UW Today

September 26, 2011

Is your office green enough to be certified?

News and Information

How green is your office?

Now theres a way to find out and even quantify your offices efforts at environmental responsibility. The Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability (ESS) office, housed within Finance & Facilities has created a Green Office Certification Program which consists of an informal audit of office practices, accomplished through a short survey.

Answers to questions that fall into eight categories result in an overall score on practices that reduce energy consumption and waste.  Based on the number of points, an office could receive a gold, silver or bronze certificate.

The effort to create an office certification program was initiated by Jennifer Perkins, now a UW graduate of the School of Forest Resources with a specialty in environmental science & resource management and a minor in quantitative science, who was an intern with ESS.

“Were not the first university to do this,” she says, “but we developed our scoring so that it was adaptable to different offices. Those practices receiving the most points are ones that we viewed as more important or harder to achieve.”

Perkins worked with a committee composed of representatives from various units across campus that have an interest in environmental practices (see list at end of the article). She also had help from Rebecca Teel and Evan Brooks, two students from the Program on the Environment, working on their capstone project, who assisted in the development of the standards and helped to design the website and also worked on gathering related information, including project ideas, frequently asked questions and “how-to” resources. They also researched standards for making workplaces more sustainable.

“I chose to do this as my capstone because it was an interesting subject to me,” says Evan Brooks. “I wanted to help and be a part of UW becoming an even ‘greener school.”

“I was really interested in working with the ESS Office because the work that they do is exactly what I would like to focus on for a career,” says Rebecca Teel. “Not only was I interested in learning a lot more about sustainability and environmental stewardship, but I also really liked the idea of being able to help at the University of Washington and doing my part to give back to a community that has given so much to me.”

The creation of a Green Office Certification Program aligns with the universitys Climate Action Plan, which encourages offices to operate in a sustainable fashion.  “This is an example of students leading the sustainability agenda at UW and collaborating with staff to incorporate learning with campus sustainability efforts,” according to Sandra Archibald, Dean of the Evans School of Public Affairs and Chair of the Environmental Stewardship Advisory Committee.

Three units – Creative Communications, Student Fiscal Services and the Program on the Environment – volunteered to be the test cases for the project.  Offices that achieve certification will have the option of receiving a printed certificate, a PDF certificate that can be posted online, or a badge and logo that can be added to their website. All offices that complete the certification application will receive a letter that may suggest ways the office can improve its overall performance.

Perkins started as a student intern in February 2010, because she wanted to get work experience with a sustainability office. Eventually the office found a source to fund a paid internship for her.  “Ive learned quite a bit working in the office, and theyve given me the freedom to come up with projects on my own,” she says. Although she recently graduated, she has a list of work shed like to complete through the office, if funding permits: creating a campus sustainability map, continuing her work on the Sustainability Dashboard, and rolling out the Green Office Certification Program.

More information on certification is at http://f2.washington.edu/ess/engage/green-office.

Green Office Certification Committee

  • Jennifer Perkins, Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability office
  • Karin Mellskog, Creative Communications
  • Bethany Staelens, Educational Outreach & UW Tower Green Team
  • Claudia Frere, Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability office
  • Stan Wiegman, Health Sciences
  • Claudia Christensen, Purchasing
  • Eric Johnson, Recycling & Solid Waste
  • Rebecca Teel & Evan Brooks, capstone students from the Program on the Environment (Faculty Advisor Rob Pena, associate professor of architecture)