The International Student and Scholar Services office (ISSS) serves University of Illinois students by providing advising, immigration services, outreach, and much more. Now, ISSS is able to serve the campus community in a brand new way — by committing to be a Green Office and contributing to the university’s culture of sustainability.
The Certified Green Office Program was designed by the Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment (iSEE) as one portion of a school-wide project to encourage a more sustainable campus environment. The program reaches out to campus offices and offers guidance on meeting sustainability actions to ultimately work toward certification. These actions span from carpooling with coworkers and sharing equipment to recycling ink cartridges and batteries.
iSEE’s final Green Office certification in 2020 was ISSS, which certified gold in December. Office staff members started 2021 off on a great foot, and continue to implement sustainable changes to their office as we reach the end of the academic year. ISSS reached gold certification with 19 elective actions, including those such as office employees committing to using public transit for their commute and returning shipping materials (like Styrofoam boxes) for reuse.
“Obtaining this certification was not an obligation nor a requirement given to ISSS,” ISSS Director Martin McFarlane said. “This came from the staff who felt it was important to show ISSS as a green office. The most exciting new initiatives are ones that team members develop themselves and are enthusiastic about implementing, and this certification is a great testament to the commitment of a large group of international educators.”
ISSS has been committed to sustainability from the start, and staff members took the step to certify to further improve their workplace. Sustainability Ambassador Laura Reiter (pictured above, left) and colleague Michelle Gray (right) had previously created their internal guide in 2019, called the Sustainability Best Practices for Programs. Joining the program and becoming a Certified Green Office in 2020 is an extension of these efforts. iSEE hopes that introducing the CGOP in addition to the staff’s existing practices helps further their goals of becoming a sustainable, efficient office.
ISSS plans to continue pursuing office sustainability, as well as adapting to working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, staff members are currently digitizing most student documents rather than printing and mailing them as they did in the past. ISSS was also able to overcome the difficulties of incorporating this program while working remotely by creating joint Google documents to share certification ideas and comments.
As ISSS demonstrates, there are ways to green-certify safely and effectively even while working remotely! In consideration of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Certified Greener Campus team now conducts all communications with offices via email, no longer requires office visits, and recognizes certified offices at virtual events.
— Article by iSEE Campus Sustainability Intern Rhea Bridgeland