Does Your School have a Green Office Program?

For those of you who don’t know, we have a Green Office Program at the College of Charleston that is administered by the Center for Sustainable Development where offices can earn a Bronze, Silver, or Gold ranking. Offices also have the opportunity to improve their Green Office status after completing a checklist of action items such as a Self-Assessment Survey taken by participants in the office, or a waste audit.

The Registrar’s Office recently completed these action items and received their Green Office Certification. I interviewed Pamela Mauldin, the Registration and Scheduling Assistant for the Registrar’s Office, and she gave me an inside look into the reasons their office decided to get the certification as well as the challenges they faced during the process.

Ms. Mauldin previously worked at the University of South Carolina's campus in Columbia, where they have a Green Office Certification Program that was implemented years ago. Since joining CofC in May 2016, Mauldin says, “I often wondered why the College did not have some sort of green office certification process in place. Thankfully, a program now exists through the Center for Sustainable Development. And as part of our professional development efforts, I reached out to the CSD to inquire about a Green Office Certification Program.” She expressed her concern for the climate crisis and said that she and the rest of the office believe “being ‘green’ is vital in preserving our planet, whether practicing our efforts at work or home.” She reflected on the office’s challenges, saying that two of the biggest involved their lights and the thermostats.

The thermostats in CofC's Lightsey building are not programmable and when it gets chilly in the winter months, people must use their personal space heaters. The second obstacle involved turning off the lights. She says, “Although turning off the lights when not in use seems like a simple thing to do, it is not always simple for some.” Individuals are learning to make a habit of turning off the lights as they leave a room since it is often an action that is taken for granted.

When I asked Ms. Mauldin what they learned from the self-assessment and waste audit, she cited the trash receptacles as their main concern. She says that a high percentage of the staff use their personal, rather than communal landfill bins. This can result in more waste going to the landfill and can slow Zero Waste efforts. This is a struggle other offices, dorms, classrooms, and even students have on a day to day basis.

Ms. Mauldin also said that since the pandemic hit, their efforts to fix their waste issues have been delayed. However, she says that her office has always tried to incorporate sustainability into their daily office tasks and the Green Office certification process helped them become more knowledgeable about ways to become more sustainable. A fun fact about their office and the Lightsey Center is that one of their bulletin boards has tips for being more sustainable and that same information is posted in the bathroom stalls!

When asked why she thinks the Green Office Program is so important and what advice she would give to other offices who want to earn the Green Office certification, Ms. Mauldin said, “The program is particularly helpful to the College in advancing toward a more sustainable future. I would highly encourage more offices to become Green Office Certified so that we can collectively reduce the environmental impacts caused by climate change. And making small changes can save money too which is always a plus!” Here Ms. Mauldin touches on two of the three systems of sustainability: economic, environmental, and social. 

Take Ms. Mauldin’s advice and encourage your school's faculty and staff to try and achieve a Green Office Certification. For more information, visit your school's website on sustainability. If you're a student at CofC, visit our website! This is a great pathway for us to change our behaviors as a campus so that we can be more sustainable!