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Green Line Series | Google [e]Team

Kati KallinsDuring this installment of the Green Line Series, we had the opportunity to interview Kati Kallins of Google’s [e]Team: Environmental Design and Construction Projects. She will be joining us on March 30 during the session, The Business Case for High Performance and Deep Green Buildings.

Kallins is on Google’s Real Estate and Workplace Services [e]Team, which is charged with delivering exceptional environments, experience and ecology on Google buildings. She has led sustainable design and construction projects with teams in North America, Europe, and Africa. Using her in-depth expertise on healthy building materials, indoor environmental quality metrics, and strategic communications, she works with project teams to deliver innovative office spaces that promote health and productivity.

GoGreen: There is a lot of buzz around high performance or “green” building right now. What high performance projects has Google completed recently in the Seattle area/WA state?

Kati Kallins: In 2016 Google open two new buildings and doubled the size of our Kirkland Campus, now totaling over 375,000 square feet. Google leases the space from SRMKII, LLC, who built the new space to Google’s sustainability specifications, including targeting LEED platinum certification.

The new building is on a site that formerly housed a chemical mixing and packaging plant. After completing an environmental cleanup in 2012, Google’s property developer, SRMKII, at Google’s request, conducted a second cleanup to voluntarily surpass state standards and remove all detectable remaining contamination at the property, even small pockets of chemicals, at concentrations safely below state cleanup levels. The Washington Department of Ecology has called the cleanup “cleaner than clean” and plans to remove the area from the state’s contaminated sites list.

The new high performance office buildings in Kirkland are designed with a focus on indoor environmental quality (IEQ), efficient resource use, and superior user experience. The new buildings were designed to “bring in the outdoors” because these design features have been proven to improve the health and productivity of occupants. Since people spend 90% of their time indoors this focus is paramount to creating Google’s exciting workplaces. With features like a sky bridge, public park, green roof, vegetative screens, and patios the building achieves Google’s goal to be a vibrant and restorative place to work. A portion of wood used in the office also was harvested from timber felled on-site during construction, so local natural materials can be found throughout.  All interior office furnishings also meet Google’s stringent IEQ Healthy Materials Program that vets building products for health and transparency criteria. The office uses resources efficiently onsite through a rainwater cistern that will reduce potable water use by 76% and a chilled beam HVAC system that will save 55% more energy than a traditional building HVAC system.

GoGreen: How do Google’s goals and values align with its green building strategy?

Kati Kallins: Google has always aspired to be a globally conscious company that is focused on improving the lives of our users and contributing positively to the world’s toughest issues. Doing the right thing and a standard of excellence are part of our fabric at Google – and our green building strategy is an extension of those values.

We work hard to create the healthiest, most productive work environment for our employees. To do that we approach buildings as living systems, designing for natural light and clear air, designing out harmful man-made chemicals, and using natural resources more intelligently. Our approach goes hand-in-hand with our commitment to designing buildings that are sustainable for local and global ecosystems.

We believe that a healthy work environment and a sustainable world begin with transparency and cooperation.  Our focus on creating healthy environments begins with vetting building materials through our Healthy Materials Program.   At Google’s offices worldwide, we put all building products through a rigorous screening process to determine which adhere to our healthy building standards—and we purchase the products that best meet our stringent criteria.

Yet our green building initiatives don’t stop with the building materials in our offices. We make every effort to address the factors that impact people’s experience of indoor environments, such as thermal comfort, daylight and access to views. We also provide aggressive performance benchmarks for energy and water consumption. We use sophisticated building control technologies to ensure systems are on only when we need them. We’ve installed solar electric and solar hot water panels on our roofs, treated water on-site for reuse, and used recycled municipal wastewater for other applications (e.g. toilet flushing and landscape watering). We have the aspirational goal of diverting 99% of construction waste from our projects. Google’s green building strategy is focused on cultivating extraordinary human experiences in the built environment through focusing on the experience of building occupants to optimize health and performance of employees.

