So, you’ve decided to take your clinic for a walk on the green side―you’re changing out your light bulbs, reading memos on screen, and implementing a carpool incentive. Hooray! That makes us―and Mother Earth―oh so happy to hear. But if you’re working in an office building with other companies, how can you get everyone else on board so your efforts don’t get lost in the mix―especially if ya’ll have shared utilities?
First, acknowledge what you’ve already achieved. Even if it doesn’t seem like it, the changes you’ve made matter. And they’re making a difference. Big or small, every little bit helps, so take a few moments to celebrate your―and your team’s―efforts. You’ve done a great thing.
Second, start campaigning. Get the word out, grassroots style. Start talking to your neighbors, coworkers, patients, and even your landlord about the efforts you’ve made―and don’t forget to include your results. Saved money on your electric bill? Share! Reduced your paper towel supply purchasing order? Talk about it. Think about what motivated you to go green, and then communicate your efforts in a way that inspires and motivates others.
Need some help motivating? Check out Arizona State University Social Psychologist Dr. Cialdini’s Principles of Influence. For example, his Social Proof principle states that people will do things that they see others doing. Translation: lead by example.
Want to get the ball rolling further? Schedule a formal meeting with your building manager or landlord to discuss ways he or she can help your green goals. Just make sure to emphasize the reasons why you think a green initiative is not only good for the environment, but good for his or her business initiatives as well (think how to save money while conserving energy).
Third, get buy in. To maximize another of Dr. Cialdini’s principles―commitment and consistency―consider implementing a building go-green contract and asking each tenant to sign it (with your building manager’s permission, of course). You can include easy things like making sure to shut off lights when they leave a building, nixing paper utensils and plates in the office, or purchasing water from a service that recycles the containers instead of buying water bottles. According to Cialdini’s principle, once someone gives an initial commitment, they are more likely to honor that commitment (and similar ones) because doing so aligns with their self-image.
Fourth, identify a project. Identify a green challenge in the building, and find a solution. Just make sure it’s one you can tackle. That means don’t make your first project one to install solar panels on the roof or a garden in the parking lot―not just yet anyway. Instead, start small and get a few successes under your belt before you tackle the big ones. After all, the positive momentum will help you and your team stay motivated and get everyone else invested.
So where to start?
1.) Communal bathrooms are always prime for going green initiatives. Maybe you’ve noticed that occupants are using paper towels like they’re going out of style. Try reminding users that each paper towel actually comes from a tree. While this might seem like a no-duh concept, this in-the-moment reminder can actually dramatically change behavior. Just ask the team behind the “These Come From Trees” initiative. For $5, you can buy 20 These Come From Trees stickers that can each “save around a tree’s worth of paper, every year.”
2.) Or maybe you’ve noticed that everytime you walk into a communal space―like a supply closet, restroom, or break room―there’s always a light on―and not just one, a whole host of energy-sucking fluorescents. Now, if your building manager or landlord is onboard, you may be able to convince him or her to install motion activated light switches that automatically turn on when someone enters a room and off after a certain timeframe of inactivity.
While this change can reduce your overall energy expenditure―and thus your electricity bill―it really only works in medium traffic areas, so avoid main lobbies and hallways. And don’t fret if you don’t have your building manager’s approval because there’s another way to keep lights turned off―one that costs nothing. It’s called shutting lights off. Try hanging a sign in a visible area reminding people to flip the light switch off whenever they leave the room. Easy peasy.
There are a few places to start if you’re trying to get an entire building onboard in your going green mission. What have you done to spread the word―and get buy in―in your building? Share in the comments below.