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Tips for Going Green at Work: Keep it Simple, Make it Cheap, and Have Some Fun

This special Earth Day blog post is guest written by Ms. Meagan Marie Kadlec, Senior Program Support Associate at Elevate Energy and the driving force behind Elevate’s soon-to-be-famous cloth napkin challenge.

It’s not easy being green. Oh wait, it kind of is.

Sometimes I dream of owning a pre-war three-flat brownstone with solar panels and a rain garden, dressing in polka dot dresses made by a local seamstress, and greeting my boyfriend as he pulls up in his Tesla. The reality is I ride a bike, wash out old spaghetti sauce jars to use as storage containers, and swap clothes with friends.

IMG_3099-editedStill, it’s nice to know that saving the planet doesn’t require you to be a Rockefeller to do your part. I think I share this approach with many others in their personal lives, which is great. But why not apply that same simple philosophy to your work place? At Elevate I’ve implemented a few no-cost initiatives to help our employees go green at work. In January I challenged my coworkers to give up paper napkins for the year. While we have always supplied reusable plates, cups and silverware, limiting disposable napkin use was tricky. I emailed staff and politely invited them to join me in my New Year’s Resolution of only using cloth napkins at work for all of 2016. I even named the effort the “2016 Cloth Napkin Challenge.” Brilliant.

While it is definitely not required, as there are still paper napkins available, 17 employees have vowed to use a cloth napkin at work for the entire year. Employees who pledged will receive a unique photograph of me hugging a tree as a thank you. Others who have not formally pledged to the challenge, seem to have been inspired as well, bringing in a cloth napkin to work, even if they still sometimes use a paper napkin.

IMG_3093-editedLetting employees know that it’s okay to use a cloth napkin at work has changed the culture around it. It’s nice to know you’re not being a weirdo by having a peanut butter smeared cloth napkin that you leave on your desk at work. The planet gets to keep some trees, Elevate gets to keep the money they would have spent on said trees. Win-win.

This isn’t our only initiative to save trees here at Elevate. We have a printer that only prints on scrap paper. A few employees, tired of walking up to the printer to load it with scrap paper every time they needed to print something informal, got together with IT to test it out. So far, so good! We have seven printers at Elevate and decided to turn one into a scrap paper-only printer for casual print jobs. It prints one sided onto paper that would otherwise be in the recycling bin. Surely I couldn’t have been the first person to think of this? The planet gets to keep some trees, Elevate gets to keep the money they would have spent on said trees. Win-win.

IMG_3112-editedWe share food that would otherwise go to waste. Like most offices, we clean out any leftovers on Friday afternoons from our fridge. Oftentimes we’d  find perfectly good food that was simply forgotten about or maybe was meant to be up for grabs, but since nobody knew, it went wasted. Sometimes people would label this food with the word “Community” — it never really caught on though.  One day I was thinking up a way to make it more obvious  that this leftover food was communal and thought “Share,” not the thrilling upgrade from the word “Community” I was looking for. But “Cher!” The Goddess of Pop! The reason I love shouting “Snap out of it!” I can remember Cher’s name. It’s easy to understand Cher and I can definitely look for her face inside of a refrigerator.

IMG_3108-editedHave some left over bagels from a meeting? Put them out in the kitchen with a Cher sticker on it, so it doesn’t go to waste. Opened a bottle of salad dressing that you’re not a fan of? Put it in the fridge with a Cher sticker and everyone knows they can help themselves to it. This has caught on pretty well and has been a nice way to reduce food waste.  The planet gets to keep some plants, I get to dollop some Siracha on my lunch. Win-win.

Elevate has had the green office basics down since the get go — recycling, composting, bike parking. But there are a lot of other things offices can do. My philosophy is: Keep it Super Simple, Cheap, and Fun. What’s been energizing about implementing these additional initiatives here at Elevate is that there is a sincere response to them by staff. People are excited to bring their cloth napkin, try out the scrap paper printer, and reach for a Cher sticker when they have leftovers. Trees on the planet, money in the bank.  Win-win.

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