On June 1st, we will reveal our 8th annual 100 Best Green Workplace rankings at an awards luncheon in the Nines Hotel. In anticipation of that event, we conducted brief interviews with a few of the organizations on the list regarding their green workplace practices. Here is the third in a series: a Q & A with Valeria Smith, office administrator with SolTerra:
OB: What is the latest green workplace innovation/initiative you have implemented?
ST: In March the green team decided that they wanted a composting unit that would take food and super heat, dehydrate and grind it down into a soil amendment. We have been keeping this compost in our rooftop garden beds for soil enrichment. We also went over to cloth napkins and towels instead of paper products. This allowed us to qualify for Portland’s Sustainability at Work certification Silver.
OB: What is the biggest obstacle you encountered implementing sustainable workplace programs?
ST: The hardest obstacle for us to overcome was which project to choose. There were so many ideas floating around that it felt overwhelming to try and start down any one path. In March we put an office-wide ban on to-go containers in the refrigerator. That seemed to spark a flood of change as people realized how much waste throw- away containers created on a daily basis. Our LEED specialist had begun to weigh and record the trash versus recycling ratio in the office, and this pushed us to try harder to create a higher recycling to trash ratio. Having a measurable consequence was the easiest and most effective direction to create action.
OB: What benefits did the company realize as a result of green initiatives?
ST: The green team is entirely run by people giving up their lunchtime to talk about policies and changes. After everyone came together to reduce waste, implement a composting system, and use only cloth napkins and towels, the office feels like a collaborative space. This isn’t just a place people go to stare at a computer and check their 40 hours off. This is a community driven space that everyone benefits from, and that benefits from everyone’s effort. And that creates a strong bond and keeps the company a family.
OB: What is the next big thing regarding sustainable workplace practices?
ST: Our next big move in regards to sustainability is quite literally a big move. We are going to be moving into our office building that we have designed and constructed over the last year. It is a LEED platinum building with amenities and our mark all over it. We have also begun to work on company-wide alternative transportation incentive policies for the future of SolTerra. Getting everyone to commute with public transit is a major goal for our company. We look forward to a light footprint from the ground up.