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What is Green Paws?

The Green Paws Program is a simple, yet effective way for faculty and staff to learn how to use resources efficiently in the office and earn a Green Paws Office Certification for their efforts. The program is organized into four levels of certification that signify an office’s progression toward higher and higher levels of efficiency, health, and environmental sustainability. Through this program, Penn State is creating a baseline of stewardship best practices and working toward the University’s goal, outlined in its Sustainability Strategic Plan to “Incorporate sustainability learning opportunities into daily life across the University, including the built environment and service and program delivery.” More than 2,200 faculty and staff have started this path with the Green Paws Program.

The program is built around four successive Green Paws Action Checklists that outline high-impact actions to use resources wisely in your workspace. Each participating group can work at their own pace and the size of the groups can vary from a few co-workers to more than 20 people. There are several activities that require discussions, benefiting from the group’s experience and expertise, so consider that function when forming your group. This program is open to all Penn Staters at all locations.

To earn Green Paws Office Certification, 75 percent of all employees from your office* or administrative unit must complete all the actions on the checklist. By going through this program with others, you help to create a community that is learning together about making sustainable decisions and creating habits that improve the quality of resources, fiscal stewardship and employee health.

*Office occupant is defined as staff and faculty that are either full-time or part-time. If you have students who are consistently part of your office, they are welcome to join as well.

For more on the Green Paws Program, sign up for an orientation session or contact: Lydia Vandenbergh, 814-863-4893. If you are interested in ways to introduce sustainability practices into your work and home lives, you can also sign up for the AIR Green Team newsletter. Monthly edition include stories of Accomplishments by Penn State sustainability champions, Inspiration and Resources to take action (AIR). To sign up, complete this form and we’ll add you to the growing network of champions reading the short AIR newsletter.

Faculty, staff and students at Penn State New Kensington gather for a group photo to celebrate the campus being the first to achieve full completion of the Penn State Sustainability Institute’s Green Paws Programs. Over the course of four years, the campus completed each of the four levels of the program, which aims to educate members of the University about sustainability and related practices.

Getting Started / Update Information

Join the program in a few easy steps!

  1. Register for the Green Paws Program!
    Complete this form so that we can track your progress, provide you with supporting materials and notify you of any changes.
  2. Looking for advice or help while beginning your participation in Green Paws?
    Please join us for the next “Stepping Into the Green Paw Program” orientation. The sessions are offered almost every month and they are all available by Zoom. The full roster of dates and times and registration is available online.

Completed a level?

When your office has successfully completed all the steps for a Green Paws level, fill out this form to apply for certification in that level. Once we receive your request, we will review it and send you a framed certificate that you can proudly display in your office. You can use the same form for all levels.

If you have any suggestions or questions, please email Lydia Vandenbergh.

Update Information

As our program continues to grow, we would like to ensure that we can provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information. In order to help with this, we ask that you make sure your current information in our files is up to date. Please use this form to let us know of any changes regarding your office’s:

  • Primary contact information
  • Office name (the name that will appear on all of your Green Paws materials, including certificates)
  • Participant information and number of people in your office
  • Office Head or Program Director
    This form will also enable you to let us know if there is any further information or materials that we can provide to you.

Level 1

  • Turning off our computer monitor when we leave the office. If allowed by our IT staff, we turn off the computer as well.

    Why? The amount of energy wasted on a standard computer monitor left in active-off, sleep, or idle mode after a workday could be used to charge your cell phone everyday for six months. Plus, turing off the monitor when not in use extends its life. Every kilowatt avoided also reduces the amount of water needed to cool power plants. According to the US Geological Survey, thermoelectric-power plants use 45 percent of total water use.

  • Enabling power management on our computers to reduce energy consumption. (Check with your IT staff to determine if individual settings on computers should be used to put computers into hibernation mode.)

    Why? Did you know that a computer that is powered on and in idle uses 4-25 times more power than a computer in standby mode or off? Penn State knows this and has installed IBM Big Fix software on more than 26,000 computers and servers at the University, according to John Tyndall, manager with Penn State IT. This software is making it easy for IT staff to perform updates and the reduced electricity usage has resulted in over $1.25 million in annually savings. This software also enhances computer security. Join Penn State in its goal of installing the software on all of our campus computers and enabling the power management setting!

  • Turning off the lights in offices and common spaces when leaving the room.

