How green can you go?
By Diana Urlaub, LEED AP
In February 2009, Burnham Nationwide began greening its Chicago headquarters by participating in the Department of Environtment’s very first round of the Chicago Green Office Challenge. We took this challenge on along with 160 other office tenants, 14 property management companies and 45 buildings in the Central Business District.
The Green Office Challenge (GOC) was started as a way to engage the business community in the implementation of the Chicago Climate Action Plan. To guarantee success, the City partnered with the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) to develop and deliver the program. The ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability is an international association of local governments as well as national and regional local government organizations who have made a commitment to sustainable development.
The provided tenant scorecard is broken down into 5 categories: Outreach, Energy, Waste, Transportation and Property Manager Engagement. There is a maximum of 100 points, which are broken down into 4 tiers. In the beginning Burnham started with a total 0f 31 points (Tier 3,) because some initiatives were already in place such as: providing reusable dishes in the break room, on-site bicycle parking for employees and a pre-tax transit benefit program.
For 12 months our Green Team looked for greener alternatives to implement and brought awareness to our coworkers on what they could do in the office and at home. We adjusted many settings on our computers and printers to save energy and encouraged everyone to turn off their monitors at the end of the day. Burnham participated in the World Wildlife Foundation’s (WWF) Earth Hour, Active Transportation Alliance’s Bike to Work Week, the Ronald McDonald House Pop Tab Collection Program and created the Burnham Nationwide Green Office Policy to ensure our initiatives continue beyond the GOC. During this time we discovered that our building, the Burnham Center, was about to expand their recycling program from just paper to include plastic, glass, and aluminum. One initiative we’re particularly proud of here is our Electronic Waste (E-Waste) Recycling Day, which we plan on making an annual event. For this event we collected batteries, cell phones, computers and hard drives from the office and home, diverting a total of 750 pounds of electronic waste from the landfill.
In January 2010 we submitted our final scorecard, finishing with 54 points, placing us in Tier 2. The Green Office Challenge was the perfect opportunity for us to look at ways to make our operation more sustainable. The suggested strategies are reasonable, affordable, and don’t require a lot of time. We highly recommend that you get your office involved in the next Green Office Challenge round.