GoGreen: Google places a lot of emphasis on helping employees perform at their best. How can small and medium size businesses apply a similar focus to their green building strategies and/or office environments?

Kati Kallins: The strength of Google’s green building program comes from its foundation in our company’s unique philosophy and values. Our initiatives and real estate philosophy are really an extension of our core values as a company. We value our employees as a key part of our success as a company.  So it makes sense that many of our green building initiatives are focused on helping our employees be their best. Our goal as a company is to have happy, healthy, high -performing employees.

For example, at Google our employees work hard to write software code and solve user problems with our products. To help reduce stress in their already chaotic lives we focus on building an office space that improves their health and productivity. For example, research has shown that access to views reduces cortisol levels in the brain (a stress hormone), so we strive to give employees access to daylight and views wherever possible. Our Healthy Materials program also focuses on optimizing indoor air quality by reducing off-gassing materials in the space –  a major health impact for employees. By using water efficient fixtures and purchasing renewable energy for our building operations Google signals our belief in conservation of resources. This is a company principal that many employees take pride in, so the benefits are wide-reaching. Our green building strategy is built around this goal of optimizing the workplace for employees and acting as stewards of the natural ecosystems we live in. This strategy is synonymous with our company culture and aspirations to make the world a better place.

To find out more about sustainability at Google’s Campus Operations, visit their website.

Event Details: GoGreen Seattle, brought to you by King County, will take place Wednesday, March 30, 2016 at the Conference Center located at Eighth Avenue and Pike Street in Seattle, Washington. Tickets are available at seattle.gogreenconference.net or via phone at 206.459.0595.

 

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GoGreen ’11 Portland Green Line Series: George Northcroft on What Happens When The Federal Government Goes Green

The U.S. Government is the largest landowner in the world—so when they decide to go green, it amounts to huge impact. In this week’s Green Line Series, U.S. General Services Administration’s Northwest/Arctic Regional Administrator, George Northcroft, tells us how greening the government’s supply chain is driving a more sustainable economy in Oregon and beyond.

GoGreen Conference: When the government decides to green its supply chain—what does that encompass? How far is GSA going in terms of implementing sustainable best practices?
George Northcroft: GSA is looking at the big picture of our carbon footprint, and that includes the supply chain. Right now, we are looking at how we can incorporate sustainability requirements into our supply chain contracts. While we’re still working out the details, this would likely mean asking our suppliers to provide a greenhouse gas inventory of their own emissions, for GSA to use in procurement decisions. We are currently doing a pilot program called the GreenGov Supply Chain Partnership to work with industry to learn the best way to do this.

GG: The U.S. Government is naturally a huge consumer of goods, services and raw resources. How do your choices impact the overall supply chain of sustainable goods in this country?
GN: In our region alone – Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska – GSA leases or owns more than 600 office buildings, and procures $10 billion in goods and services each year. We have enormous leverage on the supply chain, and are using our purchasing power to encourage businesses to make more sustainable goods and services available, since there is an tremendous Federal market seeking them.

GG: Do you believe that GSA and other large organizations have a greater weight to pull in shifting the paradigm towards a green economy because your potential for impact is so much greater than most? If so, what kind of role is GSA pursuing and how?
GN: As the world’s biggest landlord and purchaser of goods and services, we have a special obligation to lead the shift to a green economy. In green building, we have established a Green Proving Ground project where innovative green-building technologies are being tested at Federal buildings across the country and the agency is learning more about those technologies to apply them elsewhere. We also manage the Federal vehicle fleet, and have been making steady progress toward greening our vehicles. In the last two years, we’ve moved the Federal fleet to 50% alternative fuel vehicles and that number is still increasing. We are conducting a 100-vehicle pilot of electric vehicles (Chevy Volts and Nissan Leafs, and Thinks) across the country to learn how electric vehicles can work in the government setting. As stewards of taxpayers dollars, the governments needs to be on the cutting edge and I think we are doing a good job of leveraging our purchasing power while making sound financial choices in a lean budget environment.

