Green office put to the test

09 February 2008

The largest environmental trial to take place in the University has revealed how well an eco-friendly office works in practice.

General and academic staff in 22 buildings across the City and Tamaki campuses took part in the six-month trial, run last year by the University’s Environmental Coordinator Dr Lesley Stone.

Participants were asked follow ten simple actions, which included reusing paper for notes, turning off computers, using water sparingly, and recycling cardboard, bottles and cans. This was supplemented with support and information from Dr Stone.

The results were promising, says Dr Stone, and will help inform how the rest of the University will be encouraged to adopt the same behaviours.

During the monitoring period, up to 10 percent more computers, 13 percent more screens and 37 percent more printers were turned off at night, and 30 percent less single-sided paper was disposed of.

“The important thing to note here,” says Dr Stone, “is that even a small reduction can make a big environmental impact. If we extended these sorts of electricity savings across the University, we could save almost a million kW hours of electricity per year, or about $122,000.”

Dr Stone said that the most important outcome of the trial was learning why some buildings did well, while others made little or no improvements.

“We discovered that having an enthusiastic individual who motivated others made a big difference. As well, being able to brief staff at the outset and recognising which actions were considered most important by staff resulted in more buy-in. Conversely, isolated departments or units, or those where not enough was done to engage with staff, made the smallest improvements.”

“This trial has helped us to understand the most valuable way to put these actions into practice. We know there is a willingness from staff to reduce their environmental impact, but it is equally important to understand how this will work in practice. In time, these actions need to become accepted as the norm in terms of behaviour in the workplace, to improve the University’s environmental performance overall.”

One of the star performers in the trial was the School of European Languages and Literatures on the city campus. School Coordinator Sabine Hillebrandt said the project was well received by both academic and general staff.

“For most staff members recycling is part of their home lives, and they were pleased they could now recycle at their workplace. We introduced the recycling of metal (aluminium cans, steel cans), glass (bottles and jars), plastics and increased the number of paper recycling bins. Even though the pilot project has come to an end, we are still recycling these materials and will continue doing so.”

Dr Stone is in the process of refining and extending the trials based on what we have learnt, and intends to get more staff members involved.

Contact Dr Stone if you are interested in taking part in the trials.

A poster detailing the ten simple actions can be downloaded from this site, and placed anywhere around your office.

Download a poster to encourage staff