The ideas of sustainability, eco-friendliness, and energy-efficiency became a part of our lives some time ago. Today they can reach their full potential on our campus with the Green PolyU Awards – Green Office programme. This programme is the pivotal scheme for The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) for recognizing various offices for their contribution to resource efficiency and reducing negative environmental impacts. It builds a unique platform and brings about opportunities to meet and network with colleagues who are forward-thinking and championing sustainability across campus.
“With staff members becoming increasingly aware of the importance of environmental sustainability, this year saw the greater involvement of offices and staff actively playing their parts. Their contributions were truly remarkable and showcased the strength of the green community we have here,” says Mr. Joseph Chan, Head, Campus Sustainability.
To hallmark the achievements of the offices, the 2018/19 Green PolyU Awards – Green Office Programme Presentation Ceremony was held on 4 June 2019 to thank colleagues for their hard work and enthusiasm.
Implementing green practices at offices, no matter the size
General Education Centre (GEC) is the Bronze Award winner, and Mr. Jackson Cho is the Centre’s Green Officer who is passionate about embracing environmental sustainability. When implementing sustainability strategies and green practices may appear an overwhelming thought to small or medium-sized offices, Jackson thinks differently. “Our office is quite small, but that doesn’t prevent us from taking steps towards being more sustainable. A small office like ours sees greater flexibility and more opportunities to adapt and build up on the green measures across colleagues to act on sustainability. It is more efficient to get our green messages communicated clearly. It is easier to bring in new proposals to green the office as we can make decisions promptly with fewer people involved.”
GEC proves that office size should not pose any hindrance to going green. It is the mentality of the staff determines. It is important to align and connect everyone in the office on the green journey. Various communication channels like emails and monthly staff meeting are the good vehicles to touch on sustainability concepts among staff within GEC. Notices are present to remind staff about preferred green practices. “The size of our office is small, but credits should go to the whole team of like-minded colleagues who are willing to be part of the green movement. Besides, senior management is very willing to support us. He shows green lights to new ideas to green the office and has no hesitation to spend money on getting in new equipment and renovating our room to achieve higher energy-efficiency. Our office administrators make their office decisions and purchases with the environment in mind. Our teammates are becoming more eco-conscious than before and are mindful of their habits. And we can always count on the University’s relevant policies and guidelines for information and suggestions,” Jackson says.
Interacting with students regularly, Jackson believes there is a need to motivate the students and help cultivate their sustainability values and attitudes. “It takes time to broaden students’ knowledge and improve their attitude for protecting the environment. They need to know they can make good choices of their actions today without impeding that of the future generation.” GEC has therefore arranged specially-tailored visits and workshops for students – to landfills, plastic sorting centre, and T-Park – and bring about a good lesson on sustainability out of the classroom.
It needs 4C to be green
Human Resources Office (HRO) is the winner of the Silver Award this year, and it is the only office winning an award under the Green Office programme for the third time in a row. HRO upholds the ‘4C’ principle in their office green movement – Commitment, Communication, Convenience, and Culture – and that is the reason for its success.
“The go-green momentum is strong here,” Miss Lily Yeh, the Green Officer of HRO comments. She considers this achievement is a result of the commitment and cooperation from the senior management and colleagues of all levels. “We have both top-down and bottom-up approaches to green our office. Senior management provides clear direction and instructions for change; colleagues are happy to put them into practice by suggesting green initiatives.”
HRO values communication and staff involvement in this green journey. Induction is arranged to new HRO appointees for explaining its green aspirations. Regular meetings with team representatives are held to share useful tips and discussions on environmental issues. Energy-saving signs are found near the switches of lights and electrical appliances, and reminders on water and paper saving are presented in pantry and copy machine rooms. Besides, there are posters with sustainability messages such as tips on staying healthier with more exercises and reduce carbon footprint with veggie diets.
Green practices are made convenient for colleagues by changing business practices, office settings, and the use of technologies. Lily further explains, “We now print the appointment letters double-sided and stop sending copies of acknowledgement letters to departments for part-time appointments. We introduce network printers to replace around 40 stand-alone printers, and we review the paper usage of individual colleague regularly. Furthermore, we have implemented electronic filing solutions like the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) system to manage and store our documents, and we have adopted One-drive for sharing job applications with departments. Guidelines and training are in place to help colleagues to get familiar with the new systems.”
The green culture and values among HRO staff are evident in multiple areas. Colleagues have the same green vision and clear goals towards sustainability, both at work and for personal daily habits. They acquire different brands of eco-friendly recycled paper for copy machines, reuse promotion materials, and even recycle the second-hand materials obtained from other departments as the decorations for the University events. They have their mugs for meetings and food containers for lunch purchase at the canteen. Some of them join sports classes during lunchtime and after work. Their behaviors tell one thing – we need to develop green habits, both at work and at home. Once we continue such habits for long time enough, they will become our second nature that we will not even think about them before we act.
