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Natural Awakenings Chicago

Peace Corps Leading Chicago Green Office Challenge

Apr 25, 2013 05:12PM ● By Megy Karydes

The city of Chicago’s Green Office Challenge launched its third round in February as a free, friendly competition among local businesses to help them reduce their energy, water and waste consumption by participating in activities ranging from developing a green purchasing plan to encouraging employees to take alternative modes of transportation to work. By the end of March, 138 companies had committed to participating and 445 individual users are actively competing daily for points. Attending a sustainability community event, for example, yields the company 50 points.

The Peace Corps Midwest Region Office achieved Tier 3 status in round 2 and has been leading the pack almost every week this year. “As employees of the Peace Corps, we are inherently motivated to make a difference for our communities and environment, both overseas and right here at home,” says Tara Dolan, sustainability leader for the Peace Corps Midwest Region office. “But the Green Office Challenge really propels us into action. It helps us benchmark our progress and reach goals and continuously strive to think of new ways to go green.”

Dolan credits having the full support of the Peace Corps’ top leadership and the agency-wide Green Team as part of the reason for their current leadership status. “Here in the office, we challenge each other’s thinking about the choices we make; it’s part of our lunchroom conversations, staff meetings and retreats and email conversations,” she adds, giving props to her colleagues. Two of them avidly bicycle to work, sharing tips and safety information about how to do the same; another introduced a worm-composting bin, while another continually searches for ways to reduce paper use.

It is stories and leaders like these that will make the difference, according to Vanessa Roanhorse, project manager at Delta Institute, the organization managing the Challenge. “Tara and her team are doing an incredible job with the Challenge,” she says. “When they see that another company bumps them to the number two slot, they immediately find another activity to complete so they can retain that top spot.” She notes that while their goal is to help reduce energy, water and waste consumption in Chicago, making it fun and interactive really motivates people.


To learn more about the Chicago Green Office Challenge or sign up for free, visit ChicagoGOC.com.