Is sustainability in your workplace DNA?
It's a question Christine Mondor raised during the Reduce Your Use Workshop sponsored by Pop City and Direct Energy last Friday, Feb. 22. "It's about building a culture around sustainability," says Mondor of evolveEA, an architecture firm owned by Mondor that is known for being envionmentally innovative.
She cited the Pittsburgh Opera for examining ways they could be more environmentally friendly, including even questioning their use of costumes after performance and how they could reuse them. Phipps Conservatory, which is nationally recognized for its culture of sustainability, will question everything, even where its peat moss comes from, says Mondor.
The idea, she says, is to create a culture of sustainability where everyone is more aware of environmental issues and conservation and leadership sets the tone.
It was one of many points brought up at the event which included two other panelists: Kathleen Hower of GlobalLinks and Sam DeStephano of The Community Food Bank of Pittsburgh. All three organizations had participated in the Green Workplace Challenge held by Sustainable Pittsburgh. evolveEA won in its category and the others were runners up.
Both GlobalLinks and the Food Bank reuse materials as part of their mission. GlobalLinks collects hospital and medical supplies that might otherwise go to a landfill and distributes them to organizations in need around the world. Likewise, the Food Bank collects and redistributes food.
"We're promoting better environmental stewardship with the recovery of materials," says Hower, who notes that their new warehouse is completely skylighted which cuts energy costs. In addition, GlobalLinks employees cut down paper use through double-sided copying and diligently turn off lights that aren't being used.
Both groups credited a Student Conservation Association fellow with educating, training and reminding people to be more mindful of ways to reduce energy costs.
The SCA fellow set up numerous projects, says DeStephano, from LED lights to composting. "The top down support was most important," he said, in getting everyone onboard.
At GlobalLinks they eliminated water bottles and even started a soup day once a week where staff took turns making soup with local ingredients. "Everybody loved it!" says Hower.
Following a discussion from the 18 nonprofits attending the workshop, all groups were invited by Direct Energy to make a short and simple video to discuss ways they've reduced energy costs in their workplaces. The energy company is awarding $2500 to the best ideas. For more info see their site here.