By Katya Lobanova | Feb 10, 2015

What’s in a name? The College of the Environment's name certainly calls to mind sustainability. While the curriculum of the College stretches far beyond that subject, the staff of the College’s Dean’s Office are true sustainability superstars. Currently, the Dean’s Office holds the title of Greenest Office from the Green Office Certification Program in our annual campus-wide competition, with a Gold-level certification of a whopping 99%. (This is an improvement over the previous year, when the Dean’s Office was the Greenest Office within the College of the Environment’s competition with 98%.) Jennifer Davison and Suzanne Zitzer, staff and members of the office’s Green Team, sounded off on the practices and innovations that keep the Dean’s Office in the gold.

When asked if being in the College of the Environment draws more sustainable-minded people to their ranks, they agreed that there is a correlation. Thanks to the name, they have the benefit of being a model for sustainable practices on campus. "'Environment' leads people to think 'sustainability,' so walking the talk is being on brand," explains Davison.

While having a built-in reason to be more sustainable in everyday office practices, the Dean’s Office Green Team keeps things interesting with a plethora of activities and events. An office of approximately 25 staff members (39 if advancement, which is located in a separate location but follows the same practices, is included) can be a challenge to keep motivated, but the Office’s Greenest award speaks to endless possibility. In January, the Team issued a Green Challenge for the Office for the second year running, this time centering on waste reduction. Participants, signing up on a voluntary basis, pledged to a goal that’s shared with the office; weekly check-ins are held to collect and share updates and measure progress, and at the end, a potluck is held and prizes awarded to celebrate achievements.

Last year, the Team planned field trips, visiting the Bullitt Center on Capitol Hill and taking the Brockman Tree Tour on the UW Campus. "We try to tap into the social aspect of trying to be sustainable," said Zitzer of their office’s success. "People are motivated by feeling like they’re part of a team." The office also holds an annual summer potluck to check on staff’s progress and involvement.

On a daily basis, the Green Team acts as a resource for the office, answering questions and making suggestions on sustainability practices. They track paper usage and provide bi-weekly green updates by topic or event; hold a monthly Green Bag lunch to screen films, host speakers and facilitate discussions. The social activities have proved to be quite popular. Additionally, the Team has developed guidelines for best practices to be shared with new hires and field researchers at the College, and provides articles for the College newsletter, acting, as Davison and Zitzer explain, "beyond the certification".

When asked what drives them to voluntarily participate in a Green Team, Zitzer answers, "It’s all about increasing cross-campus connections and sharing sustainability practices," as well as continuously promoting campus sustainability. "Being a part of a green team on campus is a way to actually make a difference in the environment. It’s not easy – that’s why cross-campus collaboration is so important."