Red Gym Goes Green
This past March, the Morgridge Center for Public Service graduated from the 2016–17 Sustain Dane MPower Business Champions Program, joining an expansive network of businesses across Dane County who lead the way in workplace and community sustainability initiatives.
MPower is a year-long, customizable program for local organizations that want to reduce their environmental impact while saving costs and creating a healthier and more engaging workplace and community.
Kari Temkin, Director of the Badger Volunteers program, and Karen Crossley, Special Projects Director, formed a Morgridge Center Green Team, designed to help the office incorporate environmental sustainability among existing professional goals.
The Morgridge Center also partnered with the UW-Madison Office of Sustainability to co-develop projects focused on environmental sustainability. Office of Sustainability interns Erin Faella and Gilly McBride worked with the Green Team throughout summer 2016 to better understand the opportunities and challenges of sustainability in an office environment and develop five major projects to pursue through MPower:
· Sustainable volunteer transportation
· Office energy conservation
· Office waste reduction
· Waste-free wellness day event
· Green Office Certification Program participation
The Morgridge Center Green Team also attended monthly Sustainability Sessions where teams in the MPower Business Champions program regularly connected with other participating teams to learn about topics such as water and energy efficiency, sustainable food choices, waste reduction, and alternative transportation.
Not only was the Morgridge Center able to take a critical look at its own practices, but the Green Team took the opportunity to explore a model that other units across campus could adopt.
Based in large part on walk-arounds and observations of the Morgridge Center and other offices in the Red Gym, and drawing inspiration from similar programs at the University of Washington, Texas A&M University, University of Maryland, Harvard University and UW Health, Erin and Gilly piloted a Green Office Certification Program. The program has officially finished its pilot stages and launched this semester, with more than 10 offices on campus currently in the process of certification.
Efforts within the Morgridge Center’s Red Gym office included a composting pilot, a waste audit, an energy audit and a purchasing audit. The Green Team also became regular office advocates for waste and energy consumption, sharing their audit findings and tips through infographics, signs and staff meetings. Building a culture of sustainability awareness became a big part of the Morgridge Center’s efforts.
But the biggest efforts were focused on the small things. The Green Team found throughout the year that “baby steps” were important to achieving change. More staff regularly turned their computers off at night, more staff opted for reusable coffee mugs and the staff agreed to get rid of the energy-gulping office water cooler — opting instead to use a public water fountain in the building.
Read the Green Team Report to learn more about specific efforts.
These efforts alone won’t dramatically shift energy consumption, but every bit adds up. And by getting Morgridge Center staff to start regularly adopting small efforts, sustainability becomes a more persistent mindset.
The Morgridge Center hopes to spread this mindset across the UW-Madison campus. The Office of Sustainability, Campus Operations and university administration are now looking to the Morgridge Center to help lead a charge of community engagement and resource stewardship on campus.
The Morgridge Center hopes the Red Gym can be a green beacon for the entire university.
— With contributions from Gilly McBride and Mark Bennett