University of the Fraser Valley

New certification program makes the workplace more sustainable

New certification program makes the workplace more sustainable

Last year’s closing ceremony for the Sustainable Office Certification program.

The Sustainable Office Certification program is one of the ways UFV’s Office of Sustainability (OoS) is empowering staff to make their workplace more socially and environmentally focused. Its first iteration ran from August to December last year, with its second session coming up this month. The program gathers representatives from departments across UFV, who support each other as they assess their current office habits and make them more sustainable.

Janelle Sztuhar and Samantha Gibbs joined the pilot program as co-champions representing their department, the UFV Library (Abbotsford campus).

“I work on the Library Student Engagement Working Group, and we’ve heard from students that climate change and sustainability is something that’s really important to them,” says Stzuhar. “Plus, the Sustainability office is just so great to work with.”

The OoS devised a checklist of more than 100 practices covering both environmental and social sustainability, which they use to measure the starting point for each department. Environmentally sustainable practices can include turning off lights and computer monitors when not in use, conserving water, and avoiding single-use plastic. Socially sustainable practices can include adding pronouns in e-mail signatures, taking meetings outside, encouraging wellness walks, and supporting mental health check-ins. The same checklist is used to conduct a post-audit after the program is complete, to see how everyone progressed.

Program participants often didn’t realize how many items they were already doing.

“It can be overwhelming if you think, ‘Oh, I’m starting from scratch,’ but actually a lot of efforts are already being made,” says Chloe Berge, the departmental liaison for the project. “For people who want to start this program, it’s not from zero. Everyone has a baseline, and seeing that improvement is really rewarding.”

The improvements were considerable – across all participating departments, sustainability efforts increased by an average of 40 per cent.

The sustainability champions connected throughout the process through a devoted Teams chat, where they offered encouragement and helped each other find solutions. For UFV’s Office of Sustainability manager Jennifer Martel, the camaraderie they built was the best part of it all.

“Seeing that community build up around it with people from different campuses, different areas who don’t always get to interact … watching that development over time was really special.”

The program culminated in a closing celebration where six departments earned levels of certification ranging from bronze to platinum. These included the UFV Abbotsford Library, Chilliwack Library, Human Resources, Community Health and Social Innovation Hub, Alumni Engagement and Advancement, and Campus Planning and Facilities Management. Each group received a plaque made of reclaimed wood and green acrylic, which are proudly displayed outside the entrance of each participating office.

To those considering whether to join, Stzuhar and Gibbs say go for it. Stzuhar continues, “The Office of Sustainability was a really positive group to have leading this charge, and they were so supportive. We had a really good experience and now I feel like we’re set up to continue our work.”

To participate or get more information, email, or visit their website to learn more. Follow @sustainableufv on Instagram to stay up to date with more sustainability initiatives at UFV.