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PDX 2010 Green Line Series: Brewing up a Green Storm With Ann Widmer

Ann Widmer GoGreen ConferenceWidmer Brothers Brewing Company is a Portland institution and a national ambassador of our beer culture. But they’re also doing a lot to promote sustainability as an important—and profitable—part of being a business in the 21st century. The Chair of Widmers’  Sustainability Committee and GoGreen Portland 2010 speaker, Ann Widmer, chats with us about their values, how they implement sustainable initiatives and where the conversation needs to go from here.

GoGreen: Widmer is a staple of the Portland community and an ambassador for the region in other areas of the country and world. How does your team tackle that responsibility as far as sustainability is concerned?
Ann Widmer:
We take sustainability seriously, but we also have fun with it. I should say that sustainability, to us, is not just about the environment. We include financial, social, and employee responsibility as well. So, as our CFO reminds me, we must be fiscally responsible, so that we can afford our environmental programs. We are also in the process of becoming an ISO 14001 company, which helps us build a management structure that supports sustainable practices in our breweries and our restaurants like the Gasthaus.

GG: How does Widmer leverage its overall success and success with sustainable ventures specifically, and roll it into the narrative that you’re building for the company?
AW:
It’s a part of our brand. It’s become who we are—authentic–not just a line in our brochure.  It includes the fact that Kurt and Rob [Widmer] were and continue to be incredibly honest about sustainability.

There are these parts of your brand that illustrate who you are as people and what you believe in. For us, sustainability is one piece of that, along with honesty and quality. So if the beer isn’t up to our standard or that of the tasting panel, we don’t sell it. We’re also innovating in sustainable ways. I know these are really old values, and they probably sound really hokey, but they’re important to us.

GG: Brewing beer is a very technical business. There are a lot of intricacies and complexity built into your value chain. What have been some of your challenges in taking sustainability to scale and how did you craft solutions that fit your business?
AW:
There are many levels on which we try to implement sustainability in our company. The first is all of the things our employees do. I’m really fortunate—I didn’t have to ‘sell’ sustainability to our employees. I get more suggestions from employees on what we can do to be more sustainable in a year than we can possibly ever do. And they’re really good ideas that usually don’t cost a ton. So we try to keep all our employees engaged, because they’re so valuable in this process. We are presently working on a system to support and reward employees for their contributions, and I would welcome any advice from others about how best to do this.

The other thing is that I’ve always had executive backing for the bigger things that have to do with our distribution chain and brewing operation such as our usage of natural gas, electricity and water. We’re really proud of the fact that we have one of the lowest water to beer ratios in the craft brewing industry. Those are big initiatives that go through multiple departments and the executive team, because they often require expenditures and changes in the way people work.

GG: You went into how you engage your employees in this direction, but how do you engage the broader Widmer community in these initiatives?
AW:
We recycle everything at our events and in the Widmer Gasthaus. We also support other causes that are working to enhance the environment  through donations to other organizations that support sustainability. There’s this cyclical effect. It’s not just about us. We try not to throw things out into the community that represent our work poorly, or are not sustainable. We have point-of-sale touch points—everything from the beer labels, packing materials, cups, and wearables We  try to make sure that as many of those are biodegradable or recyclable as possible.

GG: Do you feel that in Portland and the Northwest (and maybe a few select other areas around the US) that there is a growing expectation that companies be sustainable? And if so, do you think that kind of peer pressure is a good thing?
AW:
Yes—Usually incentives are good, because they raise awareness. I have no problem with people asking me, ’how much water do you use?’ or ‘what do you do with your spent grain?’ The key, to me at least, is whether or not companies can demonstrate what they do through monitoring and metrics. We do very extensive monitoring on all of our energy use, our water use, recycling and transportation costs.

I think the consumer is starting to demand this kind of behavior from businesses. The other thing is that we sell beer from coast to coast. I think it becomes our job in the Northwest to be a beacon on this issue. I mean, not become the environmental police, but Oregon products that do hold high standards turn into ambassadors of sorts.

