A Conversation with Karin Barry and Anita Robbins
The Green Team and Eco-Ambassadors at Tufts Support Services (TSS)—located in the blue and white structure and sandwiched between the Hangar and Pearson Hall—have been working hard to implement more sustainability initiatives within their new building. Karin Barry and Anita Robbins, along with their team members Lauren MacDonald, Maureen Hallett, and Andrea Carlino, have been able to implement composting in the office, which was originally received with skepticism but is now in such high demand that they need to empty their compost bin two to three times a week; light sensors and prompts to remind employees to turn off lights when not in use; water filters to encourage use of reusable water bottles and glasses; and the end of disposable utensils and dishes in the office—employees bring in their own flatware to use and clean at the office or utilize communal options. They are currently looking into vendors to help the office go paperless, which would make a huge impact on the waste in the office. They are also making strides to incorporate the ease of a Keurig without the waste of the disposable cups by testing out different reusable cups options.
Both Karin and Anita have been involved in sustainability for years now. They were in the first few classes of the Eco-Ambassador program and started due to an interest in the environment. In fact, Anita first enrolled because of her time as a temp at a recycling center, and because she “used to be a hippie.” Together with their team, they have figured out a system for successfully running sustainability programs in their office. They take turns emptying compost and meet regularly to address any issues brought to their attention from coworkers and to work on their Green Office Certification checklist.And the key to the TSS Green Team’s success is that the different departments in the building share the same upper management. With encouragement from President Monaco, upper management has fully endorsed sustainability initiatives, which as been instrumental in bringing about more success with colleagues in adopting changes.
This is not to say that their work has been easy; reactions to the group’s efforts started off rocky, but the TSS director stepped in and spoke up. The Green Team feels motivated when they encounter pushback, seeing office behavior change as a challenge or even a game. And they say that witnessing the change in people around them is the most rewarding part of their work. Now, they notice colleagues asking more questions and have watched people pick up new sustainable attitudes as second nature. They have hope that their colleagues will eventually work to bring these behaviors and habits home with them.
To have a successful office sustainability program, Karin and Anita recommend getting upper management on board when starting on this path. Upper management can work to reinforce the programs and initiatives which gets the ball rolling and bring integrity and respect to the projects. They also advise starting small and building up from there. But, above all else, Karin and Anita emphasize the importance of collaborating with others in the office and working as a team and support system to affect behavioral changes.
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