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Adieu 2011, Bienvenue 2012

December 28, 2011
This is my last blog for 2011, and I’m in a “going forward” frame of mind.   Going green didn’t get easier in 2011, as the world economy is still sluggish and priorities in the United States are to cut unemployment, spur the growth of business, and create jobs.   On a day-to-day basis, two challenges for green teams are to maintain the resources allocated to program efforts, be they dedicated positions or volunteers, in the face of reduced budgets and to persuade decision-makers to invest in sustainably manufactured office products and energy-efficient equipment.  I think it’s important to acknowledge the challenges, but not to view them as obstacles that can’t be overcome.  When we do so, it invites us to be creative in setting and achieving our goals and objectives for 2012. 
I propose that green teams tackle what’s doable and chart a course for success that leverages the resources that are available, collaborates with efforts in the local communities, and adopts objectives that are realistic.  We can’t save the planet overnight, but we can be agents of change.  If green teams can choose only three things on which to focus their energies, these are my suggestions:
1.    Individual awareness.   Ensure that staff are aware of what they can do as individuals at home and at work to use fewer resources, to recycle, to buy recycled content products, and to re-use or re-purpose when they can.   Host lunch and learn “green bags” and invite speakers or show films.   If your office doesn’t recycle bottles and cans, start a volunteer drive and use the proceeds to fund holiday and birthday parties.  We have had speakers on oceans, water use, office plants, and weight loss (now there’s a greenhouse gas emission reduction strategy that has personal benefits).  
2.    Saving money.   Demonstrate the cost-savings of proposed policies and processes and you’ll have a winning recommendation.  Look for the low-hanging fruit.  Is your office printing on one side of the paper only?  It’s a no-brainer to print double-sided.  It saves paper and money.  Is your office’s ratio of printers to staff in less than 4 to 1 (a generous ratio all the same)?  Recommend that the number of printers be reduced over time to a number that meets the office’s needs but doesn’t have a surplus of underutilized printers.  Individual printers should be high on the list of suspects for underutilization.  Stage a spring house cleaning week in the office and set up “re-use” centers where staff can deposit their excess supplies and equipment.  Ours have become the “go to” place for finding that vintage desk item or a supply of pens and paper that might take the office buyers a week or longer to order and have delivered, assuming it isn’t past the annual deadline for submitting purchase orders. 
3.    Be part of the world outside your office.  Find out what organizations are doing in the cities and towns where you work and collaborate with them.  This could be as simple as noting upcoming events in your office newsletters to participating in Earth Day 2012.  Take advantage of the many resources on the Internet to get ideas and make connections.   We don’t have to re-invent the wheel; there are dozens of ways to be more environmentally friendly.  You’ll find them in the archived (yet timeless!) blogs on GreenWorksGov and the links I’ve included. 

Best wishes for a Happy New Year and a very, very green 2012.