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Knowing Your Environment

October 22, 2014
There are at least two reasons why green teams and sustainability officers should follow the news, local, state, national and global—about climate change and environmental issues.  The first is because information is power and knowledge can be applied to demonstrating the impact of practical actions on lowering both the bottom line and the office’s carbon footprint.
The second reason is that issues, events, and political or governmental action will affect us all, directly or indirectly, and it is increasingly important to be prepared to adapt, to be resilient, and ideally to be in a position to be a productive partner on solutions to the challenges we face together at work, at home, in our communities and beyond our borders.
Ideally, every member of a green team will stay abreast of news and developments on the green front.  But as a practical matter, there is so much information to be had that it’s impossible for any one person to know it all.  Consider divvying up the info gathering among your team members by topic or area.
There’s a wealth of online news sources and you can find a good start under GWG’s Resources tab.  Here are a couple examples from my info download this past week—EcoWatch posted a news report on a movement in Florida to split the state in two because proponents in the south of the state, namely the mayor and city council of South Miami, believe there has been insufficient action from the power base in the north to address rising sea levels and flooding. This is a tip off to businesses and agencies in low-lying coastal areas to ask themselves how prepared they are for unanticipated power outages, flooding, and weather events that could interrupt the conduct of operations.  GWG has written in the past on the topic of resiliency and the value that informed green teams can provide to emergency planners and facilities managers.
Along those lines, the EPA this week released an abstract on the connection between sustainability and resilience.  The summary, by co-author Alan Hecht, highlights the new thinking and actions underway by leaders in government, educational institutions, business and industry that are redefining the “resilience” of a community or an enterprise from simply bouncing back to “the capacity for a system to survive, adapt, and flourish in the face of turbulent change and uncertainty.”  Click here to read the full report published in “Solutions”, an online journal.

Next week’s column will highlight examples of sustainability leaders, projects, and opportunities that will inspire your office green team and are valuable resources for ideas and information.  In many instances, there are local environmental groups, institutions, and community organizations that welcome collaborative partnerships and participation in volunteer projects.  So even if your office green program is but a fledgling enterprise, newsletters and bulletin boards can inform interested and supportive employees about the numerous ways they can become involved in advancing sustainability goals. 

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CVS Aims to Take Care of Mother Earth and Us, Too

October 15, 2014
Most of us who are familiar with CVS know it as the pharmacy we use or the drug store in our neighborhood that seems to have just about anything you would expect or hope to find.  CVSCareMark, the corporate home for CVS, defines itself as “a pharmacy innovation company”.  If how CVS has designed and implemented its environmental management program is an example, we would have to agree with that definition. 
CVSCareMark’s 2013 Corporate Social Responsibility Report  (CSR) identifies protecting the planet as one of the three priorities of the company’s CSR strategy.  This broad strategy is translated into specific, measurable areas of focus and objectives--energy, water, waste, buildings, and transportation.  CVS is on track to reduce its carbon intensity by 15% by 2018, already seeing a 9% reduction since 2008.  A new energy efficient store in Connecticut represents the latest in green design standards--solar roof panels, zero irrigation landscaping, electric vehicle charging stations, and daylighting.  CVS incorporates green building standards wherever possible, including site consideration for new buildings.
CVS also recognizes the important role it can play in ensuring the products sold and medicines dispensed are designed, manufactured, packaged and disposed of in a more sustainable manner.  CVS offers a variety of CVS Brand products with environmental attributes and has added product lines to its offerings that meet standards for reduced environmental risk and impact.  CVS suppliers must submit to a rigorous review of environmental compliance with laws and regulations, but also must conform to CVS’s environmental impact principles.  
These accomplishments, ongoing strategies, and commitment to environmental responsibility are supported by a strong infrastructure. A sustainability leadership council  reviews the sustainability strategies and sets carbon reduction goals, an executive environmental management council of senior-level executives  direct the overarching strategy, an energy technology assessment committee  monitors trends and evaluates opportunities for improvements, and a sustainability committee drives initiatives across the enterprise.  This cross-corporate network ensures that sustainable policies and practices are closely integrated with CVS’s mission to help people on their path to better health, which the company states is intrinsically linked to the sustainability of our planet.
This is but a short and incomplete summary of what CVSCareMark is doing to meet its commitment to environmental protection.  The pdf of the annual report, which also is available as an interactive link on the website, is worth the click here.  If you’re looking for an example for establishing or expanding your green office effort, CVSCareMark is one of the best in the business.
Upon reaching the first anniversary of our office’s green office initiative and my role heading up our sustainability committee, I set about to document our efforts and the progress we had made toward our goal of adopting environmentally friendly business practices and lowering our carbon footprint.  Our report was duly written, statistics depicted where we had been able to measure changes, and the short, but informative report was published on our public internet website and office intranet.  At the time, we were pretty happy with the product.  That was five years ago and times change.
If I were in the same position today, I would head to the Internet and the numerous examples there are of annual reports on sustainability, particularly from corporations that have adopted environmental values and goals as part of their platform principles of corporate social responsibility.  In fact, not only would I find examples of content information, I would find outstanding examples of how impactful environmental management programs are structured and integrated into the core business.  This is the best kind, and the highest evolution to which green office programs can aspire.  It’s one thing to reduce paper consumption, it’s another to ensure your suppliers have adopted environmentally sustainable business practices and conform to certified production standards.  And beyond changing business practices, it’s quite another thing for environmental values to lead to new products and services.  In a previous column, GreenWorksGov wrote about the hierarchy of success that is possible and desirable based on a study by AltaTerra Research in Palo Alto.  One company that stands out as a leader in optimizing its environmental management program is CVSCareMark
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Role Models in Sustainability--The Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association