GG: What advice can you give to a business owner that wants to take things up a notch and get their business to a darker shade of green? What do you tell a business that’s already using recycled paper and off-setting their energy use with renewable energy credits (RECs)—what’s the next step for them?
AW:
Many businesses are doing a great job—some much better than us, but I would suggest getting in touch with the Portland’s BEST Business Center and requesting someone come out and do a site appraisal. They are not going to tell you how bad a job you’re doing. They’re really good at taking a snapshot of where you are and pointing out places where you can improve. They can tell you what is feasible within your budget and can even help you prioritize.

Maybe something you were looking into doing wouldn’t have much effect, but another initiative that is about the same in cost would have a much bigger impact. They can help you understand what will get you the most bang for your buck, and can often recommend resources that are available to help you.

The other thing I would suggest is to recognize that many components of sustainability are not very expensive in the long run. There are some things you can’t do—we couldn’t buy every employee an electric car, for example—but many initiatives are ultimately good for your bottom line. I think it’s important to make those choices now—particularly in this economy. This is a newer concept in accountability that also considers the “top line” value of long-term sustainability.

GG: You mentioned at the beginning of our conversation that sustainability is about more than just the environment. Where do you think the conversation on sustainability—as it becomes more sophisticated—needs to go and what are the issues the green business community needs to tackle in order to make progress?
AW:
That’s so complex. It’s a book! One is to realize that sustainability has to be global. I think we’ve passed the point where acting locally is the only thing we need do. That’s still important, but we have to recognize there are decisions we’re making, politically and financially, as a country, that are having global environmental impacts.

And locally, we are in a tough economy and people need jobs. We need green employment opportunities—ways to transfer the technology and knowledge from the present working generation to the next.

I also think that universities need to find ways to bring environmental and social responsibility into all areas of their course work, rather than just a few select areas. It should be a thread that runs through the humanities, the sciences, health care, business, etc. in order to instill a greater respect for the diversity of people and our planet.

GG: What can business owners do to help push the process? Is it to focus on ourselves and do our own thing? Or do we need to get more involved?
AW:
I think business owners influence more than their own companies  by their choices—both upstream and downstream. For instance, we influence it by selecting vendors who enact sustainable principles and use green products.  Increasingly there are certification processes in place to rely on. When you select those vendors who are investing in certification and sustainable actions, you are encouraging people who want your business to participate in best practices.

Businesses buy as well as sell. If we can’t know the genesis of a product because it’s made in a place we can’t environmentally monitor, then I think we have to reconsider that purchase even if the price is less. If companies keep engaging in this cycle, everyone will eventually have to improve, and at some point that becomes the standard. The Northwest is further along in their expectations that businesses be sustainable.

GG: Anything else you want to add before we wrap up?
AW:
I just want to emphasize how important it is to be in sync with what your employees believe and what they want. You are far more likely to be successful if you start with what your employees value and believe in. Listening is the key, then prioritizing and choosing what people want to do and can afford to do. We’ve been really lucky to have employees and a sustainability committee who are passionate about their company, their community and the environment. They really are the heart of our efforts.

Ann Widmer is the Chair of Widmer Brothers Sustainability Committee and Emeritus Professor at Concordia University’s School of Management. She is also a featured speaker at the GoGreen Conference 2010 in Portland, Oregon on October 5, 2010. To register for GoGreen Conference 2010 Portland, please visit: http://www.portland.gogreenconference.net/registration. GoGreen ‘09 sold out, so make sure to sign up soon!

To learn more about Ann Widmer and Widmer Brothers Brewing Company, visit: http://www.widmer.com. Follow them on Twitter at: @Widmer_Brothers.

The Green Line Series: Anne Weaver, Elephants Delicatessen

09speaker_AnneWeaverAnne Weaver has been a Portland business owner for 30 years. In that time, she’s pushed the home-grown Elephants Delicatessen to soaring heights as an exemplary sustainable business. With four locations, Elephants is dishing their hand-made green menu to a grateful crowd of eco-minded citizens and picking up some sustainable bling along the way. In this episode of The Green Line Series, Weaver details the advantages and challenges of being a small business with a deep commitment to sustainability, points out the importance of engaging your employees and community, and reminds us that the little things add up to big results.

