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Green Office FAQs

How to do we start the Green Office certification process?

To get started, simply contact the sustainNU at 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. Check out the Green Office Program Overview to see the program requirements, the certification process, and the sustainable program practices.

What are the steps to achieving certification?

The steps to certification are described on the Green Office Program homepage. They include starting the process with an email and introduction meeting, acquiring leadership approval, educating office staff, forming a green team to lead the process, and implementing sustainable office practices.

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-owned 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 program could actually help reduce costs. For example, the program 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. A full list of these program practices are available in Green Office Program Overview and Certification Guide. To achieve certification, each office must complete at least 24 of the Green Office Program Practices.

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. Green Office leaders are encouraged to participate in Green Office events, activities and programs, and the Green Office Program mailing list.  

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. In order to stay certified, offices need to maintain an active green team, continue the sustainability practices your offices implemented, and maintain participation in Green Office Program efforts, including annual recertification.