How to Succeed in Making the Business Case for Sustainability

When it comes to sustainability, the business case is workable from all angles. Not only is it far more cost effective to invest in sustainable practices, but it keeps workers happy. On November 7th, the UW Green Greeks learned from two women, Annie Thomas and Katie Secrist, who work as consultants at Sustainable Business Consulting, located in Seattle. Essentially, what they do is help different companies integrate sustainability into their business model. They do so by assessing sustainability efforts across all departments and listening to what the business is struggling with and offering assistance where they can.

 

So, what does the next generation of business look like? Regarding Generation Y and millennials, 88% of grad students and young professionals factor an employer’s CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) score into where they want to work. 88% would consider leaving their job if their company’s CSR performance no longer held up. Therefore, people want to support sustainable business and are not interested in supporting companies that are lacking in this area.

 

There are several universal barriers that need to be overcome for business to make the switch. People are frequently overworked and do not have the time to implement any changes. Sometimes people don’t feel empowered and experience a sense of apathy and loss of enthusiasm. So, what is the solution?

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Several big-name companies have implemented changes that have greatly improved the quality of their business. For example, UPS stopped taking left turns on delivery routes and saved $50 million. Washington State Convention and Trade Center installed more than 6,000 energy efficient lighting fixtures, which saved them more than $120,000. The simple things make a huge difference.

 

The argument here is that it’ll always be worth it to make a change. People will be happier coming to work and the company will save a considerable amount of money.

 

Thank you, Katie and Annie, for your wisdom and expertise in this field. It’s inspiring to know that there are strong players making the business case for sustainability in our community every day!

 

sbc-picTo learn more about Sustainable Business Consulting and the work that Katie and Annie do, click HERE!

Speaker Highlight: Advice from Candi Mabee, A Sustainability-Loving House Director

A former professional opera singer, house director, and a passion for sustainability? What’s not to love about Candi Mabee, who blessed the Green Greek Representative Program with her presence at our meeting this week. We learned a lot from her experience as a sustainability-loving house director, and are very thankful to have her here in the Greek Community at UW.
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Candi Mabee, the house director at Phi Mu, is quite an inspiration to us all. In her single year working with Phi Mu, she has driven Phi Mu to the highest standard of sustainability. She understands a green lifestyle as the right thing to do for the future and our Earth. In the past as a house director she has focused on the zero waste initiative, meaning utilizing compost and recycle systems to save money and protect the earth from methane gas release.

 

In order to ease the process of ensuring everyone in the chapter is doing their part, Candi recommends getting the kitchen staff on board, having the system set up so everything is easy and ready to go, accountability of individual members, and to prioritize communication about what goes where. This includes signage, frequent social media posts, and educational programs at chapter meetings. In regard to talking to house moms/directors about sustainability practices, Candi suggests coming prepared with research on cost benefits and how your house is doing, understanding the motivations of the house director, and working with them to find a solution. The key is constant communication.

 

Candi also recommends shopping at wholesale retail centers, such as the Costco on Aurora, for chapter necessities. Specifically, the Costco business center as they have the necessary compostable utensils and mealtime staples for an extremely reasonable price, as seen below:

Sustainable item Cost
12oz world centic cold cups $15.99 for 200 units
12oz cold cup lids $7.79 for 200 units
Clamshell (late plates boxes) $18.59 for 100 units
9″ plate $19.99 for 250 units
12 oz world centric hot cup $12.69 for 200 units
12 oz hot cup $16.09 for 200 units

Following Candi’s presentation, the Green Greeks had the opportunity to explore our own case studies and apply the tactics and tools Candi presented to  us to see the applicability of her experience and prepare for real life situations.

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Thank you Candi for those helpful hints. Your efforts have not gone unnoticed and we appreciate your impact here on campus!

Determining Best Recycling & Compost Practices in the UW Greek Community


For my UW senior capstone, I collaborated with Seattle Public Utilities and the Community-Based Social Marketing approach to promote composting practices within the UW Greek Community.
Seattle is currently focusing on citywide composting and has enacted a composting ordinance that prohibits compostable food and paper from being disposed of in waste bins. Fines are being issued to property owners who have 10% or more of food waste in garbage containers as a way to provide financial incentive. space-needle-1509141_1280However, this law does not directly impact tenants in multifamily housing because they don’t have personal accountability for what goes into the communal waste bins. The University of Washington Greek housing is a type of multifamily student housing that currently faces similar issues with creating collective participation to compost. Without financial incentive, both settings are facing various psychological barriers to transitioning to composting.

screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-2-05-27-pmI worked with Green Greek Representative Program Director Tali Haller to connect with different Greek chapters to gather information on composting barriers through surveys, interviews, and quantitative measurements. After investigating different psychological barriers to composting, I suggested sustainable interventions for each house in my report titled “The Psychological Barriers to Compost in UW Greek Housing.” My research shows that barriers to composting stem from a lack of knowledge, an absence of motivation, unsupportive attitudes, or general inconvenience.

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Barriers to Composting

I coordinated with multiple Greek Chapters, including Sigma Kappa, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and Psi Upsilon. Each house I coordinated with had members that were incredibly passionate and dedicated to making their home more sustainable. Their compost bins were all easily accessible with prompts to help remind and educate house members. However, their Green Greek Representative experienced a lot of push back. While 90% of the Greek members I interviewed generally knew what went into compost bins, only 37% were aware of the Seattle composting ordinance or the fines that were being issued to their house. Among these 4 barrier types, 67% of members showed a high barrier in regards to motivation and attitude toward composting.

screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-3-08-25-pmTogether, Tali and I have been working to overcome the “attitude” and “motivation” barriers by establishing social norms and creating a positive environment around composting. We’re also looking into ways to display the high-level of local community support for composting practices to encourage action!

Check out the Final Presentation, the 55-page Full Report, or Mercedes Project Site.


unnamed-1Mercedes Stroeve recently received her Bachelors of Arts in Community, Environment, and Planning (CEP) with a minor in Urban Design and Planning at the University of Washington. Her education focus was around mitigating climate change and creating collective action to improve circumstances. She has worked previously with UW Transportation Services where she promoted sustainable commute options and helped reduce UW commuter’s emissions. Currently she is working with the Mass Transit Now campaign to help pass the Sound Transit 3 initiative to help expand our existing system of light rail, commuter rail, and bus services in the Puget Sound Region.