    Why? Turning off the lights when you leave your office is one of the easiest ways to help Penn State reduce its electricity demand and save money. But it doesn’t have to stop there — if you notice lights on unnecessarily in common areas, take this initiative to shut them off too! Lighting accounts for about 20 percent of all the electricity used in American commercial buildings, and in most cases, it is under occupant control. A common myth is that leaving the lights on uses less energy and results in a shorter bulb lifespan than turning them off and back on again. That does not apply to today’s lighting technology, so go ahead and turn them off when you leave a room. (Source: Buildings Energy Data Book) And just think, every kilowatt avoided also reduces the pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, mercury and arsenic, emitted by the power plants, that are harmful human health.

  • Looking at “What’s in Your Waste Collection Can” using the worksheet, and noting how we can find ways to produce less waste.

    Most people are startled when they hear that the average American produces 4.4 pounds of waste daily. Of all the waste we produce, about thirty percent comes from packaging. A large reduction in waste can occur through simple steps, such as purchasing snacks in bulk. What steps would you consider to reduce your waste? Write down your ideas on the worksheet.

  • Printing on both sides of the paper, whenever possible, and/or reusing paper that has printing on one side. (Set duplex copying as the default setting for printers, if possible.)

    Why? Printing double sided is an easy way for you to help your office reduce its paper waste and save funds, without a sacrifice of efficiency. The reduction of one ton of American Eagle copy paper would save over 23,000 gallons of water, according to the Paper Calculator, an amount equivalent to a household water use for 76 days. Many printer drivers have this as the default option.

  • Provide coffee mugs for the office-or encourage office member to bring their own to work.

    Having mugs at the office helps the average American reduce the 23 lbs of waste that an individual creates in disposable coffee cups a year. That’s 50 BILLION lbs per year for all Americans combined. Think that’s a lot of waste? See how tall those coffee cups would stack in this photo. Worse yet, most of the disposable cups are not recyclable because they are lined with plastic or made of polystyrene (Styrofoam).

  • Familiarizing the office with our campus’ waste management program and learning what can be recycled and where.

    Recycling benefits the environment and the economy. According to the EPA, there are over 750,000 jobs, producing $6.7 billion in tax revenues associated with recycling and reuse activities annually.
    • University Park campus — We are … finding out how to reduce, reuse and recycle on campus. We know that Penn State is committed to keeping waste out of the landfill and has provided our buildings with seven bins at each central stations into which we can sort our trash. Our participants can correctly identify what goes in each bin
    • Commonwealth Campuses — We are… consulting with our Director of Business Services and learning what can be recycled at our campus. We are making sure we have the appropriate recycling bins.
  • Providing recycling bins at events and meetings and making sure the participants know where the bins are located and what goes in each bin.

    Why? By providing the option to recycle, we introduce and encourage recycling. Recycled paper uses only 2/3 of the energy in production when compared to virgin paper (not to mention it saves 100% of the trees too!).

  • Reviewing the University’s Recycling and Reuse Policy (AD34) at a staff meeting.

    As the policy outlines, being good stewards of resources is part of every Penn Staters job. “Penn State’s level of diversion is one of the highest in the country, a distinction we want to sustain and improve,” remarked David Grey, Senior Vice President for Finance and Business. Let’s continue being leaders known for our thoughtful use of resources.
  • At a staff meeting, identify what type of paper is used by the office. If it is virgin paper, identify who purchases paper and if it is possible to buy at least 30 percent recycled content (RC) paper. Look at Penn State General Stores’ Green Initiatives. The General Stores paper order numbers are: PSU-Go-Green-CT for University Park and PSU-Go-Green-CC for Commonwealth Campuses.

    Buying RC products help “close the resource loop” and reduces energy, water, and chemical use, while reducing pollution and solid waste production. It also helps boosts our regional economy because the majority of the RC paper at Penn State is purchased locally from American Eagle paper mill in Tyrone, PA. Unlike older copiers, today’s copiers/printers are designed to use RC paper so you can “go recycled” with confidence!
  • Purchasing electronics and appliances that are either ENERGY STAR or EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) rated. Certified products are designated with an emblem.

