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HR green office team

Human Resources Team Sets an Example for Creating a Greener Workplace

The Human Resources (HR) office at 720 University Place took a big step toward green living this April. They took action to cut costs and reduce waste, and joined the growing list of on campus offices that have earned Green Office Certification through sustainNU. The Green Office Certification is a sustainNU program devoted to engaging faculty and staff across the university in sustainable practices, offering the tools and resources to make every office at Northwestern a leader in environmental stewardship and engagement.

The process of certification is simple. It includes staff training and the completion of the “Green Office Checklist,” which provides tangible actions like committing to double-sided printing, purchasing reusable kitchenware, and pledging to abandon bottled water.

The staff at 720 University Place made significant changes in their office practices through the Green Office program, and their experience can serve as a guide for other offices interested in making the leap to living – and working – green. Deborah Mosca led the Green Team in the office, helping to guide the staff through the certification process. She shared the following story about their journey.

Going Green at 720 University Place

We are so proud to have an engaged team for sustainability activities and love getting together to brainstorm new ways to keep our staff excited and proud of their efforts. Everyone in the building has been so supportive and excited to make our building greener.

The staff at 720 University Place knew it was time to make a significant to changes to the amount of disposables (paper cups and plates, plastic lids for cups and plastic utensils) used in our kitchen. In order to reduce waste in this area we distributed bamboo utensils from sustainNU and mugs we found in our storage room to all staff. We also purchased inexpensive dishes for the community kitchen. After getting rid of paper plates and cups and disposable kitchenware, we can now host zero-waste meetings when serving food!

720 University Place is an older building, so we wanted to explore ways for us to reduce heating costs, minimize nonessential use of electricity, and recycle unwanted office products and furnishings. By placing “Lights Out” stickers above light switches in the kitchen, bathroom, lower-use offices and hallways, we stopped turning on those lights, except when necessary.

Working with Facilities and Risk Management, we were able to make substantial repairs to a storage room where significant water damage was causing heat to escape. Once we started clearing out the space, we realized there were many items we could list on the Surplus Property Exchange, a Northwestern-specific online bulletin for departments to exchange and recycle items. We cut down on supply orders by using the Surplus Property Exchange to acquire needed items for free, and by redistributing office supplies that had been in storage for years.

We also stepped up our recycling practices in several areas, recycling paper items we no longer needed and an entire room’s worth of old computer equipment! We asked everyone to search around for used HP toner cartridges, which we boxed and sent back to HP via UPS – at no charge – and we now have a point-person to collect used cartridges and send out monthly toner recycling reminders to staff.

To continue to keep our staff motivated and engaged, we plan to send out weekly emails to remind everyone about sustainability events or ways to cut back on waste, and to let them know about future efforts to lessen our carbon footprint. Once we begin attending University-wide sustainability meetings, we plan to share what we learn with the staff, and will continue to implement new practices to become even greener.

The HR office at 720 University Place sets a great example for other offices interested in making a commitment to more sustainable living. If your office would be interested in the program, take the first step today and contact sustainNU at