Skip to main content
Northwestern University

Green Office FAQs

How to do we start the Green Office certification process?

To get started, simply contact the sustainNU staff at or 847.467.4286. A sustainNU staff member will set up a time to talk with you about the process and about how the program can be customized to meet the needs of your group.

What are the steps to achieving certification?

The steps are described on the sustainNU website here. They include an initial meeting to discuss the program, scheduling a presentation for all staff, forming a green team to lead the process, and working through a check list of activities.

What is considered an “office” for the purposes of this program?

Northwestern offices, departments, and units are organized in many different ways, and the Green Office program can be adapted to fit the needs of your group. For example, an administrative unit or group of units could pursue certification for an entire building or for a single suite or floor within a building. In addition, a department that has staff members in multiple locations could choose to pursue certification for a single location or for all spaces occupied by that department. Each group can decide how they would like to define their participating team and their space.

Can our office participate if we work in a leased space rather than a building owned by the University?

Yes, departments and units in leased spaces are encouraged to participate in the Green Office program. The program focuses on encouraging participants to make sustainable choices in their daily practices, and those in leased spaces can do many of the same things as those in University-owed properties.

Are there any costs associated with getting certified?

There are no fees or payments associated with certification. Some of the activities recommended in the Green Office Guide could actually help reduce costs. For example, the guide recommends strategies such as reducing printing and purchasing in bulk to avoid excess packaging. Some offices choose to make small investments in items such as a supply of reusable mugs or utensils. These investments can end up cutting costs in the long term by reducing the need to restock supplies of disposable items.

How many people should be on our Green Team?

There is not set number of people that need to participate in your Green Team. Typically, larger offices have more people on their team, and groups that are working to certify multiple spaces have at least one Green Team member in each location. The team should be big enough to be effective in working through the checklist and mobilizing others in the office in adopting the recommended Green Office practices.

What sort of actions will we need to take to get certified?

The Green Office program focuses on choices that building occupants can make in their everyday work routines that will reduce the University’s environmental impact. For example, recommended activities include purchasing recycled content paper, selecting catering options that minimize packaging and disposable items, and encouraging staff to participate in activities such as the Bike Commuter Challenge. The full checklist is available on the sustainNU website. To achieve certification, each office must complete at least 75 percent of the items on the checklist.

How long does it take to get certified?

The process can take from a few weeks to several months, depending on the time you have available for the process. Some groups find that they are able to move quickly through the checklist because they have already adopted most of the recommended practices and only need to make a few adjustments in order to become certified. Others take longer if they need to make more changes or have very little time devote to the process. It’s up to each group to decide how quickly they would like to complete the process, but in order to maintain momentum, sustainNU recommends setting a goal of moving through the steps within three months.

What are the benefits of participating in the Green Office program?

Participating offices often find that the process of pursuing Green Office certification energizes their team and brings them together in working toward a common goal. Groups that receive certification are recognized in the sustainNU newsletter and on the website. Certified offices also receive a framed certificate and digital materials that they can use to highlight their achievement. Green Office leaders are also prime candidates for the Sustainability Excellence Awards, which are presented quarterly in conjunction with the Northwestern Service Excellence Awards. In addition, office Green Team members are invited to sustainNU’s annual celebration and an annual Green Office workshop where they can network with Green Team members from offices without the University.

What do we need to do after we get certified?

Certified offices are encouraged to maintain an active Green Team and hold Green Team meetings at least once per quarter. After certification, this group’s role is to ensure that the office continues to maintain its environmentally friendly habits. In many offices, the Green Team continues to organize activities such as waste-free coffee gatherings, brown bag presentations on sustainability, or other fun and educational events that reinforce sustainable practices. To keep your certification active, you will also need to have at least one representative of your office attend an annual Green Office workshop. This workshop brings Green Team leaders from offices across the University together the share ideas and get updates on new sustainability initiatives on campus.

Back to top