Green Office Program encourages NU offices to adopt more sustainable practices


Rebecca Shaid/The Daily Northwestern

The Green Office Program created by sustainNU empowers campus offices to become more sustainable.

Ella Jeffries, Reporter

More than 56 offices and 1,000 Northwestern employees have engaged in the Green Office Program created by sustainNU to become part of a campuswide community of green leaders, SustainNU Program Coordinator Cria Kay said. 

The program seeks to guide office members toward achieving sustainability goals, like conserving energy and water, reducing waste and increasing awareness of campus environmental justice initiatives. 

Kay, who manages the Green Office Program, said an office must complete the certification process to achieve “Green Office” status. This process includes meeting with a sustainNU staff member and forming an internal Green Office team. The team then works to implement at least 24 of the sustainability benchmarks that sustainNU has outlined for certification. 

“The program is really intended to be adaptable so that it fits the needs of the office,” Kay said. “There is no deadline defining how quickly offices have to complete the certification process, and through this program, we are ingraining sustainability into the office culture in a lasting way.”

SustainNU also recently updated the program to incorporate social sustainability goals, which focus on office culture and employee well-being as they relate to environmental justice. SustainNU encourages offices to include sustainability in the onboarding process of new employees to ensure green habits continue to be a priority, Kay said. 

Hillel’s Rabbi Jessica Lott said caring for the planet is a core Jewish value, which inspired the building’s faculty and students to join the Green Office initiative. 

Hillel has a student and staff Sustainability Committee to promote environmentalism by identifying where the religious space needs to change its practices. While working toward certification, the office made a commitment to only using compostable disposables, created Cats Who Compost — a free weekly composting program for both on and off campus students — and implemented two satellite sites for compost containers in partnership with other religious centers, Lott said. 

Lott said Hillel is in the process of becoming Green Office certified, and sustainNU has supported the organization in this process while also respecting the space’s religious values. 

“(SustainNU) have been really sensitive to the fact that different communities have different needs and helping to navigate the certification process, which is more complicated for us because we are a community center that doesn’t have regular office procedures,” Lott said. 

Norris University Center became certified in 2016 and has since reduced its paper waste and incorporated LED light bulbs as a source of cleaner and reduced energy. It has also purchased ENERGY STAR, a program that promotes energy efficiency. 

Dan Foley, assistant director for facilities at Norris, said the building wanted to be part of the campuswide drive for sustainability.

“Norris will be 50 years old next year, and it’s hard to be sustainable in an older facility like this,” Foley said. “But if you’re really careful and thoughtful about it, you can accomplish some pretty big things that make a big impact.” 

Looking into the future, sustainNU is exploring different ways to engage offices with recertification opportunities, as well as creating networking events for green offices to collaborate with each other, Kay said. 

“Green Office opens up a ton of resources for participating offices,” Kay said. “This is a joint effort that’s meant to encourage people to change their own communities to fit their sustainability goals.”

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Twitter: @ellajeffriess

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