From retiring electric pencil sharpeners to car pooling, Douglas County employees will be competing over the next six weeks to see who is the greenest of them all.
Nine months ago, the county created a sustainability team to look at ways staff could help save energy and money. To encourage its employees to become more environmentally friendly and to practice sustainability both at home and at work, the county is holding its first ever Green Games.
Employers will be competing in five areas: energy conservation, transportation, waste reduction, food and community, and spreading the word.
“We want to do things that are readily transferable to the home,” Douglas County sustainability coordinator Eileen Horn said of the competition’s goal.
In the coming weeks, departments will be asked to eliminate Styrofoam and paper products and to replace them with ceramic coffee mugs, real plates and silverware. One week, employees will be encouraged to walk, bike or carpool to work. Another week will have staff taking photos of dishes made with local produce and departments holding either a food drive or a potluck meal with local foods.
Employees also are being asked to add a note to their email signature requesting that the reader not print the message.
“These are low entry and easy for staff to participate, so they could dip their toes into green waters if they wanted to,” Horn said.
Among the quirkier events the county will hold is an energy hog retirement party, where staff will say goodbye to rarely used energy consuming appliances. The items that will be departing are electric pencil sharpeners, space heaters, unused desktop printers and plug-in calculators. Like all good retirement parties, cookies and punch will be served and the appliances will be thanked for their service.
“We are very aware of the fact that people bristle when you say ‘we are going to take away your space heater.’ But if you find a fun, engaging way to do it, then it doesn’t feel like an imposition,” Horn said.
So far participation has been high. Almost 50 percent of county employees have taken a quiz that tests their green IQ.
The Green Games won’t involve any medals, but there are prizes. Those who participate in each week’s green challenge have their names entered in a raffle for four hours of paid time off. And the winner of each departmental challenges gets coffee and bagels.