    ENERGY STAR and EPEAT-qualified products use less energy and therefore save money and reduce greenhouse gases. “Since the program’s inception in 1992, Americans have saved more than $660 billion (approximately $5,000 per household), avoided close to 9 trillion pounds of greenhouse gases and conserved almost 5.5 trillion kilowatt hours of electricity.” This is why Penn State’s AD64 regulation stipulates that “Office equipment purchased with University funds is required to be ENERGY STAR labeled unless approved by the responsible budget executive.”
  • Determining the most sustainable option when we need new furniture. This includes checking with Lion Surplus for any reusable furniture options or learning about Cradle to Cradle (C2C) certification for new furnishings.

    Think of all the raw materials and chemicals used to make furniture and other office products: wood, metal, plastics, glues, fire retardants, etc. Reusing furniture and using products designed with C2C principles not only reduce negative environmental and health impacts but can offer benefits to people, the planet and profits.

  • Looking for sustainable alternatives for office supplies, such as refillable pens and pencils, RC note paper, etc.

    Arming yourself with information about how products are produced enables you to select items that will have a positive effect on human health and the environment. It also strengthens the markets for these products. General Stores offers a search filter for recycled products to make finding RC items easier.
  • Exploring the broad scope of “sustainability” by watching this introductory video.

    Why? Sustainability is more than just recycling plastic and switching off the lights. Sustainability encompasses many topics, 17 things in fact, that focus on quality of life for today’s citizens and tomorrow’s. The United Nations has outlined 17 sustainable development goals for our world to achieve. Watch the video above and discuss with your coworkers what possibilities you see for working for a better quality of life.

  • Taking the Personal Footprint quiz – a simple and interactive way to explore our environmental impact and discuss what we learned at a staff meeting.

    Why? Do you know how much land area it takes to support your lifestyle? For the average American’s lifestyle, it takes four planets worth of land and ocean resources to support a year’s worth of America’s consumption and waste. Take this quiz and discuss with coworkers what you learned and ideas for improving your score. The individual scores can remain private.

  • Reviewing the Green Meetings Guide with our staff.

    Running “Green meetings” helps Penn State practice and share our fiscal and resource stewardship habits. Did you know that collecting name badge holders for reuse at an event of 1,300 attendees can save approximately $700 for your office?
  • Asking our caterer to use local and seasonal foods as much as possible.

    Why? Local foods are fresher and in season, support the local economy, connect us with our farming community, and reduce transportation impacts. Check out several reasons to shop locally for food. Did you know that Pennsylvania is known as the snack capital of the world? Think of potato chips, chocolate, and pretzels.

  • Reminding meeting attendees from your office to bring their own cups or mugs. Consider using compostable cups for larger meetings.

    Why? The average American office worker uses about 500 disposable cups every year. Be part of the change and start to bring your own, and encourage others to do the same.

  • Walking or taking public transit to destinations within a half-mile.

    Not only are you improving your health and circulation, you’re cutting down on traffic, fuel usage, and pollution by walking to close-by destination. The University Park campus is served by several free, hop-on/hop-off CATA bus lines, which can get you across campus or downtown.


  • Determining the closest bike racks around our office building.


    Why? Bike racks are available all around campus. Don’t have a bike of your own? That’s okay! Penn State is piloting Zagster, a convenient and affordable bikeshare program at the University Park campus. The first step to making a lifestyle change (such as biking to meetings, if possible) is to identify what options are available.

  • Using 30 percent RC paper towels in the kitchens and break rooms.

    If every household in the United States replaces just one roll of virgin fiber paper towels with 100 percent RC ones, then we could save 544,000 trees and energy.
    • The following types are available at PSU’s General Stores: Seventh Generation-A713720, MArcal-A76709, Georgia-Pacific-W523304, Kimberly-Clark-W502046-00 and W503623-20, Georgia-Pacific-W526401 or W526301 (depends on the quantity).
    • The Kimberly Clark paper towels, supplied by Penn State to the bathrooms, are 70 percent recycled content (40 percent post-consumer content)
  • Taking the Change the Course water footprint quiz and learning about how we use water.

    Only 2.5 percent of our planet’s water is fresh and we depend on this water for growing crops, cooling our power plants, hydrating our bodies, caring for our animals, bathing and producing materials. Reducing water use decreases the stress on our local water supplies.
  • Providing electronic versions of publications, if possible. 
    Why? “On average, 60-70 percent of all magazines on North American and European newsstands never reach the hands of a consumer. When placed end to end, the unsold magazine copies from the US alone would circle the earth 20 times.” Are your paper publications reaching your audience?
  • Learning the differences between “natural” and “organic”.

