Small Changes, Big Goals: Smith's Sustainable Office Program

Members of the Office of Student Engagement display their sustainability certificate. Shown here are (from left) Matt Gawron, Christina Duquette, Tamra Bates, Sara McGuire and Nadia Muuse.

Smith is getting greener—and you can help.

The Sustainable Office Certification Program—piloted last year through the Office of Campus Sustainability—offers tips on how to make small changes in everyday work practices in order to make a big difference in creating a more environmentally friendly campus.

“I think people have wanted to be more sustainable for a long time now, but they didn’t necessarily know what to do,” says Emma Kerr, campus sustainability coordinator. This program “gives them a framework that is pretty easy to follow, and they feel like they are contributing to a bigger mission.”

Staff members who’ve participated in the pilot program say that sense of mission is important.

“People have to change to effect change,” says Polly Ryan, special projects coordinator for the Smith College Botanic Garden—one of the first campus departments to enroll in the program last fall. “That potential to effect change is what drives my commitment to this initiative.”

President Kathleen McCartney’s office was the first to sign up for the program this semester. Enrollment in the program is done on a rolling basis so that offices can sign up at any time during the year.

The certification process begins with a meeting with OCS staff, who field questions about the program, Kerr says.

Certification is based on a checklist of activities and behaviors that progress from Achievement Level One to Level Three.

Level One covers conservation practices many offices are already using—or that are easy to start, Kerr says. Examples include unplugging personal cell phone chargers when they are not in use or providing sugar and creamer in bulk rather than in individual packets to help minimize waste.

Practices become more challenging at the upper levels, including unplugging appliances and turning off powerstrips over the weekend and taking notes electronically rather than on paper.

Alexandra Davis ’18—one of two students who helped implement and design the Sustainable Office Certification Program—says the program fills a need by giving office staff a chance to help Smith reach its sustainability goals.

“We are always thinking about ways to engage with the Smith community—and usually that means students,” says Davis, who has been an intern with OCS since her first year at Smith. “In working toward our goal of carbon neutrality by 2030, we have to consider the members of the Smith community that remain after we graduate.”

Tinli Yarrington ’18, another student working with OCS, notes that the program offers essential support to participating offices. “We are directly involved with the offices and are willing to help them through their certification. That keeps the offices progressing through the levels,” she says.

Johanna Walter, a facilities services representative in Facilities Management, says the program also provides staff the chance to set a good example for students. “This practice tells our students we walk the talk—not to mention, it helps save our community and the planet,” Walter says.

The Office of Campus Sustainability hosts a monthly luncheon for program participants to gather, ask questions and brainstorm ways to get their office more engaged in energy conservation. The next lunch is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 7, at noon in CEEDS’ offices in Wright Hall. An end-of-year celebration for all program participants will be held in the spring.

Employees interested in joining the Sustainable Office Certification Program can email Emma Kerr.