It’s incredibly exciting to see the wide range of initiatives employees take on at Copperleaf™ as the company grows. One of the newest creations is the Green Team, whose mission is to minimize Copperleaf’s environmental footprint. They do so by helping the company and its employees make more responsible choices through initiatives that promote awareness, participation, and behavioural change. Meet Christo Coetzee, Marc Uchida, Diego Gonzalez, and Robert Gooding-Townsend as they sit down with us to discuss what inspired them to create this initiative and how the Green Team fits within the Copperleaf culture.
What inspired you to start/join the Green Team?
Christo: I saw a lot of ways our company could improve its environmental practices but I knew it would be difficult to make big changes alone, thus I reached out to like-minded people and the response was very positive. Naomi Galinski, one of our product support specialists, was incredibly helpful in guiding us on how to create and launch a committee. We’re a great group – we get along well, we inspire each other, and we’ve learned a lot from each other.
Robert: The sustainability policy within the company was quite inspiring, but there was much more that could be done – both in terms of sheer impact and sustained change. Each of us came to the group with diverse ideas, but they all aligned to the common goal of educating and inspiring others on sustainability.
What kind of initiatives has the team started?
Christo: Our first initiatives have been really collaborative. Laura LaForge, our receptionist, suggested to place the “Green Tip of the Week” on the display screens throughout our office. Naomi researched eco-friendly hand soap, cleaning supplies and dishwater detergents for company-wide usage. Marc took responsibility for the upkeep of our SodaStream® so we could use fewer cans. At Copperleaf we’re very fortunate that our office space is at the Broadway Tech Centre provides a solid infrastructure for recycling, composting, as well as proper disposal of electronics, lightbulbs, and batteries.
Marc: We’re also working on reducing our plastic footprint. According to the Worldwatch Institute, the average North American consumes 100 kilograms of plastic each year, mostly in the form of packaging. We recently implemented a SodaStream® trial program to reduce the usage of disposable plastic bottles and aluminum cans at the office.
Robert: One of the most effective ways for us to bring about change is through our work with our clients. We already help our clients build quantitative methods to prioritize decisions to address environmental, social and economic challenges. Additionally, the Copperleaf Value Framework allows clients to include sustainability impacts when making their trade-off decisions. We also have wildfire risk models in development, which will be extremely useful for planning more resilient infrastructure in the face of a changing climate.
One of the most effective ways for us to bring about change is through our work with our clients. We already help our clients build quantitative methods to prioritize decisions to address environmental, social, and economic challenges.
How do you come up with new initiatives?
Christo: We all have different perspectives on being “green” and we bring our different viewpoints together to help improve our current processes. There are also “grass roots” initiatives when others outside of the Green Team help us raise awareness. Serena Chan and Anna Leong, two of our software developers, did a great job of educating our colleagues about Styrofoam recycling. Through their efforts, a lot of Styrofoam stayed out of the trash and was properly recycled. It’s inspiring to see how small actions can have a great ripple effect.
Diego: We start by focusing on the most visible items, like lighting and kitchen waste, observe what happens around the office, and discuss improvements as a team. We are currently working on some new initiatives, such as improving energy conservation with efficient light controls, education of proper garbage disposal, and reducing the usage of single use items like plastic cutlery and disposable drink containers.
What is the team most proud of?
Christo: I’m most proud that we started this team – that’s the hardest part. Deciding to not just complain about things and actually do something about it can be difficult. It’s much easier to shift blame and wait for others to do something, but it’s always better to take responsibility, create initiatives, and do the work. From now on, everything we do, regardless of how big or small – is pure gain.
Why do you feel that this is important for our company?
Marc: We do have a sustainability policy in place, but I feel that it’s not just about why it’s important to our company, but also to our city, our province, our country, and our planet. Copperleaf is a microcosm of this world where we can find like-minded people and try to make a positive difference. It’s also a way of giving back to the community to which our company belongs.
Our hope is that these initiatives can bring awareness and lead people into making more 'green' changes in their own lives and beyond.
How have these initiatives impacted the company?
Christo: Environmental issues are more considered now. For example, we make conscious decisions about which products we buy. We’ve also done away with single use cutlery during company events. These small changes form the habits that will create exponential change.
How does the Green Team fit within the Copperleaf culture?
Christo: We want to be respectful of the environment, be agile in considering our shortcomings and figuring out creative solutions, and always improve.
Robert: More broadly, it’s about being thoughtful, considering all aspects of our actions, and supporting our local and global community.
What advice would you give to someone who doesn’t know how to start being “greener”?
Christo: Don’t try to be perfect – no one is – but start somewhere. Take your own cup when you buy coffee instead of taking a single use cup (Starbucks gives a discount when you bring your own cup). Drink without a plastic straw or bring your own reusable straw. Take containers along when you go to a restaurant, so you can pack your leftovers instead of using single use containers. Bring reusable bags to the store when you go shopping. These are small actions, but they really add up.
Marc: I recommend getting educated on what green programs are supported in your neighbourhood and participating in them.
Robert: Once you start thinking in terms of environmental impact, there are plenty of small choices you can make with large results. You don’t need to be extreme about it. Reducing your meat consumption by even just once per week or taking a road trip instead of flying to see relatives are both great starts.
Who can join the team?
Everyone: Anyone who wants to! We look forward to more people joining us. The more of us there are, the more we can achieve.
What are the future plans for the Green Team?
Marc: Our office complex will be initiating soft plastic recycling soon, so we are looking forward to that. We want to keep on top of the news, resources, and facts in the “green industry”, as well as ever-evolving best practices so that we can integrate them into our own programs.
Diego: We would like to unite initiatives with the RAD team (Random Acts of Delight) to raise funds for local environmental charities and have an even greater impact.
Copperleaf is committed to advancing sustainability and practicing environmental stewardship.
We are always looking for new ways to become a more sustainable business, especially as we grow as a company. After doing research, we realized that carbon offsetting is the most immediate way to make a positive environmental impact while we continue to work on other ways to further reduce our carbon footprint.
Learn more about how the Green Team is making an impact through new initiatives, such as our action plan to eliminate Copperleaf's carbon footprint.
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