October 8, 2014
If you reside in the metropolitan area of Cleveland, Ohio, you may have noticed an increase in the numbers of people bicycling to work, riding public transport, and walking to work this week.  Credit the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association (CMBA) and participating law offices for David Webster’s Greener Way to Work Week.  The CMBA is celebrating sustainability, October 6-10, and is encouraging its membership to choose green alternatives for commuting to work, among other events scheduled for the week.  This Friday, October 10, at its annual luncheon, CMBA’s Green Initiative Committee will formally recognize the 50-plus firms and law offices which have attained green certified status.  The group includes public, private, and non-profit legal services organizations.
Greening the law office has been a focused effort for the CMBA for six years.  In 2008, the Bar announced a committee structure to assist law firms and offices to adopt sustainable business practices and to elevate awareness about the environmental impact of business operations.  The Green Certification Program recognizes law offices which have made the commitment to sustainability.
 The roadmap of practices includes two levels of achievement, which we think are very do-able and cost-efficient, too.  For example, the Bar recommends buying paper from manufacturers using certified sustainable forestry management practices, purchasing at least 30% post-consumer content (recycled) paper, and requiring double-sided copying or printing, at least for drafts and internal documents.  The average office worker in North America burns through 10,000 sheets of paper a year, so even a 20% reduction in paper consumption adds up fast in saving dollars and lowering the carbon footprint.  Also, the Bar provides helpful tools, such as links to the American Forest and Paper Association’s Sustainable Forestry Initiative (Green Works Gov also highly recommends the Forest Stewardship Council’s FSC certification program.  The website has links to info and certified paper products/suppliers).
One of the most challenging objectives for green office teams is measuring results.  The CMBA Green Initiative Committee has developed a Carbon Footprint Calculator for Legal Services Organizations. It has three components—electricity and heat, business transportation, and paper and raw materials.  This is a welcome and helpful tool to jump start an office’s ability to measure savings over time, and isn’t just for law offices.
Cleveland has been described as the “epicenter” of the environmental movement.  One big reason is EcoWatch, a top-notch clearinghouse for news, green living, and sustainable business to help people learn about issues in their communities, across the country, and around the world. EcoWatch is headquartered in Cleveland, which has served to elevate interest and participation in local efforts.  Bookmark this site.

Three cheers and a standing ovation to the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association and the Green Initiative Committee for their outstanding effort and to participating law firms and law offices.  Because of you, Cleveland sets an example for bar associations and law offices everywhere. 

