By Namish Modi
Through a continued focus on sustainable efforts, two departments within the University of Waterloo’s Co-operative and Experiential Education (CEE) portfolio have moved up the ladder in the Green Office Program.
Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) Programs has been certified as gold, while the Centre for Career Action (CCA) has moved into the bronze designation. The departments were celebrated at Waterloo’s Eco Summit in November 2020.
The Green Office program, which began in 2016, is a way for staff and faculty to be part of a change they want to see at Waterloo. It’s a way to learn new skills, build relationships across campus, make a positive impact on campus sustainability and achieve certifications.
WIL Programs moved up to second in the Green Office leaderboard, behind Waterloo’s only platinum certified department, the Centre for Teaching Excellence.
While employees continue work from home, WIL Programs has made a concerted effort to reach its sustainability goals. The department distributes a monthly newsletter, with each one focusing on a different sustainability theme.
Full-time and co-op staff members write short articles for the newsletter from the perspective of in the office, at home, in the region and around the world.
“The newsletter is a great way to engage staff by planting seeds about sustainability issues from the small actions you can take in everyday life to inspirational things happening around the world.”
“We also want to continue to foster engagement with the Sustainable Development Goals through the newsletter, since these goals are connected to the strategic plan of CEE,” says Page.
The next step for WIL Programs is the platinum certification, and they’ve focused on innovation to think about new, fresh ideas regarding sustainability.
One previous innovation was implementing a zero-waste desk system to get staff to notice how much of their waste could be composted or recycled, not just thrown into the garbage. The initiative became permanent.
“Since our co-op students make up a big part of department and are involved in our Green Team, we involve them in looking at the score card and planning at least one new initiative each term that they are excited about and will resonate with our staff,” says Amanda Brown, fellow staff member in WIL Programs. “Our co-op students help make big initiatives possible since they are so enthusiastic and willing to embrace and come up with new ideas, which definitely paves the way towards a Platinum certification.”
CCA moves to bronze certification
The development of a Green Office team, spearheaded by co-op students in CCA, has been integral in the department moving into the bronze certification.
Elizabeth Robertson, one of CCA’s Fall 2020 co-op students, and Jayne Hayden, career advisor and Green Office Ambassador, shared some of the way the department has engaged in making their work a little greener.
“CCA is full of sustainability champions,” says Robertson.
“The Bronze Designation is a welcome recognition and reward for the time and energy our Green Office Team and the entire department dedicates to sustainability. With our initiatives to improve energy and waste habits in the office on hold, the team has been inspired to share information through bi-weekly emails regarding how to support sustainability while working remotely.”
CCA even created plant “dating profiles” as a digital way of sharing the environmental benefits of house plants via our CCA newsletter. This is just one example of our goal to raise awareness and shift behaviours in a fun and lighthearted way.
“In order to build on the enthusiasm and drive that our co-op students bring to this work each term, and to add more consistency to our initiatives, the Green Office team has recently grown to include two full-time staff members who will leverage their own passion for sustainability to promote a greener work environment,” says Robertson. “As we learn more about the ways that our home offices affect the environment, the Green Office team will be thinking creatively about how to spread further awareness.”
“We’re thrilled to have been awarded the bronze designation and be certified as a Green Office, but there’s lots of room for more action,” says Hayden. “We’re now going for silver.”