December 15, 2018

Office Sustainability Tip of the Week

This week’s “Office Sustainability Tip of the Week” focuses on how you can “go green” with meetings.  Over the past few years at UMW I’ve seen a lot of departments make great strides in going green when it comes to their meetings, but there’s always room for improvement.  Here are some suggestions you may want to consider in terms of sustainability when organizing (or attending) a meeting:

Agendas/Meeting Documents:  When it comes to distributing agendas, think of ways other than printing out copies to hand out to each attendee the day of the meeting.  Do you use SharePoint?  Does your office have a Shared Drive?  Have you considered using Canvas for your meetings to upload Agendas and other documents?  Any of these methods lend themselves to saving paper.  Sending an email out to attendees with the Agenda before a meeting would leave it up to the attendee to determine if they want to print out a copy.  I bet in many circumstances, if attendees saw the agendas of meetings beforehand, they would decide they need not print them out.  In your email, let everyone know they do not have to print them out because they’ll be available at the meeting.  Then on the day of the meeting, you can decide to use a classroom or office whiteboard to jot down the Agenda or use an overhead projector as opposed to handing out printed copies.  There are lots of different ways to reduce the use of paper when it comes to agendas.  As for documents that need to be distributed during meetings, it again comes down to discretion.  What is necessary to print out, and what could serve the same purpose in electronic form?  And if printing documents is necessary, print on both sides of the paper.  Another big tip – avoid printing out Power Point slides!

Teleconference: Is it possible that one or more of the attendees could telecommute to the meeting by calling in?  We have three campuses.  If you’re holding a meeting at the Fredericksburg campus with ten people, and one of the attendees works at the Dahlgren or Stafford campus, would it be possible for that individual to call in to the meeting?  Less cars being driven to and from places means less emissions.  Additionally, that individual would save money on gasoline as well as wear & tear on their vehicle.  Calling in to a meeting as opposed to physically attending may not always be an option, but for that next meeting you hold, take a moment to consider the idea.  Also – don’t forget about carpooling!  If you are attending a meeting at another campus or Eagle Village where one or more other individuals will also be attending, reach out to them to discuss carpooling to the meeting.

Catering: If you’re having your meeting catered, avoid ordering bottled water and provide pitchers of cold tap water with ice instead.  Think about encouraging attendees to bring their own travel mugs for coffee.  Avoid coffee stirrers.  Do you still use them?  If you think about it, you really don’t need to.  Put your milk and sugar/sugar substitute in your cup first, then add the coffee—no stirrer or spoon required!  Little trick I learned from working at a restaurant when I was a teenager (thank you Friendly’s in Levittown, NY).  Furthermore, consider serving finger size food that requires no silverware.  (Note to anyone inviting me to a future meeting: I like mini powdered donuts).  Our catering service has “green” options too.  They are slightly more expensive, but they provide sustainable plates, utensils, etc.

Recycling:  Does the space you’re holding your meeting in have a recycling bin?  When exiting a meeting, attendees are often looking for somewhere to dispose of their water or soda bottles, or maybe a newspaper that they have been carrying around with them all day and now need to toss it.  Having a recycling bin in the space where you  hold your  meeting may just prevent someone from throwing a recyclable item into a garbage can.

Energy Conservation: Don’t forget to turn off the lights and any projectors or computers in your meeting room when not in use!

Hopefully you’re already doing some of the above when organizing meetings.  If not, consider if you can put any of these tips into practice.  If you have any suggestions for things we can all do differently each day to create more sustainable office environments, please feel free to leave a comment or email me the idea to be featured in a future Tip of the Week.

Kevin Caffrey is the Senior Associate Registrar at UMW and serves as Staff Co-Chair of the President’s Council on Sustainability.  Formed in the fall of 2009, the PCS consists of faculty, staff, and students and reports both to the Executive Vice President for Administration and Finance and the Provost, serving a critical role in shaping administrative goals and objectives relating to campus sustainability.  Their next meeting is Friday October 5th at 12 Noon in HCC 307.  Meetings generally last one hour and are open to employees, students, and the public.  No agendas are ever printed out.