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How Green can you go? City challenges Houston businesses to act environmentally

News_Caroline_green office challenge
Photo by Caroline Gallay
News_Caroline_green office challenge
Photo by Caroline Gallay

The CultureMap office took its first small steps toward turning the office into a recycling mecca back in April, and the result was truly pitiful. (It involved a Snuggie re-purposed over a metal table frame).

Now that we're settled into our new digs on the north side of downtown, we've set up a less-elaborate, more-efficient system for sorting, but we've got a long way to go.

The City of Houston must have sensed our inner-office quibbles and those occurring elsewhere in the city, and decided to help the concerned few convert the masses to a greener way of office living. Laura Spanjian, head of the mayor's office of sustainability, launched The Green Office Challenge this week, a year-long initiative aimed at property owners and tenants in six of Houston's management districts. The program provides workshops and other resources to make workplaces greener — including a low-interest energy-efficient loan program for smaller projects. (Think bike racks and office vegetable gardens).

The goal is for participants to reduce their energy use, water use and waste while encouraging employees to pick up on the small stuff like carpooling and recycling. In return, those who make the most significant strides will be recognized publicly by the mayor's office — and we all know that green publicity is good publicity.

The press conference at Hermann Square also gave partners a chance to talk about their own green initiatives. METRO plans to begin buying 100 electric-hybrid buses a year, adding to the 300 currently running and eventually replacing the entire fleet. Greenstar, a national recycling service provider, announced that it's made investments toward Spanjian's dream of single-stream recycling and will bring the service to office challenge participants.

We just installed a new, über-efficient lighting system ourselves (OK, CultureMap president Nic Phillips installed it — himself). What will you do to get involved?

Offices have until October 15 to sign up, which is when the program begins. It will culminate with an awards ceremony in October 2011.

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