    Understanding nutrition labels is the first step to putting yourself in charge of what you eat. When a product is labeled as “organic it means that the food was produced following methods specified by the US Department of Agriculture and is free of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, antibiotics and genetic engineering. The term “natural” has no formal regulatory definition, nor is it supervised.
  • Eating healthy snacks.

    When you choose unprocessed and/or organic snacks, you are likely to consume less added sugars or sodium, than with processed foods. You can prepare your own snacks, such as apple slices with peanut butter, dried fruits or carrots, which reduces cost and offers you sustained energy and improved ability to fight disease.
  • Going outdoors over the weekend — whether it’s a stroll down the block, a picnic at a park, or fishing for the day.

    Getting outdoors is not only good for your health, but it can be an activity that doesn’t use many resources, financial or natural.

Important Materials

Participation Tracking Checklist

Print on 11″x17″ Paper (you will receive a copy when you register)

Email Templates

Use this resource to encourage and explain each action to office members as you work through the checklist.

Level 2

  • Using the Appliance and Electronics Worksheet to determine the items in our offices that use electricity, especially those with a “phantom load.”

    Office buildings represent 19 percent of all commercial energy use with 55 percent of the energy going to electricity. Many of these products use energy, even when turned off (this is called phantom load). Using the worksheet, determine how many appliances and electronics there are in your office and how many have a “phantom load.”
  • Using compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) or light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs and disposing of them properly at the University.

    Lighting is the single largest consumer of electricity in commercial spaces. Penn State uses CFL and LED technology to save energy and money. Join the effort in your home. Did you know that upgrading 15 inefficient incandescent bulbs with energy-saving bulbs could save about $50 per year. Traditional incandescent bulbs waste 90 percent of the energy as heat and therefore require you to pay more for air conditioning in hot weather.
  • Reviewing the University’s Energy Conservation Policy (AD 64) at a staff meeting.

    Penn State has made energy conservation a priority since 2005 and has lowered its energy consumption by 6 percent since then, in spite of a 10.3 percent increase in building gross floor area. [Figures are for UP campus only] In the same timeframe, the University has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 18 percent and has set an ambitious new reduction goal of 35 percent by 2020.
  • Checking the thermostat setting to see if it is appropriate for the season. Some offices can control their temperature threshold by four degrees.

    According to the Office of the Physical Plant analysis, if everyone pitches in across all buildings to adjust their thermostats ONE degree down in the winter and ONE degree up in the summer the University can save up to $250,000 annually.
  • Establishing an office “sharing center” where we put office supplies (paper, binders, envelopes, paper clips and folders) that can be reused by anyone in the office.
    Why? When reusing office supplies, it allows the products to be used to their fullest extent and reduces the amount of waste that is sent to the landfill.
  • Reducing unwanted mail by encouraging staff to unsubscribe to unnecessary printed mailing lists. To remove yourself from catalog mailing lists, go to catalogchoice.org.
    Why? According to the Postal Service, 59 percent of all mail is advertising and only half is ever read. Reduce clutter, gain time for fun activities and avoid wasting paper at your office or home by removing yourself from mailing lists.
  • Recycling small electronic office waste, such as cell phones, CDs/DVDs and cases, audio/video tapes and cases, cables, keyboards, mice, pagers, answering machines, radios, telephones and other telephone equipment. E-waste can be recycled directly at Lion Surplus. Commonwealth campuses can contact Lion Surplus to have their waste collected.
    Why? Electronics are produced from a variety of materials, such as metals, glass and plastics that need to be mined and sourced from all over the world. Recycling these goods conserves valuable virgin resources. For example, “for every million cell phones we recycle, 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.”
  • Recycling toner cartridges. (Find out how through Multi-Media Print Center and all other toner cartridges with PSU General Stores.)
    Why? Recycling toner/ink cartridges prevent hazardous chemicals from being released into the landfill and atmosphere. In one year, 8 tons of used toner cartridges were processed for recycling at the University Park campus. Both Hewlett Packard and Staples offer cartridge recycling programs as well.
  • Listing the office supplies we purchase, how frequently the items are purchased and any sustainable alternatives for the items.
    Why? This promotes awareness of the choices we are making and taking the first step to exploring options that are non-toxic, recyclable, recycled-content, remanufactured and reusable.
  • Learning the difference between compostable and biodegradable materials and knowing that neither will break down in a landfill.
    Why? Too many people think these two terms mean the same thing. They don’t. Nor does either type break down quickly in a landfill. Here’s the difference. Materials labeled “compostable” must, according to regulations, break down in a compost facility within 90 days, after which they provide nutrients for soil and plants. These materials will not break down in a landfill because there is no oxygen to help the degradation process. Biodegradable is a marketing term used to describe materials that break down into tiny pieces. Unlike compostable materials, they may not provide nutrients to the soil and plants. Read more about the process here: https://www.food.ee/blog/compostable-vs-recyclable-vs-biodegradable/
  • Learning how sustainability supports Penn State’s mission by reviewing the University’s Strategic Plan vision, mission, values, and foundations statements and discussing the alignments between those statements and the global Sustainable Development goals.

