By Katya Lobanova | May 27, 2015

Meetings are a way of life at the University of Washington. Informational meetings, brainstorming sessions, presentations, planning meetings, staff huddles… the list goes on.

Meeting etiquette can be strongly ingrained into your office culture, but some UW offices are transforming the way meetings are conducted – whether it’s reducing paper use or introducing a new video conferencing system to eliminate unnecessary office trips.

The UW Green Office Certification Program sets sustainability standards for UW workplaces, encouraging staff members to practice energy and paper conservation, waste diversion, alternative transportation, and green meetings. We reached out to some of our sustainability superstars whose offices scored highly on the Green Meetings section of the certification and asked them for their tips on greening their meeting practices.

At the Office of Research, one of the most important steps was cutting paper use by providing meeting materials electronically, and cutting out personal printers in favor of three centralized printers to save the department money on printing vendor and supply costs.  

“Our IT folks coordinated our printing scheme,” said Matt Orefice, manager of special projects for the Office of Research. “They’ve made it very easy to print, save, share and distribute electronic files, which has dramatically cut our paper output.”

The Dean’s Office in the College of the Environment also advocates for reducing paper use. Instead of printouts, they distribute meeting notes and related documents electronically. The office also cuts down on waste associated with meeting refreshments.

"We provide pitchers of water instead of plastic water bottles and we use real dishes and silverware instead of disposable.,” said Suzanne Zitzer, Executive Assistant to the Associate Deans in the College of the Environment. "And we make sure that as little food as possible is wasted (aka feeding it to the rest of the office)!”

In addition, the Dean’s Office encourages off-site workers to call in or use the college’s video conferencing system instead of making a special trip to the office, which cuts unnecessary transportation.

For Housing and Food Services, waste diversion and having compost, trash and recycling options available is an important part of making meetings as green as possible.

“We host a wide variety of people in our conference rooms year around – residents, UW faculty and staff, visiting guests, and summer conference guests,” said Henrietta Cottingham, HFS Administrative Coordinator. “We understand that we not only reflect the HFS sustainability mission, but also the University’s."

What does your office do to practice green meetings?