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library green office team

Northwestern Offices Go Green

Everyone on campus has a part to play in making Northwestern more environmentally sustainable. In the effort to support sustainable practices among faculty and staff, sustainNU established a Green Office Certification program just over three years ago. The program guides participants through a process of identifying and acting on opportunities to save energy and conserve resources. Since the program started, 14 offices have completed the certification process, and another 15 have started the process. The participating offices have engaged more than 600 employees in efforts to create a more environmentally friendly workplace.

Interested offices or departments can get started by contacting sustainNU. A sustainNU staff member will set up a time to talk about the program and how it can be customized to meet the needs of the office or department that would like to participate. This includes deciding how the group will define their “office.”

For example, the Facilities Management and Administrative Services departments within the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law teamed up to certify their suites within Levy Mayer Hall in the Chicago campus. University Libraries chose another approach, pursing certification for all library office spaces on both the Evanston and Chicago Campuses. In the Anthropology Department, graduate students led the process of certifying their space at 1810 Hinman in Evanston. Those working in leased spaces can also participate since the program focuses day to day actions of building occupants rather than the building or office itself.

Once a group defines their office and decides to move forward with certification, a sustainNU staff member will give a presentation to the group, informing everyone about the process and how it fits into Northwestern’s campus-wide sustainability initiatives.

Then the office will then establish a Green Team consisting of between three and eight people who will lead the initiative. This team will go through the Green Office checklists to note things they are already doing to be sustainable and identify areas where they can improve.

After making any adjustments that are needed to meet the standards of a green office, the department will be officially certified. Certified groups often celebrate with snacks or lunch, and sustainNU presents a framed certificate that can be displayed in the space. Offices also have the opportunity to be featured in sustainNU’s monthly newsletter.

While faculty and staff members may feel they don’t have the expertise to execute a program like this, sustainNU provides the resources and support to make the program accessible for all offices, regardless of size or knowledge. This includes a Green Team training, access to recycling bins as needed, and tips on finding energy-efficient products.

The program focuses on activities within the workplace that staff can control. Some examples of changes made in departmental office are reducing printing, purchasing recycled content paper, being conscientious about packaging and disposable items used for catered events, replacing disposable items in kitchens with reusable alternatives, and setting computers to energy efficient settings.

Green Office groups are encouraged to stay actively engaged following certification. For example, since getting certified, Alumni Relations and Development has held brown-bag discussions on sustainability, the School for Professional Studies IT and Facilities team is looking into establishing battery recycling in their office, and Kellogg’s MarComm team is implementing a Green Office newsletter. The University Library team has even turned their annual staff picnic into a zero waste event complete with reusable glasses and compost collection.

To help certified offices stay on track, sustainNU hosts an annual workshop where Green Team members from all certified offices get together to share best practices, learn about new campus sustainability efforts, and celebrate their successes.

Feedback from participating departments shows that process of getting certified brings energy to the office as teams work together to complete the sustainability checklist and do their best to lower energy use and waste in their work life. Participating teams are proud of their Green Office certification, and they enjoy seeing employees unite over creating a space that is environmentally friendly.

To learn how your office can get involved, contact sustainNU at