Staff expertise and technologies help
Industrial Centre (IC) wins the Silver Award. Its success is no accident. It's a result of days and weeks and years of constant work and dedication in putting all possible green practices into operation. “Cutting down paper usage is our primary concern,” says Dr Wai Hon-wah, Associate Director of IC. “We used to be heavy paper users as we need to print handouts for students and loads of reports, forms, and booking records. In around two years ago, we came up with the decision to reduce paper usage. We established a dedicated task force on this and carried out a paper audit – the result shocked us. Shortly afterwards, colleagues across various teams and workshops were asked to streamline their work process and look for ways to cut down paper gradually. Thanks to their determination and creativity, we made use of some ready systems and came up with new ideas to tackle this challenge.” Besides applying electronic platforms and document management solutions, thoughts were given to enhance printing efficiency, and the printing of handouts was abandoned eventually to eliminate paper use. Tablets were brought to the hands of the students to take e-quiz, and online systems such as eSFQ and PolyU Form Service were used to collect feedback. Electronic alternatives were chosen to replace conventional paper-based facilities booking practices. “In the end, we witnessed a 60% drop in paper usage, and that tells all of us can manage and use paper wisely.”
IC draws upon the expertise of a wide range of experts whose collective wisdom and experience represent an extraordinary resource and creativity to realize appropriate green measures. “The strong engineering background of most of our staff is an advantage,” says Ms. Sally Chan, the Green Officer of IC. “Our engineers are self-motivated to behave in environmentally responsible ways. They are open to new ideas and innovations to green the work environment.” Knowing well how technology can help monitor and improve environmental parameters, its Electronic Intelligence Workshop and Smart Energy Workshop have been renovated recently with the adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) to control and monitor energy supply and consumption. Smart plugs are installed in some electronic workbenches to control the electricity supply and monitor electricity consumption. Smart lighting control system and smart power meters are installed to control lighting automatically and monitor energy consumption. User awareness on power utilization is also raised via the interactive energy demand display. On average, electricity consumption can be saved around 120kWh per month.
“On top of all, we run regular meetings to broadcast to all about our environmental performance. We have dedicated corners to facilitate sharing of office resources and materials among colleagues to drive reusing. We also promote the sharing of knowledge and skills in both official occasions and social gatherings to facilitate the green office management.” Sally explains.
Act green at work and adopt the same in daily life
“We didn’t think it was unusual: sustainability has become automatic among our colleagues,” Mr. Daniel Suen, Director of Campus Development, says. He leads the Campus Development Office (CDO) to scoop the Gold Award this year. “We have a focus group that consists of 7 staff members coming from both administrative and technical teams to take lead in the green movement. We examine all aspects of green office in details, and we implement real and practical solutions to go green in our work. We are careful to investigate what can be done and improved. I am confident to say sustainability is embedded into our office’s core culture.”
CDO supervises and leads capital projects on campus. Staff members put environmentally responsible principles and resource-efficient considerations in all processes of design, construction, operation to maintenance. The office is also building momentum that supports better business practices through green technologies. Different measures and equipment are in place to encourage efficient printing and paper saving. Going further, e-tendering approach is one excellent step that CDO takes to care more for the environment and save the precious paper resource. It is anticipated that the transition from using the ordinary paper-based to e-tendering process could cut down paper usage significantly.
There are endless ways to create a greener workplace. Staff members of the office show no hesitation to take appropriate actions to conserve energy, save resources, reduce waste generation, and advance sustainability. “We take environmental matters into account in our decisions and operations. We want our colleagues to align our values with sustainable objectives, know how these values matter to us, develop them into personal habits, and gradually bring to share with our families and peers,” Daniel adds. Ms. Margaret Lam and Ms. Emma Yu, the Green Officers of CDO, shared the same idea. “We have multiple channels like induction programs and regular meetings to further improve understanding of environmental issues amongst all staff. We also work to motivate our colleagues and highlight good practices in our social gatherings and communications. More importantly, we want our colleagues to act green at work and adopt the same practices to every aspect of their life.
In addition to having reminders, signs and notices are posted around the office to remind everyone about the need to stay green. Also, having plants in the office means more than a relief from labor-intensive and stressful tasks to staff – it demonstrates an innovative idea to reuse expired safety helmets as planters!
The good examples from these winning offices tell sustainability in the workplace is more than using energy-saving bulbs and recycling bins. In fact, it is a holistic approach to creating a general sense of wellbeing for the entire office. It caters to both people and the environment.