As Green as We Can Be!

The new home of Grand Rapids Community Foundation is red brick on the outside, but if you take a close look you’ll see green on the inside.
As a community foundation, it is our purpose and desire to improve the world around us and one way we are succeeding is by going green. Since moving into our renovated building, which will be LEED certified (based on the U.S. Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards), we have implemented thorough recycling programs, an education initiative and added programs to reward employees for acting and thinking in a sustainable manner.

Some of the environmentally responsible thoughts and features that were incorporated into our building design were: recycling stations, offices with automatic light sensors, large energy efficient windows for optimum light in work spaces, well insulated walls and compact fluorescent light bulbs. The bathrooms feature low water use flush systems and one fixture is actually waterless. During the renovation original lumber was recycled to create doors and stairs and most of the removed materials were recycled. Paint used on interior walls contained low or no VOC (volatile organic compounds). In addition, materials selected for chairs and furnishings met standards for recycled or sustainable content.

After completing our building, the staff at Grand Rapids Community Foundation committed to doing more to decrease our carbon footprint in the environment and came up with the following ideas and policies to be green every day:

– All staff kitchen items are glass or washable plastic, meaning we use very few, if any, paper products.
– Staff created a system so that each office waste basket has 2 compartments, one for recycled paper and one for trash.
– Kitchens have designated containers for paper/cardboard, plastics, metals and non-recyclable items.
– When printing multiple page documents staff opt for paper saving print options (i.e., duplex).
– A “Trans Points” program was implemented to reward staff for environmentally friendly practices including carpooling, walking or biking to work or meetings and using public transportation. Quarterly, employees can redeem their points for prizes ranging from snacks to gift cards or a contribution to a charity of their choice.
– A designated staff person regularly takes recyclable items (batteries, glass, and metal) not appropriate for our containers to an off-site recycling station.
– Our janitorial company uses cleaners that meet the Green Seal guideline and equipment that meets green testing standards.

These are ideas any company can implement to help minimize the impact on our resources and environment. We have also seen that our employees have implemented some ideas in their personal lives.

Not only can going green improve the environment it can improve employee morale and decrease company expenses. As a result of using glass kitchen items and encouraging staff to consider how or if they print documents, dollars spent on supply orders can be reduced. Employees feel good about making a difference and appreciate that the company recognizes their efforts. Going green has become embedded in our workplace culture.

Kevin Harmelink is the controller for the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, a winner of West Michigan’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For in 2008. Founded in 1922, the Grand Rapids Community Foundation is Michigan’s first community foundation. He can be reached at [email protected].