GG: You’re a small business owner. In what ways does working on a smaller scale help you achieve sustainability faster than a big corporation?
AW: One great thing about being a small business like Elephants Delicatessen is that there aren’t too many layers between the people who make our fresh foods every day and those who run the company. In a large corporation it could take quite an effort for one employee to be heard, but here at Elephants everyone from the top down is interacting with all of our employees daily. This is especially important for our managers because they very quickly can let upper management know when someone has a suggestion or a great idea. Sometimes something as simple as a tiny tweak in our kitchen can equal huge returns in terms of sustainability.

We also have a Green Team that is made up of employees from all levels and departments. These team members become ambassadors of our company’s message and help spread the word throughout the company. Because we’re small, our staff pretty well knows each other by name. That is really important for us. We’re not a business where everyone sits at a computer and reads company emails. We’re working together, face to face, every day, and that means we don’t have too much of a delay from suggestion to implementation.

GG: On the flip side, what are some road blocks to being sustainable that you’ve run into as a small business? How have you overcome them?
AW: Elephants Delicatessen is in a unique position in that we are not too small, but we’re not the big dogs either. If you’re a paper supplier and Starbucks wants a certain type of compostable cup, the suppliers can’t wait to make it happen. A business of our size can ask, but at the end of the day, the bigger account may get more attention. Instead, what we have chosen to do is work to forge strong relationships with vendors. We outline our own sustainability goals and ask them to partner with us in meeting them.

GG: How does making your food from scratch provide an advantage to Elephants in terms of keeping things green?
AW: The closer you are to your food, the more control you have over its impact on the environment. One example is reduced packaging on the front end because we buy individual ingredients such as flour, sugar and butter. Then, we use those bulk ingredients to make our own breads, cakes, cookies and pastries. Since the finished products are made fresh daily, we use minimal – if any – packaging to transport foods to our retail stores. These simple steps save a lot of unwanted waste.

GG: What are some of the most important, most impactful components of your business that help you be more sustainable (recycling, power conservation, etc.)
AW: In the food business, composting is huge. It sounds like such a small thing, everyone’s doing it in their backyard, right? Well, when you produce the volume of food that we do, every day, it adds up to a lot of waste. We have compost bins throughout our kitchens, and we train staff about what food waste can go into those bins.

Energy conservation is another huge opportunity for us. Through PGE’s Clean and Green program, the electricity used to power our entire operation is generated from wind farms in Oregon and Washington. We also purchase high efficiency food service equipment through Energy Trust of Oregon, and energy efficient fluorescent light bulbs from Pacific Lighting.

GG: How viable is purchasing wind power for small businesses? Is it affordable?
AW: As we mentioned, we participate in PGE’s Clean and Green program. That means 100 percent of our power is generated from a renewable source – wind farms in Oregon and Washington. One challenge small businesses can face is determining how to make the switch to wind power when you are one tenant in a large building. We fought that fight, and we’re proud we did. We think it helps raise awareness for everyone involved.

Wind power was more expensive when we first signed up, but we assumed power rates would rise in general. We were right, and we are proud to have been among the first local businesses to pursue wind power.

GG: Has being an award-winning sustainable business helped your bottom line?
AW: We think so. We think our customers appreciate our efforts. It certainly means that we have to put some energy into rethinking things at times, but ultimately, being sustainable isn’t a cause we’re into – it’s simply our business standard.

GG: Going green is sometimes an overwhelming concept. Do you have to go big to go green?
AW: It certainly can be overwhelming. We have a Green Team committee that meets weekly to discuss our sustainability efforts. We can spend weeks debating the merits of one type of green packaging versus another. Ultimately, starting with a few small things can really get a team moving, though. Start with the closet full of cleaners. Do a little research and find more environmentally-friendly alternatives. Then, train your staff to use them appropriately. Before you know it, everyone in your company starts to think in the green mindset. Then, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect your employees to start coming forward with their own suggestions. We have absolutely taken advantage of how easily we are able to make changes because of our smaller size.

