Small Steps Down CFM's Green Path

The CFM Green Team briefed the Portland-based staff in October on green policies for the new kitchen, and described waste reduction goals.Thinking green can take on a dynamic double meaning. Those looking to help the environment and still make a buck might find that both destinations lie down the same sustainable road.

Back in August, Partner Pat McCormick called for volunteers to participate on a CFM Portland Office Green Team. As the company undertook a massive renovation of the office space, it seemed like a good time to re-examine the way we do business and how the firm's reconfigured Portland office space might be filled with new, increasingly sustainable habits.

McCormick envisioned a group that would meet from time to time, brainstorm ways to make the office more sustainable, come up with strategies for implementing the best of those ideas, then get to implementing.

Six volunteers answered that call and converged in the conference room with little prior experience to lend to the cause, and perhaps even less of a notion of what they might do. That’s the first lesson to take away from all this – you don’t have to know what you’re doing to help the environment and your business. You just have to be willing to try. You will learn as you go.

From that meeting, a variety of areas for potential improvements emerged: Recycling; transportation; office practices; procurement; kitchen practices; and incentives.

Each member of the CFM Green Team was assigned one of these subjects and asked to research it. The result was six detailed reports on the options for and challenges to improving the company’s performance in each area. For instance, if reducing our overall use of paper products is a goal, how do we encourage folks to recycle? What can we do to make it easier to print double-sided documents? Can we look at using post-consumer paper in the first place?

We also sat down with the sustainability expert for The Standard Insurance, the company that owns the building where CFM’s offices are located. In addition to giving the Green Team perspective on a larger sustainability project, she let us know it’s important to know that you’re part of an effort that goes beyond your own office, as well as to find ways to fit one within the other.

When the many reports had been assembled, it was time to organize them into a coherent action plan. This involved contemplating such questions as: Which ideas can be accomplished quickly? Which will need time to find the best solution? Which ideas are simply impractical or, despite your best intentions, just not doable?

Applying realistic, critical thinking to your sustainability plan is a necessity. It might seem like a genius idea to create a complex system of rewards for good behavior and punishments for bad behavior. If your office mates won’t participate in it, it’s simply another sheet of paper wasted.

Once you’ve got a plan, the next step is to put it into action, one piece at a time. Without the implementation phase, well, see the last sentence of the previous paragraph and multiply by 50.

At the end of October, CFM celebrated the opening of its new kitchen with a ceremony that served both as a ribbon cutting and an introduction to the Green Team. New kitchen practices included an expanded recycling effort, new coffee mugs that can be used at the Seattle’s Best downstairs, instructions on how to use the new dishwasher most efficiently and more.

The ceremony also included reminders to all employees to clean up after themselves, a move designed to improve office morale. While morale might not be measurable in dollars and cents, it certainly plays into creating an overall atmosphere that is truly sustainable.

That same day, smaller trashcans were affixed to the old, larger trashcans, which were then designated as recycling bins. Printer settings were changed from single- to double-sided. The printer already was loaded with of post-consumer paper.

Once the Green Team implemented immediate, doable tasks tied to the office remodel, the group completed its draft sustainability plan and submitted it to CFM’s management team for review  The team will continue its work, meeting monthly to help carry out 2010 plan recommendations.

While making some of these upgrades might represent a short-term outlay, in the long run, the less you use, the less money you spend. In this way, making your office more sustainable also means making it more profitable. If you take it one step at a time, you don’t have to be an expert to make your business, and your collective pockets, a little bit greener.