The Illinois Green Office Challenge Thursday announced its Top Ten List for sustainability leadership among Central Illinois businesses and organizations. Ten winners from Peoria to Urbana were named as top performers in the friendly competition where employees in area workplaces can participate to save water and energy, and to reduce waste at work.
The overall champion was the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratories (CERL) in Champaign. The Army laboratory (7,011 points) edged out Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District's Administration & Operations Building (6,164 points). The next top score was achieved by Peoria's Charter Coach Plaza with 5,775 points, the first place winner from the Peoria area.
Contestants earned points by completing specific activities to reduce waste and save energy and water which help make resource and cost reductions the norm in our workplaces.
Winners were presented with certificates at a celebration event Thursday at the Champaign Hilton Garden Inn in Champaign.
"Sustainability champions deserve this recognition because they are paving the way for the new normal where wasted resources and lost profits will become unthinkable," said Kevin, O'Brien, director of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), a division of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois. ISTC organized and administered the Challenge, which was launched as a pilot project in Champaign-Urbana, Peoria and Bloomington-Normal this year.
For CERL, "IGOC provided a great mechanism, structure, and support to further define, identify and execute our ongoing sustainability efforts," according to CERL spokesman Michael Jazdyk. "IGOC offered perspective and helped make many things we were already doing more tangible."
"Becoming green, or encouraging sustainability, is the focus of a number of research efforts and activities at CERL," Jazdyk continued. "The IGOC gave us the opportunity to demonstrate that CERL not only researches sustainability, it also strives to incorporate it into its daily business model."
According to Jake Winkler account executive for Peoria Charter Coach the family-owned business has long made a priority of cutting vehicle pollution. "For this competition, it was our employees inside the office's turn to join the revolution," he said. "We have focused on creating an environment that is easier to do environmentally friendly activities such as: recycling, temperature control, and water usage. It has taken a team effort to help give everyone friendly reminders, until the changes become the norm.
"We have all greatly enjoyed our experience with the Green Office Challenge," Winkler said. "It has been a great way to educate our managers and employees on the importance of leaving a smaller carbon footprint. We have been able to work as a team towards a common goal of becoming more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. We have been able to see the culture of our workforce transform into a 'green-thinking' environment."
Everyone must be on-board for real change to occur in the organization," Winkler explained. "The first step is educating everyone on the small steps that we can take that can lead to a big change. We have learned that creating a 'Green Office' does not happen overnight, but with continuous education and resiliency in our positive actions we can make a tremendous impact."
For the Champaign-Urbana Metropolitan Transit District the competition helped make it easy to be green.
"One of our favorite elements of the Challenge was being able to watch the Leaderboard updates as we completed tasks," said Jane Sullivan, CUMTD sustainability planner. "Our Employee Sustainability Committee enjoyed completing tasks together and watching the Leaderboard change."
"Learning about green purchasing, energy management, and water management were all very interesting to us," Sullivan said. "Understanding these elements of sustainability will definitely produce continuing benefits."
"Urbana High School was able to use the Challenge in their Environmental Studies class," Bart Bartels, IGOC program manager, said of the top scoring school. "Students analyzed the waste stream and used 'kill-a-watt' meters to measure plug load.The Challenge categories were a close match to the syllabus that was already in place."
"The Illinois Green Office Challenge is an effort to extend the benefits of the successful Chicago Green Office Challenge to the rest of the state," Bartels of ISTC.
Bartels acknowledged the support of the Peoria County Office of Sustainability, the Economic Development Council for Central Illinois, the Delta Institute, and the University of Illinois Extension for the successful launch of the Green Office Challenge.
With the completion of this first year's Challenge and the announcement of the winners, a new challenge for offices across Central Illinois as well as other communities will begin in the fall, he added. "Our hope is to make this opportunity available to more and more of the state," he added.