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We Are What We Eat

September 24, 2014
On the list of the top 20 hottest trends in food this year, according to the National Restaurant Association, are environmental sustainability, locally sourced and grown ingredients, and food waste reduction practices.   In fact they ranked in the top 11, to be completely accurate.  The American Culinary Federation, whose membership of chefs were the group surveyed for the annual trends report, reports that the focus on environmental sustainability and sustainable food practices are among the most important issues facing restaurants today.
Consumers are informed and educated about sustainability, they are aware that the drought in California will impact food prices and availability everywhere, and they are concerned about where the food ingredients on their plates comes from, how it was produced, and how healthful it is.  When obesity and diabetes are at all-time highs, people, especially Millennials, are looking to live long, healthy lives on a planet that will sustain its populations into perpetuity.
 As GreenWorksGov has written previously about Millennials, the “not-kids-anymore” generation is bringing its values into the workplace, and sustainability is one of them.  Certain practices will be expected to be commonplace, such as recycling, waste management that minimizes diversion into the waste stream, environmentally preferable procurement, green buildings, and so on.  Add to the list, a cafeteria or on-site food service vendor who offers locally sourced food products, seasonal vegetables, and healthy menu options.
The National Restaurant Association’s Conserve Program offers food service operators help on how to incorporate sustainable practices into their operations.  Another resource is the federal General Services Administration’s Health and Sustainability Guidelines for Federal Concessions and Vending Operations.  The guidelines were developed with the Department of Health and Human Services.  They include healthy menu item choices, such as vegetarian entrees and 100% juice drinks, and sustainable food service practices, such as incentives for customers to bring reusable beverage containers and to buy organic, local produce.

Green teams looking to take their program up a notch would do well to research the information in these resources before approaching their on-site food services operator to discuss practical and economically-smart ways of improving the nutritional value of food offerings and adopting or increasing sustainable food and waste management practices.  Given that environmental sustainability, locally sourced and grown ingredients, and food waste reduction are the hottest trends in the food industry, your food services operator is likely to appreciate an enthusiastic partner. There’s everything to gain, but weight. 

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Sustainability Ranks High for Atlanta's Historically Black Colleges and Universities

September 17, 2014
GreenWorksGov welcomes guest author Devin Hunter, an undergraduate student at Cal Poly Pomona.  Devin works as a student assistant for the Conference of Western Attorneys General and has helped conduct research for GWG and authored a previous guest blog about sustainable gardening. 
Earlier this month, GreenWorksGov reported on the greenest colleges according to Sierra magazine’s 2014 ranking. This week we are revisiting this opportunity to learn what our leading schools are doing that can inspire green teams at work and serve as a resource to them. Many of the Historic Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) are taking part in the green initiative by designing and developing their own projects to help impact their schools. With projects ranging from designing buildings to becoming more energy sufficient to creating a number of sustainable food and recycling initiatives on campus, these colleges are really taking the lead on making our universities greener. 
The women at Spelman College in Atlanta, are among the front runners in their effort to achieve a green campus. In 2009, the University president Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum issued a statement saying, “Understanding our own environmental impact and seeking to reduce it is a choice that all of us can make every day.” As time has shown, the school has expanded and applied its creativity and ideals on their campus. The Laura Spelman building, which was built in 1918, is one of the school’s oldest structures on campus spanning 19,700 square feet and reaching three stories high. The school managed to transform the oldest building on campus into a LEED Gold energy-efficient green building thanks to many donations from esteemed alumnae, generous donors and sponsors. This initiative sparked many other projects on Spelman’s campus and has brought the school to the top of the green initiative for green campuses. In 2013, Spelman received the Tree Campus USA recognition which honored the school for “promoting healthy trees and engaging students and staff in spirit of conservation.” Truly an award fitting of their efforts and one that other schools should try emulate. 
There must be something in the water that makes schools in Atlanta, Georgia want to do their part to become a green campus. On April 22, 2014, the “Atlanta Voice” reviewed a survey taken by the Building Green Initiative at Clark Atlanta University that revealed that most HBCU’s are leading in energy efficiency on their campuses and are making the green initiative a strong component of campus policies and student life. Once more, these schools are recognized for their efforts to make and keep their campuses more energy efficient and is a vision that should be shared with all of our country’s colleges and universities. 
Read more here.
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