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Sustainability at Work

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Phone: 503-823-7037

Email: sustainabilityatwork@portlandoregon.gov

Ideas and inspiration from this year’s Innovation in Sustainability Awards

Learn what 14 Portland businesses did to earn recognition, and what actions you can take inspired by their work.

Innovation in Sustainability Awards
This year the Portland Business Journal recognized 14 Portland organizations for their innovations in sustainability. The year’s award winners may seem leaps and bounds ahead of the norm, but in most cases, their trajectory started with many small steps.

Here are highlights of this year’s winners, along with some on-the-ground actions you can take, inspired by their work.

Transportation
Energy
Social Enterprise
Green Building 

Transportation

Oregon Health & Science University

What they did:

Get 20,000 people up and down a hill every day, through creative thinking outside the car.

  • The aerial tram — takes five to six thousand people to and from the hill every day.
  • Bike valet parking — easy, safe, and, thanks to OHSU, free to staff and the public. No wonder almost 400 bike commuters a day use it!
  • Staff bike incentives — $20 for every 20 bike commute trips.
  • Free streetcar and tram use for OHSU students, faculty and staff.

      What you can do:

  • Help your workplace look into setting up pre-tax transit passes for staff.
  • Encourage your workplace to provide a small cash incentive to bike, walk, or transit commuters.
  • Contact us — we can explain options, and how to make them happen.

Bicycle Transportation Alliance

What they did:

  • This year’s Bike Commute Challenge got 2,000 new riders to commute by bike.
  • Last year Safe Routes to School taught its 50,000th child.

      What you can do:

  • Start prepping now for the Bike Commute Challenge – here are seven ideas to get you started.
  • Reach out to teachers and schools to make sure they’re registered for the Safe Routes to School program.
  • Get involved in school Walk+Bike events in May and October.

Stacey and Witbeck Inc.

What they did:

  • Built Portland’s streetcar, and became one of the country’s top builders of light rail, commuter rail and street car systems.
  • Focused on re-use and recycling opportunities throughout their projects — like recycling asphalt and re-using street trees.
  • Tracked office sustainability by measuring water, energy, and recycling levels, and quantified all measurable emissions from their operations for a complete sustainability inventory

      What you can do:

  • Choose one thing — energy, water, waste — to measure.
    • Even if you lease your space, you can track the amount of paper your workplace purchases, or borrow our DIY Waste Sort Kit to measure recycling, trash and compost.
    • Once you’ve got an initial measurement, you’ll be able to set goals and show improvements.

Energy

Oregon Convention Center

image of wind turbinesWhat they did:

  • Reduced electricity use by 28% and natural gas by 18%, since 2009.
  • Upgraded to LED lighting, retrofitted HVAC and installed low-flow water fixtures.
  • Earned LEED Platinum certification last year.
  • Saved an additional 1,000,000 kWh of energy (close to 10% of their annual usage!) in four months through an employee engagement campaign.

      What you can do:

  • Be on the look-out for “low hanging fruit,” like making sure lights are off when no one’s around.
    • The OCC’s sustainability coordinator, Erin Rowland, said a surprising amount of savings come from these simple actions.
  • Challenge staff to change the way they think about their energy habits with an employee engagement campaign

Energy Storage Systems

What they did:

  • Developed a cost-effective, energy-efficient, environmentally-friendly battery system for industrial and commercial use.

      What you can do:

  • Does your workplace use batteries? Set up a rechargeable battery station — with a charger, containers for charged and depleted batteries – and let people know about the switch to rechargeables.

Waste

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)

What they did:

  • Developed a sustainability how-to guide for creating museum exhibitions — ExhibitSEED — and shared it through workshops with over 200 museum leaders.
  • Thirty-five museum exhibits have already been planned following ExhibitSEED’s Green Exhibit Checklist.
  • OMSI also created a new long-term exhibit — Clever Together/Juntos somos ingeniosos — a bilingual exhibit helping visitors understand how sustainability can be integrated into their day-to-day choices.

      What you can do:

  • Visit OMSI’s Clever Together/Juntos somos ingeniosos exhibit — or plan a lunch time work field trip – to learn sustainability actions you can take at home or work.
  • Create a workplace sustainable purchasing policy, asking the same questions OMSI uses:
    • How durable is this product?
    • What’s the upstream environmental impact?
    • How safe is it for people to use?
    • Can we dispose of it responsibly when we’re done with it?
    • Is there a way to support local, women and minority owned vendors?

Oregon Department of Corrections

What they did:

  • Prisons have robust recycling programs — if anything used in the prisons can be recycled, it will be.
  • All 14 prisons have gardens, generating more than 210,000 pounds of produce for the prisons and the Oregon Food Bank.
  • Prisoners also cultivate endangered plants through a partnership with the Oregon Zoo and conservation groups.

      What you can do:

  • Help your workplace recycle everything it can:
    • Call us for a Recycling Refresher presentation.
    • Set up a “Bin of Confusion” for a week — tell people to put items in that they don’t know what to do with. Then contact us, or call Metro’s recycling hotline staff (503-234-3000) — they’ll tell you if, where, and how that item can be re-used or recycled.

