When Matthew left medicine nearly a decade ago, I returned to full-time teaching. By choice and necessity, we had significantly downscaled our lifestyle at home, and now I felt it was time to help lighten the footprint of my workplace.
During my first contract meeting with my boss, I explained that taking care of the planet was my passion. He politely told me that it was not his.
For those of you who may receive similar resistance at work, this is a letter of encouragement. It took a few years, but my workplace gradually became greener. To save trees, we began to use recycled paper in all copiers and set double-sided printing as the default in printers. To cut back on the electricity bill, we installed LED bulbs in exit signs, added motion detectors for interior lighting, installed dimmers in rooms with natural light. To cut back on waste, we added dumpster-sized recycling receptacles for paper, glass, plastics, and metal, greatly reduced the use of Styrofoam in the cafeteria, and began composting food scraps.
The key to success was forming a small green team of like-minded people and working with the system to make the workplace healthier, more environmentally responsible, and more cost-effective. Start with the low hanging fruit–changes like adjusting the thermostat a few degrees, which can save 10 percent on energy bills and cost nothing. Then, use some of those savings to invest in bigger projects, like a more efficient HVAC system, which cost up front but pay off in the long run.
Creation care is a mission field that invites action throughout the week. So be creative, like our Creator: EVERY workplace can be more green. Will you hit bumps along the way? Of course. Will you get discouraged at times? I can practically guarantee it! But I can also assure you that going green is godly work, and that He will open doors for conversations, relationships, and partnerships that you never imagined possible.
Saving money, saving the planet, and serving God–it’s a triple bottom line that leaves everyone a winner.
Nancy Sleeth serves as the Program Director for Blessed Earth and is the author of Go Green, Save Green: A Simple guide to saving time, money, and God’s green earth, the first-ever practical guide for going green from a faith perspective.