    Why? As a University, Penn State is perfectly situated to create leaders and forge solutions to address societal and global challenges and create opportunities to create a better world for future generations. Examples of ways that the SDGs can provide opportunities for universities can contribute to meeting those targets are laid out in a UN report.

  • Sharing a story at a staff meeting about Penn State’s progress towards sustainability. If you are looking for ideas, check this website.

    Over the past decade, Penn State has been making strides towards integrating sustainability into our teaching, research, operations and outreach. In 2012 the University completed its Sustainability Strategic Plan. to fuel momentum with targets and in 2014, all Penn State units were asked to include sustainability in their strategic plans. Fuel your own motivation by following the Penn State sustainability newsletter, Mainstream, which covers speakers, events, research updates weekly from across all campuses.
  • Asking caterers to reduce the amount of packaging waste for events.

    Reducing packaging eliminates a significant part of our waste. There are many items that do not need individual packages, such as condiments, creamers and more. Working with your caterer, determine which products can be served in bulk, cutting waste and unnecessary trips to landfills.

  • Take one minute to share the location of recycling and compost bins to guests.

    Personal reminders are some of the best ways to develop good recycling habits. This brief reminder helps resolve any confusion over the waste sorting and asks them to partner to retain Penn State’s leadership on waste.

  • Offering vegetarian options for the events.

    In addition to being considerate to those who are vegetarian, this may also spark interest in others to consider eating lower down on the food chain. Eating vegetarian for one day of the week reduces greenhouse gas emissions by the same amount as eliminating 1,100 miles of driving per year.

  • Reducing or eliminating the printing of meeting agendas.

    Why? By emailing agenda to meeting attendees, they can refer to it on laptops, tablets or cell phones. This process not only reduces paper use, but also cuts the time wasted printing and filing a paper agenda.

  • Holding discussions about how good driving habits can reduce fuel use.

    Did you know that each 5 mph you drive over 50 mph is equivalent to paying an additional $0.25 per gallon of gas? Not only is sensible driving safer, it also saves money on gas.
  • Using environmentally-preferred dish and hand soaps.

    Did you know that traditional soaps clean germs from hands and dishes just as well as antibacterial soaps? The Center for Disease Control points out that some studies have also shown “a link between antibacterial chemicals used in personal cleaning products and bacterial resistance.”
  • Provide reusable cutlery for the office to share instead of using plastic forks and knives.

    Eliminating single-use plastics helps us reduce our consumption. Everyone’s silverware drawer has one or two random utensils. Instead of buying a new flatware set, ask office mates to bring in one or two of those mismatched sets in to share in place of plastic cutlery.
  • Using at least 30 percent RC paper for printed publications.

    Did you know that the average American uses nearly six trees worth of paper each year? Start reducing, reusing and recycling.
  • Taking a few minutes every day at work to stretch a little.

    Have you been sitting in your office all day? Stand up and stretch a little. It will help rejuvenate you, reduce aches and pains and lift your mood.
  • Sharing healthy recipes and trying them out for lunch or dinner.

    Having conversation with friends and colleagues about healthy living practices can build a learning community focused on good nutrition. Check out Healthy Penn State for lots of easy recipes featuring fruits and vegetables.

Important Materials

Participation Tracking Checklist
Print on 11″x17″ Paper (you will receive a copy when you register)

Email Templates
Use this resource to encourage and explain each action to office members as you work through the checklist.