Green Endeavor Inc.

What they did:

  • Help industrial clients replace toxic cleaning chemicals and degreasers with safer and more sustainable alternatives.

      What you can do:

  • Look at the cleaners in your workplace, used by either staff or janitors. Are there less toxic, more sustainable alternatives?
  • Consider setting up a green cleaning policy.
  • Talk with your property manager or cleaning service about switching to less toxic alternatives.

Social Enterprise

Happy Cup Coffee Co.

Happy Cup is a local coffee roaster that provides meaningful employment to adults with development disabilities. It now has three retail locations — including a coffee shop in City Hall!

      What you can do:

  • Go get a cup (or a bag) of coffee!
  • Look into products you or your workplace commonly purchase — how, where, and by whom are they made?
  • Create a sustainable purchasing policy for workplace. Contact us for help!

Oregon Environmental Council

OEC develops and promotes solutions to Oregon’s environmental challenges through their work with individuals around sustainable living, businesses around sustainable practices, and elected officials around policy. Their current focus areas are clean water, toxic-free environments, and climate protection.

      What you can do:

  • Sign up for their newsletter to stay informed (sign up is at the bottom of this page)
  • Volunteer to help with their initiatives.

Hatch Innovation

Hatch is a community innovation lab, providing education, office space and access to capital for social entrepreneurs. Springboard Innovation, the nonprofit that created Hatch, will soon become Hatch Innovation, with subsidiaries Hatch Lab, Hatch Purpose, and Hatch Capital.

      What you can do:

  • Check out their calendar of events
  • Or sign up for their newsletter to stay informed as they develop new offerings.

Green Building

Reuse is where it’s at! This year’s green building award winners all focused on repurposing and renovating rather than building from the ground up.

Venerable Properties has a long history of restoring old buildings, and has always focused on salvaging existing building components, rather than sending them to the landfill in favor of new replacements.

SERA Architects’ major renovation of downtown’s Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt building is a great example of the company’s integration of sustainability with the design process. 

Redside CRE is a real estate investment firm that focuses on revamping older buildings for efficiency and sustainability, rather than new development.

      What you can do:

  • Look for creative ways to reuse or recycle in your workplace.
    • Identify your workplace’s hard-to-recycle items
    • Call Metro’s recycling hotline staff (503-234-3000) — they’ll tell you if, where, and how that item can be reused or recycled.

Engaging Employees to Reduce Paper

Words of wisdom from REACH Community Development

Nicole Baber

Since introducing sustainability into their strategic plan in 2009, REACH’s green team has been engaging employees and building a workplace culture of sustainability. We sat down with REACH’s green team leader and sustainability professional Nicole Baber to learn more about their campaign and share tips with other businesses.

 

 

 


Nicole Baber, REACH Development.
 

In 2009, we formed a Green Team and set a goal for our first campaign: to reduce paper consumption company wide.

5 year goal:

  • Reduce paper use by 50 percent.

First campaign:

  • We started small, with a goal to reduce paper use by 10 percent in 6 months.
  • By the end of 6 months, we had achieved a 23 percent reduction!

Today

  • We’re almost at the 5 year mark, and we’ve reduced our paper use by 59 percent!

What helped us succeed

Leadership Support

Our previous executive director prioritized sustainability and included the goal of reducing paper use by 50 percent in 5 years in REACH’s strategic plan. We were fortunate to have this leadership, but don’t feel discouraged if your efforts are initiated from the ground up. A push from above was a great kick-start for us, but it was the green team and on-the ground staff that made it possible to reach, and exceed, our ambitious goal.

Goals and prizes

To engage employees, we created monthly reduction goals and displayed them publically using a “reverse thermometer.” As a team, we competed against ourselves to motivate employees to do more. Our Green Team then used the money saved from reducing paper to throw the office a pizza party.

Measure & track

To measure our progress, we tracked the reams of paper we purchased. It was an easy tracking system to set up since we already record our purchases. It was also nice to have the visual of the ream of paper, so staff could connect with the amount of paper being used. To account for fluctuations in paper use throughout the year, we calculated how much paper we purchased the previous year and averaged it per month. 

Paper Usage Reduction sign
Our reverse "thermometer" showed monthly paper reduction goals and publically tracked progress toward meeting them.

Give Feedback

Our Green Team created the “Green Scene,” a monthly sustainability newsletter. Through the Green Scene we told staff about the reduction goals, showed them how they could reduce paper, and kept them informed about how we were progressing towards our goal. We also sent out biweekly emails with updates, pictures and tips.

Don’t be afraid to use technology

Our Green Team worked with IT to set all printers to print double sided automatically. Changing the default made double-sided printed the easiest option, thereby reducing the amount of single sided print jobs.

We also started using new software that allowed us to scan documents and email them to clients. Previously, multiple copies of multi-page documents had to be printed. Not only did this reduce paper, it made keeping up-to-date documents much easier for staff. And it freed up an entire wall in our office that was used to store paper documents.

