The NEIWPCC Sustainability Committee is dedicated to developing, promoting, and implementing projects that reduce the environmental impact of NEIWPCC's day-to-day work as an organization.
Since its inauguration in 2007, the NEIWPCC Sustainability Committee has successfully developed, promoted, and implemented a variety of sustainable office practices. Approximately one third of Lowell, MA NEIWPCC staff is involved. We strive to improve upon existing practices and brainstorm new eco-friendly opportunities for our four focus areas: Office Purchasing, Waste, Energy Consumption, and Paper and Printing. By tackling projects in each of these areas, NEIWPCC serves as a sustainable community for employees and a model of sustainability for visitors: we are creators, participants, and products of an environmentally friendly working environment.
Sustainability practices need not be burdensome - with some basic support and minimal effort, all employees can contribute to our goal of making NEIWPCC as eco-friendly as possible. Remarkable sustainability progress has already been made, and the goal remains to accelerate this progress as we continue to take on new projects.
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Check Out Our Green Living Guidebook!
It isn't always easy to live in a way that maximizes our own health while minimizing our social and environmental impact. The good news is there are numerous consumer guides to help out and track some of these footprints. Experts are testing out the best sunscreens, the best seafood, the best printing paper... you name it, there's probably a guide out there on how to do it in an environmentally and socially responsible way, and also a healthy and safe way.
The best part? The Sustainability Committee has created a Green Living Guidebook compiling the best of these comprehensive and easy-to-use guides in one place. NEIWPCC employees may work in a range of locations around the Northeast, but all of us can use this guidebook to lessen our impact on the world every day.
Trash to Treasure - The Power of Reuse
In the spirit of spring cleaning, the Sustainability Committee hosted a week-long Trash to Treasure Exchange to promote the second tenet of the sustainability triad: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Staff were encouraged to bring in items that they no longer planned to use, and then could take home anything contributed by others.
We brought in quite a haul! Over the course of the week we amassed a solid collection of trash (everything from garden ornaments to a reindeer dog costume), but ended up redistributing a fair amount of it as someone else's treasure. Leftovers at the end of the week were brought to Savers, where they hopefully found new homes as well. The value of reuse was apparent: we gave items destined for the landfill a second chance, saving money (and avoiding the carbon footprints associated with new purchases) in the process.
Bike to Work Day / Eco-Commuting Week
The Committee organized NEIWPCC's first Bike to Work Day for Lowell office staff in 2014, and in May 2015 we hosted a larger Eco-Commuting Week for all staff around the Northeast. For Eco-Commuting Week, participants from around the region were encouraged to submit photos of their eco-friendly commutes, and Lowell staff met up at two designated locations to park and bike to the office.
At 6:30 am, one bike group met along the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail in Chelmsford to begin their ride into Lowell. They enjoyed the beautiful spring weather while doing their part to reduce emissions - enjoying some quality team building and a great workout in the process! The group covered the 7.4 mile ride in just over 50 minutes, and then headed back the same route at the end of the work day.
Fun fact: 20 miles biking or walking instead of driving saves a gallon of gas for the average passenger vehicle in the U.S., which means at least $2.70 more in your pocket and 19.64 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions less in the atmosphere!
The Sustainability Committee explored options for environmentally friendly disposable office products as an alternative to those we currently purchase. While NEIWPCC owns reusable utensils and dishes for staff use and small meetings, it is not feasible to use these for large meetings. We targeted items most frequently used for these large meetings to make the biggest impact, and looked into a variety of more sustainable options. Both costs and environmental impact were considered.
After researching the available products and prices, we decided on environmentally friendly utensils made with 100 percent post-consumer recycled content and plates and bowls made with a sugarcane byproduct that would otherwise be burned. The environmental impact for each of these is made on the front end, rather than on the back end (i.e., requiring recycling or composting after we use them).
These products strike the balance between avoiding potentially greenwashed alternatives (e.g., compostable products when we have no composting facility in which to deposit them) and keeping costs reasonable.
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The Eco-Office Bulletin: NEIWPCC's Sustainability Newsletter
NEIWPCC's Eco-Office Bulletin has been distributed to NEIWPCC staff and Commissioners dating back to 2012, and for the first time, we're sharing it with the world. Topics range from broad sustainability issues on our minds to Do-It-Yourself projects to green up your everyday life.
The Sustainability Committee compiles this quarterly newsletter featuring articles from NEIWPCC staff. It is self-edited and self-published. We welcome ideas for future articles!
EPA's Water Sense: Learn about saving water - make every drop count!
Conservation International's Carbon Calculator: A great resource for anyone interested in their carbon
footprint and how to lower it.
How to Host a Sustainable, Carbon Neutral Conference/Event: NEIWPCC hosts numerous events and
conferences - we always seek to follow sustainability guidelines for these events.
Sustainability Degrees: A great overview resource on a range of Sustainability Degree and Career options. Current college students, check out this page with tons of resources and advice.