Why does this popular adage seem to be the linchpin of all sustainability efforts? Let’s begin by defining “sustainability”, a buzzword we all love to use but might not always know how to articulate. According to the World Commission on Environment and Development:
Sustainable development should “meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Nowhere in this definition is “buy less” or “use less” explicitly stated, yet there seems to be a general understanding that we just might need to cut back on something if we are to sustain healthy and equitable societies.
The desire to consider how our lifestyles impact other humans, animals, and resources should spark excitement and collaboration amongst those of us eager to preserve the people’s and planet’s prosperity. Unfortunately, it’s easy to see the distressing statistics indicating an inevitable climate apocalypse and resort to crossing our fingers and hoping for the best.
It’s true. A zero carbon footprint is virtually unattainable and arguably, not too desirable. (We’re all for a plastic-free lifestyle, but aren’t quite sure we’re ready to go shower-free juuust yet.)
When Mac Montana, Special Projects Coordinator at the Provost’s Office, set out to complete the checklist for Tufts’ Green Office Certification Program, he didn’t realize the wide range of sustainability initiatives he would be working to bring to the Provost’s Office.
To get started, Mac identified a number of objectives on the checklist for the office to work toward. Thanks to this effort, the Provost’s Office has now made a commitment to buy 100% recycled paper and run meetings and events with little to no disposables (thanks in part to a permanent set of glassware and staff-donated food storage containers). The office even provides pre-filled MBTA cards that can be signed out for travel between campuses; this incentive to use public transportation comes at a low cost to the office and no cost to employees. Mac also put together a Living Green Agreement for employees to select their own sustainability goals to keep up with, while helping to track the office’s changes in sustainable attitudes and behaviors. These efforts culminated in the Office of the Provost’s Silver Green Office Certification.
Mac Montana (center) and others from the Office of the Provost receives Green Office Certification from President Monaco.
Mac is a part of the Ballou Hall Green Team, which has introduced compost bins on every floor of the building. The team also hosted an event in October called “Trick or Trade.” Employees were encouraged to trade in their personal electronic waste (e-waste), to be recycled by Facilities, for fall goodies. This event was such a success that the employees who weren’t able to bring all of their e-waste did their own e-waste disposal projects at home.
Encouraging sustainable behavior is no easy feat. Along the road, Mac has encountered some challenges. In fact, he was not always part of the effort towards environmental sustainability. There was a time, when he worked in the Office for the Dean of Arts and Sciences, that he thought making the changes suggested by the office’s Eco-Ambassador took too much effort and didn’t matter much. But, he is a self-described convert to the cause. He got involved and realized the work he was doing is both important and rewarding.
Office of the Provost makes the pledge to get the Gold level Green Office Certification by the end of this year!
Whenever Mac encounters barriers in his sustainability efforts, he responds to negative reactions with humor and positivity. He feels that these small behavioral changes are a small price to pay for the benefit we all get from them. For instance, even though compost can be stinky, a huge volume of waste gets diverted from the landfill because people choose to compost their food scraps every day. And Mac finds a reward in seeing people’s definition of normal change over time. As he describes enthusiastically, “It’s cool to watch people save one-sided paper to print on the other side, and even ask for someone else’s when they have run out.” That is a significant shift in behavior from when he first started.
To anyone looking for advice in making sustainability a priority in your office, Mac has a few pieces of advice. He recognizes that “change is hard, but it is easy to keep going once [colleagues] start adjusting. Inertia is a beautiful thing.” He also says to look for low hanging fruit. There are a lot of possibilities for change, but based on the office’s behaviors, some may be easier to start with than others. So, work to change culture bit by bit, and people will be more open to making more changes. Who knows? They may even begin to bring these behaviors home with them. After all, as Mac wisely notes, “Sustainability rocks!”
Want more resources for making sustainable changes in office spaces or encouraging colleagues to live green? Check out our Green Office Resources for a list of simple changes you can make in the office to reduce your environmental impact.
The Tufts Office of Sustainability is seeking a full-time summer intern to assist with day-to-day office activities. The intern will assist with office communications, including creating documents and outreach materials, writing articles, assisting with social media programming, and performing website and blog maintenance.
We are the Harvard College Conservation Society, and we would like to invite you to attend our Job Networking Fair on Saturday March 5th, 2016. The purpose of this fair will be to connect Harvard University and other Boston-based students interested in careers in conservation with each other, and with scientists and conservationists from NGO’s such as the Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, the Oceanic Society, and Women for Wildlife.
The fair will have three major components:
Talks and panel discussion centered around presentations by women from the ‘Women for Wildlife’ network, accomplished biologists and conservationists, and representatives from major international NGO’s.
Discussions in small classroom-type settings, for students Boston-wide interested in pursuing jobs or summer internships in the conservation field.
A networking lunch with information distribution for groups interested in giving out contact information and or work application opportunities.
Let us know if members of your group are interested in the event so we can be sure to expect the right number of people, and also whether you would be interested in reserving a table for your group at the reception.
A Christmas story we should tell more often, but don’t:
The Story of Stuff
It may not feature a spectacled 9-year old on a mission to get the Red Ryder BB gun, but this short film will also teach you something, make you laugh, and change the way you look at all the stuff in your life, forever.
Gather your loved ones and watch this fast-paced and fact-filled look at the underside of our consumption patterns. (storyofstuff.org)
3 tips for making this holiday season more meaningful to you and gentler on the planet:
Viewing stunning culinary creations and articles on the latest food trends doesn’t have to involve tree-cutting! (Check out these e-zine recommendations curated by Say Daily, Vanity Fair, and Huffington Post)
The Happy Camper
With the help of this guide and some essential oils, you can create a toxin-free formula to protect against a variety of pesky bugs.
There are many great companies offering durable, leather-free equipment made from recycles materials!
Get their creative juices flowing while making one-of-a-kind dishware that can be reused over and over again!
Cooking class in their favorite cuisine
Using whole ingredients rather than pre-packaged meals prevents waste from entering landfills.
The Beauty Guru
‘Green spa’ treatment
Relax knowing that your patronage is supporting efforts to conserve resources and minimize chemicalpollution