Education

At the start of the campaign, our green team needed to educate staff on how to reduce paper and why. We communicated information in multiple ways – weekly emails, the Green Scene newsletter, staff meetings, and the thermometer poster showing progress.

We recognized that everyone learns differently and we wanted to connect with all different types of learners. The repetition also kept the campaign goals on people’s minds.

Maintaining momentum

Today, paper reduction is the norm at REACH. We’ve done many campaigns since 2009 - on transportation, recycling, composting - but we continue to keep paper reduction on people’s minds.

We still track paper use quarterly and continually engage employees on reducing paper and waste. Since we’ve grown in size, we now include staff numbers in our calculations. But even with staff growth, we continue to see paper use go down!

LED lighting: why upgrade?

Get a better looking workplace & reduced energy bills: upgrade to LED lighting

Lighting makes a big difference in how we feel in a shop, restaurant or workplace. Think about it – would you rather walk into a bright, sunlit cafe or a dimly lit conference room with a flickering, buzzing light overhead?

By upgrading your lighting, you can improve employee and customer experience, thereby boosting productivity and sales.

LED lighting has rapidly developed as an excellent lighting option. It produces great quality light with a fraction of the energy use of standard lighting. 

LEDs

Save money

Lighting systems account for about 1/3 of your workplace energy use. If your current lighting gives off heat, you also may be paying to cool the space.

New LED replacement bulbs on the market can cut your costs by up to 75 percent. LEDs also last a long time, saving you the hassle and cost of replacing burnt-out bulbs.

Plus, in many cases, Energy Trust of Oregon incentives can cover up to half of the eligible project costs. 

What types of lights can LEDs replace?

Track and flood lighting are easy to upgrade to LEDs.

track lighting

Track and flood lighting are common in restaurants, shops, and office conference rooms or hallways.

Overhead tube lighting does have LED options, but the whole light fixture – not just the bulbs – must be replaced. Do not mix regular tubes with LED replacements – this could be hazardous.

Read more about how to properly, and safely, install LED tube lighting.

New limited time instant incentives!

For a limited time during 2014, Energy Trust of Oregon can help you save energy and money with LEDs - a discount of nearly half the original cost!

When you purchase from a distributor participating in the Lighten Up with LEDs promotion, you can apply at order time to have your distributor instantly reduce the purchase price of qualifying LED lamps by the Energy Trust incentive amount.

Questions about where to start, or want free assistance? Contact us, or contact a no-cost Energy Trust lighting specialist of Trade Ally lighting contractor.

For more information, visit Energy Trust’s website on commercial lighting.

Or, click here for a list of participating distributors.

LED lighting: how-to information and free resources

Before upgrading lighting, bring in the (free) experts

When considering any lighting upgrade, we recommend bringing in a no-cost ETO lighting specialist or Trade Ally lighting contractor to consult with early in the process.

light bulb evolution

The evolution of the light bulb. Photograph by Levi Brown.

You’ll get the most out of your upgrade and save yourself the headache. They’ll know what questions to ask, and where to get the information. Things like: 

  • How well new LED technology would work in the existing fixtures.
  • How to reduce the number of fixtures yet still get superior light.
  • Which lights to prioritize replacing first if you’re on a budget.
  • Steps to take to get Energy Trust incentives.

A call to the Energy Trust or a Trade Ally lighting contractor will help you quickly sort out the best lighting for your space. They can study the product literature and take into account the many complexities of lighting systems – from wiring compatibility to lumen output; from the color rendering index to warranties – so that you won’t have to!

Energy Trust

An outside expert can also help with replacing fluorescent lights with LEDs. We especially recommend working with an expert if you want to upgrade overhead tube lighting, as incorrect installation of LED tube lighting can be hazardous. Read more about how to properly, and safely, install LED tube lighting.

Questions about where to start, or want free assistance? Contact us, or contact a no-cost Energy Trust lighting specialist of Trade Ally lighting contractor.

 

LED lighting: upgrading tube lighting

Use caution when buying 4’ LED replacement tubes

LED light tube products are being sold as easy replacements for your existing fluorescents without having to replace the fixture. However, without the right expertise, you could end up with one or more of the following issues:

  • Increased glare
  • Poor light distribution
  • Light patterns that are distracting to customers and employees (think lighting that casts out in the shape of bat wings instead of a glow)
  • Poor light color
  • Worse efficiency or light output

It’s also very important not to mix fluorescent and LED tubes in the same fixture. In some cases, the bulbs will not only fail, but could be a hazard.

LED light tube

The bottom line is that most fixtures with fluorescent tubes are not designed for LEDs. LED 4’ tubes work best in fixtures designed for LEDs. Work with an outside expert from the Energy Trust or a Trade Ally lighting contractor when switching from fluorescent to LED lights.

For more information on LED lights visit Energy Trust’s website, or visit the Oregon Department of Energy for more energy information for businesses.  For technical details, see these two reports written by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for the US Department of Energy.