Talking About Green Change At the Office – Portland Tribune Highlights Sustainability In the Workplace

CaptureThis past week the Portland Tribune highlighted how Ecova and Portland General Electric are the latest companies to host Sustainability in the Workplace projects, including NW Earth Institute’s discussion courses and annual EcoChallenge which begins October 15th. (It isn’t too late to register and sign up a team at your workplace, too!) For the full article, click here. 

How do we learn to be green? We’re all familiar with the grade schooler who comes home vegan and begs their parents to stop buying meat products. But adults also can learn to change their behavior on their own. Portland’s Northwest Earth Institute hopes to foster such change via workplace classes offered through Oregon and Washington businesses. In classes such as Choices for Sustainable Living, Voluntary Simplicity, and Sustainable Systems at Work, employees meet with coworkers on their lunch hour six times to go over course work — usually essays and articles — hold discussions and perform an action item.

“You can’t get to sustainable change purely through messaging; it’s not compelling enough,” says Mike Mercer, Northwest Earth Institute’s executive director. “But part of our change process is the process of shared discovery and personal reflection.”

Ecova employees who recently participated in an NWEI course at work
Ecova employees who recently participated in an NWEI course at work

Ecova and Portland General Electric are two local companies that offered the courses this summer. Ecova, which finds ways for its clients to save energy, is obsessed with tracking data — clients’ and its own. On a recent lunchtime, seven Ecova staff met in the atrium at 100 S.W. Market St. in downtown Portland to discuss Sustainable Systems at Work. This is the third activity the Ecova Impact Team has put on; they also participate in the Bicycle Transportation Alliance’s bike commute challenge and Northwest Earth Institute’s EcoChallenge. First the participants reported on their action items, such as turning off power strips every day, bringing lunch from home more often, and adjusting workplace thermostats…“It’s easier to take these actions at home than at work, because we have control,” said Francine Chinitz. “But when you do do things at work, they have a bigger impact.”

At PGE one recent lunchtime, the discussion topic was sustainability and spirituality. The group had enrolled nine people, although today just four women plus Steve Cox from Corporate Social Responsibility attended. Barbara Norman showed a photo of Mt. Jefferson at night with many stars visible. She believes the best way to promote sustainability is to show people visuals: a sky without light pollution, or a poisoned waterway…Cox said some of his happiest times as a child were playing in a creek near his suburban home and catching crawdads. “That’s part of who I am.”…

The courses benefit individuals, the company, and the planet, Mercer says, via encouragement that is subtle but firm. “People see a shift in thinking, like ‘I can change my ways without being told to do it.’” Sustainability may be spreading faster though social means than any other.

*For the full article, click here. Ready to begin your own workplace sustainability projects? You can register for this month’s EcoChallenge here!

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