Getting buy in
Educating board & staff
Changing behavior doesn't happen over night. Even sustainability colleagues talk about their own seemingly simple stumbling blocks — driving instead of walking a short distance to work, or using paper instead of cloth napkins at home. Enlist the help of a local sustainability colleague who can provide staff and board with an overview of ideas or read Fostering Sustainable Behavior or other books on marketing social change.
For smaller institutions, looking at several sustainable design frameworks will help you get organized, particularly The Natural Step Framework (TNS). The website is full of great information on getting started, but attending a conference on their methodology is even better. TNS has institutionalized strategies for moving organizations large and small toward sustainable practices and routinely holds national and international workshops.
Sustainability must be viewed as an institutional agenda, not one department's agenda. Develop a cross departmental team that can decide priority areas for getting started. Give the green team authority to implement some changes immediately, and have them communicate back with the rest of the staff on a regular basis. Have them list other actions that need further research, as well as ideas that need additional resources and investigation.
In order to keep interest high, sustainability needs to be a priority that comes from the CEO with regular reinforcement for all staff. This could mean making sure every staff meeting has at least a few minutes devoted to sustainability progress in each department, or other ways to keep the agenda on people's radar.
Above all, encourage this to be a fun process that doesn't add extra work to people's busy days. Start with the low hanging fruit, small things that can be accomplished quickly, efficiently, and with minimal effort. Use the list below as a starting point, or come up with your own. Implement a more efficient recycling program, add a worm composting bin in the kitchen, or switch to zero-VOC paints. Many of the long term goals of sustainability are far reaching, with no answers in sight. Starting small with attainable goals will help people feel engaged and successful right away. Click here for a quick list of ten things you could implement right away.
Find Ways to Measure Results
If you really want people to be engaged, it will be important to be able to measure results. Quantify how much money you saved by buying building materials in bulk, or how much gas you saved by doing errands by bicycle, or by how much construction waste you saved from the landfill by designing for reuse. Many organizations and corporations have developed an environmental barometer, assessment tools or environmental indexes to chart progress and changes, while others have simply reported on costs of projects over their lifetime, comparing their sustainable projects to regular exhibit projects.
For small organizations like ours, we've been able to calculate cost savings per square foot over time, amount of money saved by buying in bulk, and other simple measurements, including visitor satisfaction surveys. We have also worked with an outside environmental firm that is specifically set up to measure and quantify environmental impacts and amounts of resources saved. While even modest in scope, its important to know what you want to measure and why.
Corporate and non-profit organizations all over the world are writing and adopting sustainability statements, as business leaders recognize the enormous business advantages that go along with becoming a green organization. Many organizations have rewritten their main mission statements to incorporate sustainability as a guiding principle, while others have simply added a sustainability mission, guiding principles, or values to their existing mission statement.
In either case, the important step is the process of creating the mission statement, and getting other people engaged in the process along the way. Here are a few examples:
If you aren't at a place yet where you can institutionalize a sustainability mission, start with sustainability goals for one project. After the project has been successful, it will help support the case for an institutional sustainability mission. The Children's Museum Boston and the Children's Museum of Naples have clear goals for their expansion or exhibit projects.