Posts Tagged ‘workplace’

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on A call to action for sustainability enthusiasts at work


By Brittany Ryan

From launching petitions to marching in protests, I’ve come a long way since my environmental activist days. Though still an advocate, I’ve found a different way to channel passion into action. Through my experiences in both the academic and professional sustainability field, becoming a green leader in the workplace has proven to be a very effective strategy.

The first step in triggering a catalytic force behind any social movement is to be the change. The power of Gandhi’s principles resonates with all of us out there trying to cultivate our lifestyle with the hope of inducing a societal paradigm shift. If a more sustainable world is what we wish to see, we must start by polishing our personal habits.

But the next step to inflicting change is motivating others. Even if you’re still working out the kinks in the process of “greenifying” your life, take a leadership role and transform the status quo. Nothing is more frustrating than a person or motivated group that cries out a problem, relentlessly blaming another party, and yet fails to play an active role in the solution. I’m asking all of you eco-folks out there to take what you know and lead – specifically, at work.gandhi

Start with materials management

Somewhere along the path of development, we failed to acknowledge and incorporate life cycle assessments and holistic supply chain management into our operative norms. This led to poor materials management practices, increasing waste, economic inefficiencies, and environmental degradation. Although our nation’s recycling and recovery practices improved over time, as of 2013 we still send over 50% of our generated materials to a landfill. After accounting for recycling and recovery processes, the top three wasted materials are food, plastic, and paper, respectively. This week, take a look at your office trash and recycling receptacles and you’ll notice those three items comprise a majority of what we toss.jdmmm

Your workplace provides great opportunity to inspire change, and I speak from experience. Since joining my company about a year ago, I’ve made it my mission to lead an internal sustainability initiative. Working diligently with my team, we identify opportunities for improvement, promote educational awareness, and implement real solutions. Our materials management efforts bumped our landfill diversion rate to an impressive 86%. The impact is rippling; the staff is eager to
become more educated on the subject, actively share these practices at home, and offer new ideas for building our internal sustainability operations. Our community relationships evolved as we share similar goals with the municipality and help to promote a local veteran-employed organization.

A leader in the workplace does not need to rely solely on passion and the “do-good” feeling to convince an organization to make changes. Waste, by the very nature of its name, is inefficient. Nationwide, major companies – think Google – are capitalizing on revamping their materials management because it not only builds their public relations, but it makes business sense. Better management of materials allows for cost savings through a reduction in use or repurposing and serves as a potential revenue stream.

Waste is more than just what we send to a landfill. Materials management encompasses the materials coming into the company, the way products are used, and the manner in which they are sorted for discarding. Digging into this process sheds light on a breadth of adjustments that reduce materials use and save the company money, ranging from office supplies to kitchenware to cleaning products and beyond. 

Next steps

Start by taking part of a sustainability committee, and if one doesn’t exist, investigate how to build one. Use a team to brainstorm positive initiatives that benefit both the company and its staff – make that business case! Understand the current operative practices and measure the company’s performance over time. Share ideas and results with the staff at large, and solicit their input as a continuous feedback loop. And definitely always champion successes through newsletters, social media, and other communication channels to give credit where it’s due and motivate others to do the same.



The benefits to leading change in the workplace are multifaceted. Not only does it accomplish altruistic goals of making the word a better place, but also enables you to distinguish yourself amongst a pool of very competitive thought-leaders further advancing professional development. Becoming an agent of change is empowering and as awareness builds and an increasing number of communities (whether a neighborhood, office, or city) manage resources more efficiently, the sooner sustainability transforms from a choice to the everyday norm.

To find out more information about commercial recycling, click here.

Born and raised on the Jersey coast, Brittany became a resident of the DC Metro Area in 2013. She earned her Master of Public Policy from the University of Maryland in 2015 and has since been working for an energy management and sustainability consulting firm in Falls Church, VA. Brittany also has a real knack for pickling cucumbers and making guacamole.

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on Women in the Workplace – Working for Equality

As we celebrate another International Women’s Day, we recognize the many strides of achievement women have made in this world to achieve equality. But one place where we are still far behind, even in our own country, is equality in the workplace.

I have always thought of myself as a pretty good negotiator. When I was younger, I would seek out the local flea markets while on vacation and bargain with the retailers. It was like a game. My prized possession was a single-person hammock was priced at $150, and I walked away with it for $25.

But research and time has proven that women still get the short end of the stick in nearly every aspect of the working world. Paid 77 cents to the male dollar, and holding only 22 percent of all senior management positions, there is still a glass ceiling in this country that prevents women from rising to levels equal to men. The authors of the book “Women Don’t Ask” explain that this arises from the trials and challenges women face with negotiations. Women don’t ask for what they want, and when they do, they ask for less.

There seems to be a simple solution to this dilemma, suggested clearly by the book’s title: simply ask! Just get out of your chair, march to your boss’s office, and ask for what you wants.

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. There are many social and cultural norms that may prevent a woman from asking for what she wants. What’s more, these norms also can negatively affect how she is perceived if she does ask. In the end, the average woman still ends up with less.

At the February bookclub, DC EcoWomen gathered at the ever-delightful Teaism to discuss this paradox.

We came up with several key messages and takeaways to remember.

1. Women need to recognize that the discrimination exists. It never occurs to most women that the starting salary at their first job is negotiable, or that if a promotion opens up they might have to ask instead of hoping their boss recognizes their talents. Do research, be upfront, and ask for what you want instead of hoping that you will get what you deserve.

2. Men need to recognize this, too. Too many dismiss gender discrimination because they don’t see it themselves. But much of this discrimination exists on a subconscious level.

3. Expectations are key. Many research studies have shown that people fulfill what they think is expected of them. If you are expected to do well, you probably will. If you are expected to fail, you are much more likely to do so.

4. Social gender norms are instilled even in early childhood. The expectations stem back to the chores, games, and mannerisms in childhood. When dividing up chores, girls are more likely to do housework – and not get paid – and boys are more likely to do outdoor tasks that they can even do for their neighbors for money. From the outset, many girls and boys are taught different things about the value of what they do.

5. Aggregate your assets. It is important to walk into a negotiation know what you are worth and be able to communicate that to your superior. It is also important to know for yourself, for self-confidence. One really intelligent suggestion that came from the bookclub is to create a “good-jobs folder” in your email account; every time someone sends you an email saying you did well, put it in that folder to reference later.

6. Feminine attributes have value in the workplace. One of the issues that arises when women do negotiate is the risk of seeming over-competitive and aggressive. To overcome this, it is often suggested that women ensure to be friendly, willing to negotiate, and be a team player. To emphasize that she cares about the good of the company, along with her self-interests. In my opinion, these traits are good, and are valuable for any gender.

7. Things are changing. At the end, the ladies felt hopeful. As more women excel in the workforce, there will be a gradual shift in values and norms. To reinforce positivity and work for the benefit of the whole can only have a positive impact in the workforce.

The flea market was a situation where I knew the rules, and was expected to haggle. So I did. Then if I walked away with a great deal, it was fantastic, and if not, it didn’t really matter – I had fun. Matters of business are not so clear, and often have more riding on the line than a hammock-chair. In this case, many things need to change.

The first step to social change is awareness. For now, women can learn about the social norms and use them to their advantage. They can recognize that they might be missing opportunities by not asking, and learn how to negotiate in a way that works for them.

Eventually, expectations will change until equality is the norm. It will take time, but time is always necessary to achieve something so valuable.

If you’re looking to educate yourself further, “Women Don’t Ask” co-author Sarah Laschever has a website of tools, education, and resources for women and negotiation. Check it out here: