Sustainable Office Program encourages department offices to achieve certification


Lehigh’s Office of Sustainability launched a new program designed as a self-guided program to push staff to take initiative in contributing to good environmental practices in their offices.

The Sustainable Office Program requests departments and offices around Lehigh to complete a series of tasks to earn their certification, which comes in the form of receiving either a bronze, silver, gold or platinum certification based upon how many actions from the checklist given are completed.

To begin the process, once an office shows an interest in the program, it is asked to designate a representative to help integrate the program with their co-workers and their offices, Sustainability Officer Delicia Nahman said.

To be certified, an office must complete at least one action from the eight different categories: participation and engagement, climate and energy, food and dining, purchasing, community building and social equity, transportation, waste, water and events, and meetings. To receive the lowest level certification, bronze, an office must complete 30 actions.

Offices may choose which actions they wish to complete and what seems feasible to their particular office.

“The requirements may vary slightly in the difficulty to implement,” Nahman said. “An item on the list such as ‘we purchase hybrid or alternative fuel vehicles for our office,’ will likely be completed less commonly than one such as ‘we have posted reminders to turn off lights and electronics when not in use.’”

A few other actions from the extensive list include shutting all windows when air conditioning or heat is running, preventing wasting food from events and meetings, and taking the bus between Asa Packer campus and Mountaintop campus for meetings and conferences.

Two offices have already received their certifications with a few more in the early stages. Lehigh’s Athletics Business Services received a silver certification, and LTS Student & General Services achieved a bronze certification.

“The program sparked everyone in the office to think differently about sustainability as a whole,” said Jason Gall, the associate director of Athletic Facilities and Events. “Everybody actively participated in completing the list and it was actually a nice little team building activity.”

The offices that have taken part of this initiative see the benefits for not just themselves but Lehigh as a whole.

“Change almost always starts at a smaller, more localized level,” said Steve Sakasitz, student and general services team member. “It’s easy to suggest all of these great ideas on a grand scale, but much more difficult to actually implement them that way. With the sustainable office program, you can start undertaking these actions and fostering changes within your own little corner of Lehigh.”

Sakasitz hopes to see more offices at Lehigh getting involved with the initiative and watching the change spread throughout campus.

Not only does this program help with university-wide goals, but it also helps with community and personal goals as well.

“By adopting new sustainable habits, you can reduce your impact on the environment, build community and protect personal health,” Gall said. “The program also promotes how easy to implement green behaviors and resources for green living can be.”

The departments are asked to certify at least every other year to follow up and continue to work towards other certifications, however, departments can do that more frequently if they wish.

The Office of Sustainability is working towards a Sustainable Room certification program next academic year for students in residential halls, said Nahman.

“Students can make a big impact by being mindful of their water usage when showering, reducing energy consumption by turning off lights and using cold water for laundry, properly sorting their recycling and trash, and eating more local, organic, plant-based meals,” she said.

With the current office program, as well as the upcoming room certifications for students, the Sustainability Office continues to impact Lehigh’s campus in an effort to reduce the University’s environmental footprint and create accountability within the Lehigh community.

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