Level 3

  • Using the Appliance and Electronics Checklist from Level 2 to help determine ways to consolidate appliances in the office.

    Ask yourself: How often to you use that automatic stapler? Do you really need a personal Keurig machine when there’s a coffee pot in the breakroom? Each appliance and electronic device not only consumes energy, but also takes energy to produce, gives off heat and takes up space and needs maintenance and conditioning. Finding ways to share copiers, refrigerators and other such items frees up money and space.
  • Educating ourselves about light and motion sensors, if we have them in our offices.

    Why? Consult with your facilities manager to determine how the switches and sensors in your spaces should be used so you can take advantage of the features and use only as much light as needed. Gone are the days of simple switches, because automation and customization is the default in offices and common rooms these days.

  • Using natural light, instead of overhead lighting, whenever possible.

    Why? Using natural light in your office, if available, or taking an outdoors break once a day will improve your mood, reduce stress and improve productivity, according to a Northwestern University study.

  • Reducing electricity waste by using the Energy Saver button on our copier/printing machines. Ask your IT staff to set up the energy savings program on your copier.

    Did you know that commercial printers use 30-50 watts when on standby and 300-500 watts when printing? Although the printer can be programmed to sleep after 30 minutes of inactivity, if the dashboard is lit up, it is using electricity for no productive use. By pressing the ‘energy saver’ button, you instantly put the machine to sleep and save energy without loss of productivity. A win for all.
  • Turning off projectors after presentations.

    Why? In addition to saving energy, replacing projector bulbs-some of which cost $350 each-is expensive. Consider also the time associated with ordering new bulbs and replacing them, especially for projectors hung from ceilings. Frequently replacing these bulbs needlessly drains budget and staff time.

  • Organizing office-wide use of reusable water bottles and/or cups.

    Why? Penn State is committed to reducing our single-use water bottle consumption by installing over 100 water bottle refill stations across our Commonwealth. Using a reusable water bottle saves you from buying single use bottles (saving you about $30 a year)

  • Setting the Word document side margin default to 0.75 inch instead of 1 inch or wider.

    This reduces paper use by about 5 percent, according to a Penn State study. The difference is barely noticeable, and the practice has saved the University hundreds of thousands of dollars.
  • Printing in draft mode, when we do not need high quality prints. If we do not know how to print in draft mode, we consult our IT staff.

    If you must print memos, agendas, or similarly disposable documents, help your office reduce its ink consumption. Ink is the one of the most expensive liquids on Earth, so every drop is money saved for you.
  • Recycling large electronics and appliances, such as computers, printers, fax machines, copiers, refrigerators, microwaves and fans.

    Recycling electronics prevents toxins or chemicals from potentially polluting our air and water. Through recycling, we are able to reuse metals, glass and plastics harvested from the goods, and the reduced extraction of raw materials results in lower emissions of carbon dioxide.
  • Using at least 50 percent RC paper and at least 30 percent RC for other paper supplies, such as envelopes and notepads.

    The quality of post-consumer recycled-content products is equal to virgin products in terms of brightness, sturdiness and color. By purchasing RC products, you are improving the markets for these products and reducing energy use. Replacing 200 reams of virgin paper (100,000 sheets) with 50 percent RC paper reduces net energy use by 18 percent, equivalent to the electricity used by the average American residence for one month.
  • Discussing ways in which our office could integrate sustainability into new hire position descriptions.

    Hiring qualified staff who also have some sustainability knowledge and skills will accelerate the University’s progress towards a culture in which goals and decisions are made based on an understanding of the connections between human prosperity, human health and ecological health.

  • Checking Penn State’s STARS (Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System) report for accomplishments that relate to our unit..

    Penn State uses the national STARS tool to track our progress towards embedding sustainability into our everyday practices and decisions. Over the past three years, we have progressed from a silver to gold rating. Now on to platinum with your help!
  • Avoiding individually packaged meal boxes for events.

    Less packaging means less trash. At times when individual meal boxes or bags are necessary, request that all packaging be compostable and encourage your guests to place the contents in the green bin, if composting is available on your campus. If not, ask for recyclable materials and ask guest to sort their waste into the appropriate bins.
  • Holding some meetings with Zoom or other video conferencing platforms.

    Zoom is a product that is used at Penn State to provide web conference options for student, staff, faculty and other affiliates of the University. The audio and visual sharing software is convenient and reduces commute time. Take advantage of the technologies that are available to us.
  • Reducing vehicle idling in order to have cleaner air for us and our children.