GG: Do all the little things—things that businesses can add in stages—add up to dramatic changes?
AW: Absolutely. We did not start out doing all of this at once, and I’m pretty sure we’ll always have more to do. We bought an efficient machine to clean our Central Kitchen floors. It uses significantly less water and cleaning solution than traditional mopping. That may sound like a small thing, but when you think about how we clean that 10,000-square-foot kitchen 365 days a year, that adds up to a lot of savings.

GG: How did you get started making these choices?
AW: Since opening 30 years ago, Elephants Delicatessen has aimed to be a green company. Our business took off the same time as the major green movement in our area. It was a perfect match, just making sense that our business follows the regional green motto. We have made it a point to include thinking green into our decisions as business has grown. When we need a new appliance, we choose Energy Star. When we need new packaging, we research recyclable or compostable materials. As delivery business grew, we sought out alternative fuels and ways to reduce vehicle emissions on the road. Our next step is to deliver by bike. It seems there is always a way to improve.

GG: How do you recommend other small business owners get started down a path to sustainability?
AW: Start taking action immediately. Small, simple steps will lead to bigger ones. Open the closet and check out the chemicals used in your business. Put out recycle tubs. Take away the paper cups near the water cooler and coffee pot and ask employees to use their own, reusable cups and mugs.

Companies must invest in bringing their employees on board. Think of it as a group effort. Training and spreading the word through the company has a trickle-down effect. Eventually everyone from your vendors to your clients will see your efforts.

GG: Why is it so important for America’s small business owners to get on the sustainable side of the green line? What is their impact on the greater whole?
AW: Being green is the new business standard. Small businesses have the advantage of being close to their customers, and customers are more and more savvy about what it means to be a green business. We have to make sure our community knows we care about sustainability, and once customers are able to see a business’ efforts, we believe they’ll respond with return business. Small businesses making sustainable efforts puts pressure on larger businesses to take action. It proves that it doesn’t have to take deep pockets, just a genuine effort.

Anne Weaver is a speaker the GoGreen ‘09 Conference, October 7th, 2009 in Portland, Oregon. To hear more from Weaver and our other 40+ eco-visionary speakers on embedding your business with a sustainable commitment , register today at www.gogreenpdx.com/registration or call 503.226.2377.

For more information about Anne Weaver and Elephants Delicatessen, please visit: http://www.elephantsdeli.com

To get the latest Go Green ‘09 news, green news and innovative ideas join us on Facebook (Go Green Conference) + Twitter (@gogreenpdx)!

The Green Line Series: Jason Graham-Nye Saves The Planet, One gDiaper At A Time

Did you know that a typical disposable diaper takes over 500 years to decompose? And an average baby goes through around 5000 of them in a lifetime?

Yikes! Multiply that by the number of babies in the U.S. alone and the picture starts to look pretty grim–and more than a little stinky.

jasongrahamnyeThank goodness eco-entrepreneur + daddy extraordinaire, Jason Graham-Nye (Co-Founder and CEO of gDiapers) is working hard to send a breath of fresh air through the diaper industry. And Mums + Dads (and babies too!) are thankful for gDiapers’ stylish and sustainable alternative to normal nappies. In the The Green Line Series, Jason offers his advice for creating a successful green start-up, how to develop a truly sustainable brand and how to leverage social media + brand evangelists as aces up your sleeve against the big guns.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Jason is a speaker at Go Green ’09, an all-day sustainability conference in Portland, Oregon. Join us October 7th, 8:00am-4:30pm, at the Gerding Theater to learn how to take your business to new sustainable heights from our panel of 40+ world-renowned, eco-visionary speakers.

Go Green ’08 sold out, so get your tickets quickly! To register, visit: http://www.gogreenpdx.com/registration.

To get the latest Go Green ’09 news, green news and innovative ideas join us on Facebook (Go Green Conference) + Twitter (@gogreenpdx)!