Our next Work Green Champion is Georgia Tech Strategic Consulting (GTSC). GTSC is an internal team that is focused on advancing organization excellence across the Institute. We met with half of the GTSC Work Green team, Andrew Billings and Juana Cunningham, to hear about their Work Green project. GTSC Work Green team members Kara Tillman and Byron Fitch were unable to join us for the interview. The GTSC Work Green project, titled “office-ponics,”—involved the installation and maintenance of indoor plants with the goal of improving indoor air quality. The title of “office-ponics” is a play on “hydroponics” which is a method of growing plants without soil; office-ponics is then growing plants in an office!
As Andrew and Juana shared, the motivation for office-ponics was twofold; they wanted to breathe life into their newly renovated office space and they wanted to improve the air quality. In addition to an improved space, the renovation brought with it VOCS from paint and new furniture. They used their grant and personal funds to purchase all of the plant supplies they needed—plants, planters, dirt, et cetera. Both master gardeners and the Facilities department served as resources in informing this project. The team created individual cards for each plant detailing its care and established a schedule to ensure that the plants were attended to daily. The Environmental and Health Safety Office (EHS) was also called upon to take baseline measurements of air quality and mold presence before the plants were installed. EHS will return to the office this fall to see what impact the plants have had on air quality.
Growing plants is not without weeds. When the plants failed to thrive after their first planting the team trouble-shot and realized that some plants were being watered too often, others were not watered enough, and that the soil was not ideal. The care process was improved through the repotting of the plants and the creation of a new plant care schedule. It is important to note that everyone in the office is involved in caring for the plants, ensuring no one is unduly burdened. The team reported that the reception to the plants has been positive, and it has been a way to have everyone collectively involved in green goals.
Andrew and Juana shared that it is important for their office to participate in sustainability efforts on campus. Georgia Tech is committed to sustainability, and the project they undertook gave them opportunity to practice the sustainability goals they advance and advocate for in their work. They would definitely recommend that other offices become involved in the Work Green program, as it brought a heightened level of awareness and more sustainable behaviors to their office.