5 Steps to hosting your company’s Smart Office Challenge!

Written by:   Rebecca Francis, Sustainability Coordinator, Town of Huntsville, Ontario
Rebecca Francis is a participant in WWF’s Living Planet @ Work program, championed by HP. Living Planet @ Work provides the ideas and tools to engage employees in sustainability at work including campaigns like The Smart Office Challenge.  Rebecca Francis successfully organized this campaign at the Town of Huntsville office last year. 
What is The Smart Office Challenge?
It’s a fun, educational and impactful week of events for employees to participate in during Waste Reduction Week- like a “computer power down,” responsible printing contest, electronic waste collection – all to educate and take action to reduce the energy AND waste that comes from using our office IT equipment.
Below, Rebecca shares her experience, including some tips for hosting your own Smart Office Challenge this month.
When WWF staff launched the Smart Office Challenge in 2013, it was the perfect campaign for our municipal offices in Huntsville.
As Sustainability Coordinator for the town, it’s part of my job to embed the culture of sustainability into the workdays of our employees. Here are five tips that helped me lead a fun, engaging, and easy to implement campaign dedicated to reducing energy and waste in our offices!

1.  Get an ally!

All good staff engagement projects need people to champion the cause. With the Smart Office Challenge, the perfect allies are hidden away in your IT department. These folks are serious about tracking metrics and love improving systems to reduce the costs associated with printing. I approached our 3-person IT department with an idea to track printing from individuals and assign points for reduction over the two week challenge. Low and behold they had a program to do just that. They even got a baseline for each staff person before the campaign began and designed a way to give more points to people who emailed them with innovative ideas to change wasteful processes in their departments. The results:
SOC _town of huntsville results

 2.  Bake Cookies

Who doesn’t love a good coffee break? And the promise of cookies really attracts a crowd! It’s the perfect way to launch the campaign and gather informally. I made a poster outlining dates for each challenge (power-down lights & computers, electronic-waste drive, and responsible-printing contest) and we spent the morning break creating teams and egging each other on for the challenges ahead.

Polar Bear Cookies © Town of Huntsville
Polar Bear Cookies © Town of Huntsville

Smart Office Challenge Poster Board © Town of Huntsville
Smart Office Challenge Poster Board © Town of Huntsville

3.  Pit your co-workers against each other

Speaking of “egging each other on,” I found it to be a really effective way to up the ante a little bit. The teams didn’t know the prize they were competing for when the campaign began, but the structure of competing against one another raised the stakes! I played into this and sent fun and friendly emails out to the teams who were close in points, or lagging behind.

4.  Count when they aren’t looking

For the “power down” challenge, I spied on my co-workers! Just kidding….sort of! I would make the rounds after work to check who had turned off their lights, computers, and monitors. I left little notes for challengers either congratulating them and including a candy, or encouraging them to do better next time. I created a spreadsheet to track results and gave bonus points if the entire team had powered down.
Of the 50 staff with computers who participated, 37 of them powered down during the surprise audit on week one. Numbers improved only slightly the second week with 40 powering down during the surprise audit.

5.  Go on a Field Trip

Winning teams in each category were awarded a prize of planting a tree in their name in Huntsville’s Glenwood Park. I coordinated with the Parks Department and we ventured to the park at lunch one day to plant four trees together. It was a fun team building activity and a low-cost sustainable way to celebrate their successes during the campaign.

Group Shot © Town of Huntsville
Group Shot © Town of Huntsville

© Town of Huntsville
© Town of Huntsville

Last few words of advice: Have fun and be creative with your own Smart Office Challenge. I found that shaping it to what suited my office helped make it a success. Play to your strengths and use the resources provided by the Living Planet @ Work team to make it easy to implement. Happy Waste Reduction Week!
Do you work in an office like Rebecca and want to engage employees in creating a greener, smarter office? Take The Smart Office Challenge!