In Your Office or Workplace

There are many things you can do where you work to promote green buildings and sustainable design. Here are a few brief suggestions you can implement right away.

Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

In early 2007 Swiss Re, a major global insurance company, announced that it would be supporting investments and purchases made by employees that contribute to reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The new "COYou2 reduce and gain" program is part of Swiss Re's commitments supporting the Clinton Global Initiative. In 2003 Swiss Re declared that it would make its own operations carbon neutral by 2013. Now, as part of the Clinton Global Initiative, Swiss Re has decided to support measures taken by its employees that contribute to the reduction of CO2 emissions.

The "COYou2 reduce and gain" program supports employees' investments in measures that contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, particularly in relation to mobility, heating and electrical energy. Such measures, which vary according to regional circumstances and preferences, include low-emission hybrid cars, use of public transport and the installation of solar panels or heat pumps. From now until the end of 2011, Swiss Re plans to rebate each employee one-half of the amounts invested in these measures, up to a maximum per employee of 5,000 Swiss francs (about $4,000) or the equivalent in local currency.

According to Ivo Menzinger, Head of Sustainability & Emerging Risk Management, who is in charge of the "COYou2 reduce and gain" program,

"Swiss Re is actively engaged in mitigating climate change and its consequences. This program is an investment that will encourage our employees to make a personal contribution and further raises awareness of the issue."1

Take action with your company or business. Some easy steps to take include:

• If you operate a fleet of vehicles, convert them all to hybrids and cut your normal gasoline consumption by 35% to 50%.

• Subsidize employees' use of public transit, at least 50% or more.

• Discourage single occupancy vehicle use by not paying for parking.

• Provide secured bicycle storage in your building with shower facilities or nearby health club passes to encourage people to ride to work in good weather. (This is also a great "wellness" initiative.)

• Buy Green Tags or other"carbon offsets" to cover 100% of your annual travel mileage by car, bus, ferry and airplane. (There are a large number of organizations that cater to this need.)

• Buy green power for the electricity consumption of your workplace; wind-generated power is widely available from a large number of reputable organizations; make sure it is "Green-e" certified from the Center for Resource Solutions.2

• Begin the journey to sustainability by examining all of your operations, to see how to reduce their environmental footprint; this activity can involve everyone in the organization; even simple steps like eliminating wastebaskets under individual desks in favor of paper recycling boxes sends a simple message, as does having the IT department set all the printer default setting to "duplex" so people will stop printing on one side of the paper for internal use.

• Undertake a LEED-EB assessment of your existing building operations; LEED for Existing Buildings is a comprehensive evaluation and benchmarking system that will help you "green" your operations and engage the entire workforce in the effort.

• Buy laptops and flat-panel monitors for everyone to cut energy use from "plug loads," often 20% or more of the total energy use of an office.

• Re-lamp and install lighting controls, so you are using only the most efficient fixtures and lights don't operate when people aren't using a room or office.

• Join the US Green Building Council as a corporate or agency member and become part of the solution; once you join, everyone in the company or agency can enjoy the membership benefits.

• Study all of the other aspects of your business operations and work to change each aspect, over time, to more sustainable options, then encourage employees to take those same principles home.

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