    : The EPA has partnered with many schools to protect American students from asthma caused by idling. Modern vehicle engines do not need to be warmed up and idling for just 10 seconds wastes more gas than restarting the engine.
  • Use temperate water (NOT HOT) for washing your hands.

    Washing your hands with hot water will not make them cleaner. The high heat required to kill pathogens will cause severe burns long before it can sterilize your hands. Using temperate water saves energy and your time waiting for the water to heat up.

  • Putting coffee pots on timers so they turn off at night and on weekends automatically.

    Many modern coffee makers and Keurig machines use energy, even when turned off. Slash this waste with a simple mechanical timer so that you’ll have your morning java with a dose of energy savings on top.
  • Printing on only Forest Stewardship Council certified RC paper.

    The Forest Stewardship Council promotes sound management of forests, protecting this vital resource on which we all depend. We all depend on forests because they clean the air that we breathe, prevent our soil from eroding, filter the water we drink, provide us with wood for shelter and fuel, and provide homes for nearly half of the world’s species.
  • If possible, taking the stairs instead of the elevator most of the time.

    Did you know that you burn around 5 calories per flight of stairs? You’re saving electricity and burning some calories at the same time. It’s a great way to stretch your legs after sitting in the office for a while and it can save you time, according to a recent study conducted by doctors at the Royal University Hospital in Saskatchewan (Canada).

  • Taking a stand to give our bodies a break from sitting.

    Why? Studies show that taking frequent breaks and standing up for a minute or two can improve personal comfort and productivity, if you are spending the majority of an eight-hour day seated at your desk.

Important Materials

Participation Tracking Checklist

Print on 11″x17″ Paper (you will receive a copy when you register)

Email Templates

Use this resource to encourage and explain each action to office members as you work through the checklist.

Level 4

  • Shutting the blinds and curtains at night, then opening them during the day when the weather is cold or keeping them closed when it’s hot and sunny, if this is applicable.

    Blinds, shades, and curtains (especially heavy curtain and those designed for insulation) can help insulate windows. This will reduce the heating and cooling costs of the building. Sunlight will help warm you and your office during the colder months, so keep the blinds open in the winter. The sunlight can also overheat rooms during the summer so pull your blinds down when the air conditioner is running, especially during the afternoon.

  • Removing all non-OPP approved electric heaters from the office and contacting OPP Area Services for further assistance.

    Why? OPP has a policy to protect its employees from fire hazards. If you have an office consistently colder than 70 degrees F. contact OPP for an approved heater.

  • Allow an encourage employees to dress for the weather.

    Why? Traditional office attire isn’t always the most appropriate for sweltering summer afternoons or frigid winter mornings. Dressing in layers allows individuals to regulate their own temperature without having to adjust the thermostat.

  • Appointing a person who is responsible for shutting down all printers, copiers and computers over holiday breaks.

    Why? Winter break shutdown annually average $225,000 in energy costs avoided thanks to all the people who unplugged appliances and electronics, turned off lights and pulled down blinds.
  • Scanning and sharing documents electronically, when possible.

    Penn State provides all staff and faculty with Sharepoint accounts to store and share files
    digitally. Sharing files this way not only reduces paper use, but also conserves space and labor associated with filing.
  • Purchasing supplies and equipment for our office and trying to make choices that use the smallest amount of packaging.

    The No. 1 tip for consumers provided by the EPA for reducing waste is to reduce the amount of packaging. This is because the more packaging a product has, the more greenhouse gases are emitted over the life cycle of the product. Consider purchasing office supplies in bulk instead of individual packaging.
  • Completing the What’s In Your Trash Can? worksheet for the second time and comparing our results from the one previously completed in Level One.

    Your office can discuss whether the results show a reduction in overall waste and then brainstorm about things that we can do to further encourage waste reduction. What else can you reduce? What are the other alternatives?
  • Learning what can be recycled at home and potential improvements for our local recycling program. We contact our County Recycling Coordinators with questions or suggestions.

    Make recycling at home a lot easier by strategically placing recycling bins right next to ordinary waste baskets, so you don’t have to sort twice. The bathroom generates a fair amount of recyclable waste, such as shampoo bottles, hand soap bottles, empty toilet paper tubes or empty tissue boxes. Be sure to contact your Recycling coordinator! Click here to find Centre County’s.
  • Using 100 percent RC paper for our printing and notetaking.

