scientific studies and jargon and realize that our simple daily actions, when taken collectively, add up to making a real difference.
It all starts with an example we set in our workplace. Once we join in and claim ownership of a few personal positive acts, we will experience the transition that changes our lifestyle and those of our colleagues. What we start collectively within our corporate environments will become unstoppable.
Mare Van Dyke is CEO and founding partner of Aqwastream LLC. Through its network of filtered-water refill stations, Aqwastream is helping the effort to drink responsibly. For more information and to reach Van Dyke, visit www.aqwastream.com.