A group of committed staff and faculty have been meeting once a term for several years in order to discuss ways they can make their workplaces more sustainable. OSU’s Sustainability Advocate program helps employees become sustainability contacts within their departments and units, providing a chance to learn new information about sustainability through their network and share that broadly with others.

“We want to have some representation from every college and unit on campus,” said Brandon Trelstad, sustainability coordinator at OSU. “We are looking for people with a personal passion about sustainability.”

While ideally the participants would have some role in decision making and purchasing within their units, the group is open to anyone hoping to make a tangible difference in how OSU operates as a green university.

“There are tons of choices happening every day within offices and departments that impact sustainability,” Trelstad said, whether it be choosing to purchase office supplies from Campus Surplus rather than a retailer, or how many employees utilize recycling bins in their break rooms.

“Sustainability Advocates are serving as a communication mechanism to get new ideas and opportunities out to their units,” Trelstad said.

For Tanya Andersson, OSU parking specialist, becoming a Sustainability Advocate has helped her learn how she and her co-workers can make small changes that make a difference.

“We have a worm bin in our building,” Andersson said. “I often tell my office mates what I am feeding to the worms, and I’m trying to get using the worm bin to become second nature. I’m going to be removing some of the dirt from the worm bin and will be offering it to my office mates.”

Through the meetings, and the Sustainability Office listserv, Andersson has become aware of sustainability related events and shared them in her office. And she said a lot of the work is simply making people more mindful about their actions.

“Just because we are at work does not mean we should not turn off the lights when we leave an empty room,” she said. “Think about printing off that meeting agenda, can you pull it up on your smart phone? I have also started riding the Beaver Bus when I need to get across campus to meetings or events.”

Andersson has even offered up her sewing skills to co-workers to help them make clothing last a little longer. Every bit counts.

Samantha Walter is a student employee who works on the Sustainability Advocates Program, and said there are a myriad of ways in which little changes can impact an office’s sustainability.

“There are a variety of tasks one can do in their workplace that vary in difficulty,” she said. “Departments can store reusable dishes in their break room instead of using disposables, make sure the lights aren’t on when no one is around, commute to work sustainably, and help spread the word about these ideas to others.”

Walter said participants benefit from more than just gaining information on sustainability.

“I think that whenever the faculty gets together as a group to discuss a bigger picture, there is a sense of community that is established,” she said. “It’s great to hear about what all the departments are doing no matter if it relates to sustainability or not. ”

Trelstad is currently looking for more participants from colleges or units not already represented. For a current list of Advocates: http://fa.oregonstate.edu/sustainability/osu-sustainability-advocates.

If you’re interested in participating, email him at brandon.trelstad@oregonstate.edu.

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