    These recycled-sourced products reduce the amount of energy and water needed for their production and greenhouse gases emitted. Every ton of paper produced from all recycled pulp, rather than all virgin sources avoids about 11,200 gallons of water (enough to fill a 24-foot round, four-foot deep pool), uses one-third less energy, and prevents more than 2,000 pounds of greenhouse gases, equivalent to taking a car off the road for two months.
  • Requesting environmentally friendly paint and carpet when remodeling the office space.

    Did you know that Penn State developed a new standard for carpet purchasing that reduces the total cost of ownership by an estimated 20 percent and ensures that 100 percent of Penn State carpet never sees a landfill? These carpets also contribute to healthier air quality in the building. Some paints also have reduced the “volatile organic compounds” that contribute to producing smog and ozone problems and are detrimental to health. You can get quality products that are better for your health and the environment. All you have to do is know that you have a choice, and make the best decision.
  • Completing the Level 4 Purchasing Worksheet and comparing the result to the worksheet completed in Level 2.

    Why? The results should show how you are making intentional choices and using resources wisely by considering the impacts of your choices.
  • Inspiring and encouraging another office to seek Green Paws Office Certification.

    There are currently 235 offices with more than 2,250 Penn Staters participating in the Green Paws Program. Share what you have learned with another office and help them get started so that all Penn Staters are stewards of our natural, fiscal and human resources.
  • Including our office’s sustainability goals in recruitment and new hire orientation packets.
    Why? Helping your new hires understand your “stewardship” values is an important step towards making this a part of your office’s cultural foundation.
  • Trying to not order an excess amount of food for events and meetings and putting leftover products to good use, if possible.

    Why? Did you know that 1 in 4 calories intended for consumption is never actually eaten? Bring a box of Ziploc bags so guests can leave with tomorrow’s lunch! You are legally protected when you make your food donations!
  • Requesting hybrid cars from Fleet Operations for work-related travel.

    Hybrid cars use less fossil fuel than conventional vehicles, and, especially in congested areas, reduce greenhouse gas emissions in stop-and-go traffic. They also provide a comfortable ride. Penn State recognizes these benefits and provides the Ford Fusion for lease.
  • Accommodating and supportive of flexible scheduling, if possible.

    Employees on a flex schedule may work longer hours on fewer days of the week to better manage a long commute and are still just as productive. Calculate your commute’s carbon footprint and consider alternative ways to reduce your carbon emission and boost productivity.
  • Replacing water coolers with water filters on faucets, water filtration pitchers or water bottle filling stations.

    Penn State continually tests its water to comply with federal and state safe water regulations and water is free. Think about all the impacts of water coolers on your budget and on our environment from transporting the 40-pound jugs to and from the bottling plant. There are other options that eliminate these impacts.

  • Establish a space where left-overs can be shared amongst the office.

    Whether it’s leftovers from a meeting or from last night’s dinner, someone will likely eat the food. Not only are you reducing waste, you could be lending a helping hand to a colleague. One in nine Pennsylvanians face hunger and one in seven of our children is food insecure.
  • Using vegetable-based inks for publications.

    Average ink cartridges contain Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) that may emit into the atmosphere and cause respiratory disorders. Vegetable-based inks are less harmful and widely recognized as an environmentally friendly choice.

  • Designing publications with fewer varnishes and coatings.

    Varnishes and coatings are what make the publication glossy. The different types of varnishes and coatings complicate the recycling process because they must be separated from non-glossy paper.
  • Diversify our dinner plates.

    Why? Research suggests that diets high in red and processed meat are associated with greater risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. Additionally, producing meat requires more water and energy resources than producing plant proteins such as beans and lentils. Meat-based proteins can still be enjoyed every meal, but they don’t need to be the solo act. Balance your intake with other protein sources.

  • Considering organically grown food options.

    Why? Consuming organic produce and goods reduces the food system’s dependence on pesticides, insecticides, fertilizers, and other unsustainable farming practices. You’re improving your health as well as the health the farmers producing your food.

Important Materials

Participation Tracking Checklist

Print on 11″x17″ Paper (you will receive a copy when you register)

Email Templates

Use this resource to encourage and explain each action to office members as you work through the checklist.