Sustainability is about finding “win-win-win” solutions that are good for the planet, people, and the bottom line. As the coronavirus pandemic has swept through and challenged the typical modes of operation for our University, extra emphasis has been placed on keeping people safe and reducing costs. Fortunately, many environmentally green solutions can also save some “green” and help us be good stewards of UVA’s resources during this tough time.

If you are a UVA employee, we encourage you to collaborate with others in your workplace on some of these cost-saving sustainability initiatives. Consider bringing these ten ideas to your colleagues, your leadership, and your individual decisions. Also, feel free to reach out to to request a consultation on implementing any of these measures in your workplace.



  1. Winterize your workplace: Especially with some people still working from home, we have many opportunities to save on utility costs as we move into winter. If possible, have someone do a sweep of the office and make the following adjustments throughout.
    • Set all thermostats to the low end of their range.
    • Close all window blinds to help keep heat in. During the winter, only open blinds when you are in the office and want natural light.
    • Check with work-from-home colleagues, then unplug everything around their station/office.
    • If your whole team will be working from home for the next month or more, contact Automation Services about temporarily scaling back space conditioning in your area. Find Doug Livingston’s contact info here.
  1. Check before you buy: When you are in need of office supplies, furniture, or IT accessories, you might be able to get them for FREE. These two programs redistribute lightly-used supplies at no cost to your department, and you can call or email to check if they have what you need.
    • The Reusable Office Supply Exchange (ROSE) has everything from paper clips to desk organizers, file folders to printer ink. Please never buy another binder again! ROSE has a huge assortment. or (434) 982-5050.
    • The ReUse Store carries all kinds of office furniture and decor, filing systems, computer monitors, building materials, and fun surprises like an old pool table from Newcomb Hall. Items are free for UVA use, or you can buy items for personal use at incredible prices. or (434) 243-0295
  1. Create a culture of reuse: Purchasing single-use disposable items sends a bad environmental and budgetary signal. Save money by NOT providing bottled water, disposable cups, or plastic cutlery for the office. Instead, start setting norms like everyone keeping their own set at their desk, and using leftovers from catered events only as a backup. Similarly, saying no to k-cups and making more sustainable coffee options the norm could also yield significant savings over time.



  1. Go “lean” with devices and equipment: To yield savings in both purchasing and utilities, conduct an inventory of IT and other equipment, and find ways to cut back. Most devices are costly to procure and use a lot of energy over their lifetime. Try any of the following for a leaner equipment strategy.
    • Phase out desktop computers in favor of laptops, which use less than half the power.
    • Consolidate appliances like printers so that there aren’t duplicates in individual offices.
    • If you have a small data server, work with ITS to join the cloud for security and efficiency.
    • For huge savings, banish space heaters & personal fridges, which use a TON of energy. If people are cold or lacking fridge space, address these issues at the facility level instead. If comfort issues remain hard to address, allow radiant heat solutions, which use up to 95% less energy and are significantly safer in the workplace.
    • Achieve additional energy savings from your IT equipment by adopting recommendations from the Sustainable IT group.
  2. Tackle ink and toner expenses: Toner is one of the most costly office supplies, and single use cartridges are an unnecessary landfill burden. Luckily, you can approach toner and ink reductions from multiple angles.
    • Simply find ways to print less (see #9 below for ideas).
    • Consolidate to a shared printer/copier as opposed to smaller units in individual offices (as also recommended in #4 above) so that small cartridges don’t dry up unused.
    • Opt for remanufactured cartridges from the Supply Room on UVA Marketplace, which are about half the price on average (not available if your printer is managed by PCS).
    • Learn more about tackling toner at or by contacting Keith Courtney at the email or phone listed here.
  3. Connect with Delta Force: A team of UVA sustainability and  energy engineers dubbed “Delta Force” would love to work with you to explore a comprehensive lighting upgrade in your space for energy efficiency, proper color, intensity, and dimmer control. DF engineers can offer lighting improvements that cost nothing to departments up front, and begin to accrue major utility savings in a matter of a few years. Request a feasibility study by contacting Jesse Warren at



  1. Continue to minimize travel: Travelling, especially by air, is a major expense to the University as well as a major contributor to climate change. Even after we are able to travel again, consider attending conferences virtually and explore opportunities to check in with distant collaborators via Zoom. According to RARE, an organization that inspires social and environmental change, flying one less time per year is one of the top seven actions an individual can take to most effectively combat climate change.
  2. Be more conservative with catering and gifts: Once events and tabling are able to happen in person again, consider revisiting your purchasing strategy for giveaways and food. Try any of the following to keep budgets low and reduce our planetary impact.
    • Host events and meetings in the morning or mid-afternoon, and either do without food or only provide a few small snacks to minimize the potential for food waste.
    • If catering a full meal, going all or mostly vegetarian supports health, saves money, and reduces the carbon and nitrogen footprint.
    • Important guests who perform or speak on a regular basis may accumulate a lot of unneeded gifts. Show appreciation instead with a heartfelt card and/or a special snack for during their visit.
    • For tabling “swag,” avoid cheap grab-and-go items, and instead offer something higher quality only to those who sign up for your newsletter or follow your page on social media. Unfortunately many grab-and-go items get thrown away shortly after an event, so choose quality over quantity.
  3. Keep paperless processes in place: What if your team could cut paper purchasing to almost zero? If you’ve been working from home, you’ve likely found electronic ways to do things you used to do with paper (like signing documents, getting feedback on drafts, and submitting receipts or approvals). Even once we are in the office together again, encourage your team to stick with those electronic processes for good. The trees and your budget will both thank you.



  1. Shut the Sash: It’s hard to believe, but one chemical fume hood can use as much energy as an average american home -- that’s a big utility bill for one piece of equipment! Optimize safety, efficiency, and cost by always completely shutting the sash when your fume hood is not being used. During experiments, work using a minimal opening. Find more Green Lab tips here.


And as always, consider pursuing Green Workplace Certification for your office. Find additional actions, recommendations, and resources on our Green Workplace Program webpage.