Our workplaces have likely changed significantly since early 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic set in. Over the course of a few weeks in Fall 2021, we are compiling a series of green tips that can help you settle back into sustainable routines on Grounds.

 

Health & Wellbeing

Some UVA employees may be adjusting back to working on Grounds. Many workplace sustainability practices may also happen to make us feel more happy and healthy in the office. Explore ways to incorporate some sustainable and healthy practices into your “Future of Work” routines.

  • Combo Commute - With new pay-by-day or pay-by-hour parking options available through ParkMobile, it could now be possible for nearby residents to commute some days via car and other days via biking, bussing, or walking. You could combine your exercise and travel one or two days per week, while still having more convenient access to your vehicle on other days.
  • Natural Light - While working on Grounds, remember that using natural light could both save electricity and contribute to a positive mood. If there are windows near your desk, open up the blinds and try turning off your overhead light. If need be, find a comfortable common space where you can get some sun for an hour or two.
  • Indoor Plants - If you haven’t already, try bringing in some plants from home to make your workplace feel more comfortable and personal. UVA faculty member Tim Beatley could tell you about the benefits of working in a “biophilic” space, from feeling more connected with nature to maintaining focus on the task at hand.
potted plants on a windowsill

 

Paper

Some of us may have significantly reduced our paper usage over the past 18 months, as many things transitioned to virtual or electronic format. Consider having a conversation with your colleagues about making paper-saving norms part of your “Future of Work” as well.

Stack of junk mail
  • Paperless Processes - Talk to your team about which electronic processes adopted during COVID can continue indefinitely. For example: doing without handouts at meetings; circulating draft documents for edits in Box or Teams rather than on paper; using electronic signatures where possible, etc. Brainstorm other ideas unique to your workplace.
  • Junk Mail - If unwanted mail in your office’s box piled up during COVID, make it a workplace initiative to unsubscribe and prevent future paper waste. Call companies during business hours and ask “Can someone help remove me from your mailing list?” To encourage the whole team, you might create an “unsubscribe” pile and designate one person who doesn’t mind unsubscribing everyone.
  • Scrap Paper - Did you have any posters, handouts, or other pre-printed documents become obsolete over the course of the pandemic? When tidying up your workplace, create a scrap paper pile for anything that still has one free side. Encourage people to grab scraps for to-do lists and scribbles instead of using post-it notes or other fresh paper.

 

ENERGY

If it has been a while since your whole team has been together in the workplace, you may want to re-examine some energy settings and remind each other of some relevant policies. Make your “Future of Work” more energy-efficient by focusing on these actions as a workplace.

  • HVAC Scheduling - Many workplaces at UVA have smart thermostat settings that automatically adjust at different times of day or days of the week. Contact Facilities Management to check your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) schedule & compare that to the days/times when your team is in the workplace versus working from elsewhere. Office schedules may have changed significantly over the past year and a half!
     
  • IT Settings - Double check your computer settings periodically to get the most out of every charge. Follow these Sustainable IT recommendations and do it yourself, or ask your Local Support Partner (LSP) to change energy settings on all the computers in your department.
     
  • Space Heaters - Just say no! If you weren’t already aware, the use of personal space heaters is actually prohibited at UVA for both environmental and safety reasons. To stay comfortable as the weather cools down, dress for the season and consider keeping a small blanket or microwavable rice bag at your desk.
woman working with blanket

 

Purchasing

Many individuals and departments experienced a budget crunch due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and our purchasing may have decreased as a result. Consider continuing to use the following money-saving practices that also double as Earth-saving practices.

Binders on a shelf at the Reusable Office Supply Exchange
  • Office Supplies - Never buy a binder again! There are hundreds available for FREE at UVA’s Reusable Office Supply Exchange, also known as ROSE. If you are restocking any type of office supply (whether for professional or home use), consider checking ROSE first. And if you’re clearing out your drawers, donate to ROSE before reaching for the trash can.
     
  • Catered Food - Many offices’ catering budgets dropped to $0 during the pandemic. As we begin to ramp up in-person gatherings again, consider whether food is a must-have at your meeting or event. Save a lot of money and ensure zero food waste by hosting during non-meal hours. If using food to draw people in, keep it minimal then distribute to-go boxes so people can take home leftovers.
     
