A: I am actually an Inside sales representative on the Providence, Rhode Island market. I have been a committee member since basically the first day I started in September of the previous year (which makes my tenure about 8 months). As of about 3 weeks ago, my title is co-chair of the Green Committee. I am also a trained Employee Volunteer Program member.
Q: What is the mission of the Green Committee at Groupon?
A: The Green Committee is dedicated to enhancing the company’s culture, operations, partnerships, and long-term goals by adopting forward-thinking, environmentally aware practices. What this basically means is innovation in the sustainability field focused primarily on environmental practices.
Q: Looking back, what are the Green Committee’s biggest accomplishments?
A: Most were rolled out before my time in the committee started, but to name a few:
For this project we looked at our Keurig’s and said, “What can we do to make this more environmentally friendly and financially successful for the company?” Our solution was to get good coffee that could be distributed in the cafeterias. By doing this we were able to compost the coffee grounds, while not having the additional waste of the K-cups. This is a big win for the Green Committee as the Keurig’s have disappeared, but the coffee machines stand strong. The result was we were able to save money because the pots of coffee held more liquid while using less material and we didn’t have to buy as many K-cups.
2) Recycling project:
In our office cafeteria, we were able to distinguish the different types of bins by using different colored bags for each garbage can. The recycling can is green, composting food and compostable containers and silverware are yellow, and trash is the traditional black bags. In terms of reducing the waste that Groupon creates, this has been a tremendous success.
3) Formation of the Sustainability Committee (my favorite):
I actually got to sit in on a meeting where we had a good smattering of important people from all throughout the company. The conversation was about what our company is doing and how can we make it better. We looked at things like the printers, the drink distribution, and the energy usage, and quite frankly it was overwhelming. There were a lot of areas where we can save the company money, while just making minor adjustments that won’t throw off the employees day to day life. This committee is very new so we do not have much to report in the form of projects yet. Arbor day is actually one of the first projects we are doing in collaboration with our office building.
A: We really tried to pull out all of the stops for Arbor Day as it is one of our first projects that are in correlation with the sustainability committee. We created flyers with nostalgic literary references like the Lorax, the Giving Tree, and Avatar (that were posted on recycled paper) urging employees to 1) print double-sided, 2) use re-usable mugs instead of paper cups, 3) use hand dryers in the bathroom instead of paper towels.
Our primary focus was double-sided printing. We consume a ton of paper each year and wanted to draw peoples attention to that, with shock and awe if you will. So we picked iconic places around the Groupon office to put up bundles of paper structures. The goal was to show employees how many bundles of paper we go through per day (14 reams of paper). We also engaged our full Green Committee and some of our members in drawing on the whiteboards throughout the office to promote Arbor Day. This was a great way to get our full team involved while really spreading the word throughout the office.
Q: Why is it important for a group like the Green Committee to exist in the workplace?
A: I personally believe it is very easy to overlook issues like the ones the Green Committee handle. Unless the people who really care about those types of issues take action no one will. It is important for people who have passions outside of work to be able to incorporate said passions at work. People are truly most productive when they are doing things they love, so why not create those opportunities at the place where you spend most of your day 5 days a week? I think, especially for bigger corporations, it is easy to get wrapped up in going through the motions on a day to day. This gets employees to, if nothing else, become more educated on issues that they may not have had any idea existed. I know that personally I have had several people come up to me today and ask what Arbor Day is.
Q: How have employees responded to green initiatives around the office?
A: I would say the best ways to describe it would be, “this is a marathon, not a sprint”. It is pretty hard to get everyone to go out of his or her way to change his or her practices everyday. So by taking smaller steps and making smaller changes I think eventually we will have pretty good engagement. It’s a matter of education and people don’t learn overnight. It’s a matter of changing things that are normally more convenient, which is a hard sell but we are more than up to the task. So far we have had raving reviews about the coffee. I think general consensus is that people like it, though the new machines are all the buzz because they are new. Recycling has been getting better and better and with the new implementation of the Sustainability Committee I am enthusiastic and excited to see the changes that we have coming for everyone in the future.