As our amphibian friend Kermit the Frog says, “It’s not easy being green"—and that’s particularly true for businesses! Since spring of 2014, our cross-departmental, volunteer-based Mountain Rose Herbs Green Team has helped our management team look at all aspects of our business operations through a sustainability lens. Recently, we received the honor of being featured in international corporate sustainability consultant Nikki Pava's guide to building successful workplace sustainability teams, so we thought we'd share some of the strategies that have helped us cultivate a culture of environmental responsibility across our organization. For those interested in building a green advocacy team in their own place of work, we hope these ideas can inspire and guide you!
Green Team Mission
While goals will vary for different organizations, the ways in which our Green Team promotes environmentally and socially conscious operating practices include:
- Reducing waste
- Conserving energy and water
- Encouraging use of alternative transportation
- Informing and motivating co-workers about workplace giving and volunteer opportunities
While specific projects may have end dates, a green team should stay connected and active throughout the year in order to effect and sustain positive organizational change. Our Green Team meets once a month to share recent sustainability wins from each department, update Team members about upcoming sustainability projects, and present proposals to upper management. Team members then disperse to share what they've learned with their coworkers across the organization, collecting employee feedback and buy-in to support the new initiatives in the process.
Getting the Green Light
For those just getting started with a green team, determining first steps can be intimidating. The Mountain Rose Herbs Green Team is fortunate to have long enjoyed the enthusiastic support of our owners, executive team, and much of our staff, as well as the guidance of a dedicated Director of Sustainability. In organizations where the benefits of sustainable work practices are less well-known, however, it can be good to start small and build trust and support from there.
One simple, low-cost strategy is to encourage practices that reduce waste and resource usage at work, track the results of your educational campaign over time, and then share your successes with upper management. For example, encouraging employees to bring their own cutlery to lunch can mean considerable savings for companies that provide disposable utensils. Tangible "wins" can help demonstrate your green team's usefulness and build confidence in its ability to follow through on bigger projects down the line.
Monetary impacts aside, simply being able to provide a measurement of waste or pollution reduction may be seen as a valuable contribution, as this information can be shared by your organization's public relations team to attract customers and clients wishing to support businesses with integrity. On-site pollution reduction can also be translated into better health outcomes for employees, contributing to higher productivity and workplace morale.
10 Sustainable Work Practices to Promote Through Your Green Team
- Post signage in company-owned parking lots and garages asking employees not to idle their running cars—it wastes gasoline and pollutes the air.
- Launch a campaign encouraging alternative commuting and ride sharing, then track and share your staff's alternative commute trips to and from work.
- Use scrap paper and print double-sided whenever possible to reduce waste.
- Post break room signage encouraging employees to keep a reusable cup, mug, and silverware set at work to reduce disposable utensil use (this may involve working with your Facilities team to find storage space for utensils).
- Organize a staff volunteer cleanup event of an area walkable from the office. Close proximity allows staff members to participate before or after work or during a lunch break, increasing your odds of strong engagement.
- Post signs above light switches asking employees to turn off lights when leaving an empty room. Eventually, you can campaign for motion-activated light sensors to make this process automatic.
- Encourage staff to save energy by shutting down office computers every night (check with your IT team first to make sure this is okay!).
- Post signage in bathrooms asking employees to report leaky faucets or running toilets to Facilities to help conserve water (include contact information on signs).
- Use free tracking tools like the Energy Star Portfolio Manager to collect information about your company's resource use. Simply tracking this data can provide a baseline to measure the impacts of future initiatives and identify use trends that could inspire future conversation initiatives down the line.
- Secure permission to post one or more Green Team bulletin boards around your workplace, where Green Team members and other employees can post information about volunteer opportunities, local sustainability events, green living tips, ride-sharing sign-ups, and more.
Building Team Buy-In
Communication is one of the Green Team's most important functions. Creating positive and lasting organizational change requires getting lots of coworkers on board, so it's critical that the actions formulated during Green Team meetings be made visible, accessible, and relatable to employees across the entire company.
In an organization like ours, where staff members work different shifts, in several different buildings, with differing levels of access to digital workplace communications, reaching everyone can be quite a challenge! To overcome this fragmentation, our Green Team communicates through a range of digital and print media, including:
- Reminders and tips in our quarterly employee newsletter
- Special paycheck inserts for special, time-sensitive events
- Notices on our employee intranet board
- Eye-catching posters and flyers on company bulletin boards
- In-person announcements from each Green Team member to their respective department
- Email notifications
- On-site educational and community building events (like our Earth Day Wellness Fair)
More Guidance for Green Teams
Want more green team insights from forward-thinking companies? Author Nikki Pava's recently published book, Green Wisdom: A Guide for Anyone to Start, Engage and Energize a Sustainability Team, offers a wide array of inspiring stories and practical strategies from innovative businesses that span sizes, sectors, and nations. Nikki's work takes you behind the green scenes of companies ranging from Badger Balm to Alaska Airlines, from Dr. Bronner's to Salesforce. The book features a foreword from Christiana Figueres, who helped draft the Paris Climate Agreement and has passionately advocated for world climate change activism.
While communicating with our Director of Sustainability during the writing process, Nikki shared her thoughts about the work happening here at Mountain Rose Herbs:
“Thanks again for your stories and lessons that you shared with me. Your Free Herbalism Project is one of my favorite initiatives to share with other business leaders as a way to connect with the local community. My hope is that other sustainability professionals will use the examples from Green Wisdom and integrate them into their own businesses!”
We share Nikki's hope, and we encourage you to take advantage of this excellent resource to help advance green goals in your own workplace!
Want to learn more about our sustainability programs?
You may also enjoy:
- Why We Pay Our Employees to Get Out and Volunteer
- We Are a Bike-Friendly Workplace
- How We Do Zero Waste