  • Smart Swag - Similarly, as we return to tabling, consider promotional items and how you distribute them. If you let people grab-and-go, they might take without thinking, costing you money. Instead, maybe exchange one item for one newsletter sign-up. And when selecting items, try to go plastic-free, compostable, or consumable!

 

Community Engagement

Remember that a sustainable society is one that’s good for both people and the planet. Engage in the people-side of sustainability by contributing in the community. This time of year there are a number of ways you can support a thriving, sustainable culture in our area.

  • Vote Locally - Every election matters. Tuesday, November 2nd is your last chance to vote in this year’s local elections. If you live in Charlottesville, prepare using the following links: double-check your polling place and view a sample ballot. If candidates’ stances on sustainability issues are important to you, do some research to find out where they stand.
     
  • Donate Through the CVC - If you are a UVA employee, the Commonwealth of Virginia Campaign (CVC) makes it easy for you to donate to local charities through payroll dedication or by credit card. See the complete list of area charities, and consider supporting sustainability-oriented organizations.
     
  • Use Your Volunteer Days - Remember that UVA employees have 8-16 hours of paid volunteer leave to use each year. You could volunteer on the water with the Rivanna Conservation Alliance (RCA), alongside students at the Morven Kitchen Garden (MKG), or connect with another area “green group”.
UVA leadership volunteering to pick up trash

 

Single-Use Plastics

Did you know that UVA is tackling plastics in a big way? Executive Order 77 requires that UVA cease using many types of single-use plastics, and great partners like UVA Dine, UVA Health, UVA Athletics, the Procurement Office, and even area caterers are helping us transition to compostable items. If you’d like to learn more about EO77 and UVA’s Plastics Reduction Plan, join the Office for Sustainability for a lunch-and-learn on Friday, November 12, 2021 at noon. REGISTER HERE, and get a sneak preview of the ways you can help support this effort:

Various single-use plastic items
  • Tackle Plastics - If you are in a position to buy or distribute items like cups/plates/utensils at UVA, then your cooperation is critical. Mandatory Workday training will be sent your way soon. If you are not a purchaser, you can still set a good example and avoid using single-use plastics on Grounds. Humans are highly influenced by what those around us do (or don’t do!)
     
  • Bring Reusables - Many UVA employees and students are already demonstrating sustainable norms with their reusable water bottles. Consider expanding the reusables you keep with you every day. A set of metal utensils at your desk and a spork or some chopsticks in your bag could help you do without disposables at lunch or events.
     
  • Seek Out Composting - As many plastics are replaced with compostable items at UVA, a number of partners are also working to expand composting options on Grounds. Today, you can find compost bins in many UVA Dine locations, some workplaces, at many events, and under the tents located outside OHill and Newcomb Hall.
     

Staying Connected

Sustainability is a journey, not a destination. We hope these “Future of Work” Green Tips have been timely recommendations for settling back into sustainable routines, but there is more we can be doing year-round. The UVA Office for Sustainability strives to share meaningful opportunities for you to make a difference both on Grounds and beyond. Keep looking for that next step you can take! Here are some ways to stay plugged in:

  • Communications - The best way to receive updates and suggested actions throughout the year is through the bi-weekly SustainaNewsletter, which you can subscribe to using this form. We are also very active on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @SustainableUVA - If you are already a subscriber and/or follower, consider forwarding to a friend or colleague.
     
  • Events - Sustainability is such a multi-faceted topic that there is always more to learn. Email joinsp@virginia.edu to join the “Sustainability Partners” listserv, where we share event and lunch-and-learn invites. If you are already a Sustainability Partner or event attendee, bring a friend or colleague next time.
     
  • Action - If you want to keep doing more, but you could use some guidance, email greenworkplace@virginia.edu and we can send you things like our 30 recommended actions for a Green Workplace, our seasonal campaigns (like our “going paperless” campaign for December), or trainings relevant to your unique role at UVA. Keep up the great work!
hiker staring into the mountains

 

And as always, you can email us at sustainability@virginia.edu to share your ideas, ask questions, or get connected with other resources. Thank you for reading!