March 22, 2017: Cambridge, MA–As a small, consulting firm that helps its clients improve energy and environmental planning, Synapse is used to thinking green. But translating that professional focus into daily workplace habits is another story altogether.
Like many businesses in Central Square, Synapse leases its office space. This means we don’t always have control over factors that affect sustainability. Fortunately, there’s a good deal we can do. The trick is to combine being opportunistic about big workplace changes as they arise with infusing “green” thinking company-wide into the small, everyday decisions we all make. While we’re always looking to do better, we’ve found this approach allows us to make real and continuous progress on sustainability without too much disruption to daily work life.
What does it mean to be opportunistic about sustainability? For starters, when big decisions come up the environment must make the top tier of factors to consider. When Synapse renews a lease or looks for new office space, our checklist includes a number of requirements that affect our environmental impact: Will the office be easily accessible by public transit? Does it have lots of natural light to make us more energy efficient? Does it have kitchen access for those trying to reduce their food packaging waste (and save money, too)? Is there a place for our cyclists to safely park their bikes? Is the building itself energy efficient?
Meeting these requirements isn’t as burdensome as it seems. Pretty much every one of them has co-benefits that are good for the company–namely, quality of life for employees, lower operating costs for the company, and better productivity.
In between lease renewals, we’ve found it helpful to keep up a dialogue with the building management. They may not always be able to accommodate requests, but they might be willing to consider more environmentally friendly options when they make decisions about cleaning services, HVAC systems, or recycling options.
So what about those small, everyday decisions that we make? Synapse takes the usual steps of purchasing recycled paper, minimizing paper printing, using energy efficient light bulbs, and placing recycling bins in convenient spots. But we provide some additional green “perks.” We use a composting pick-up service (thanks, Bootstrap Compost!) and arrange collections for e-waste. We even encourage employees to bring e-waste from home. Synapse staff also get discounts for Hubway bikeshare accounts, and we’re happy to say they use the service frequently.
Perhaps more important is encouraging sustainable habits and being vocal about being green. For instance, we foster pride in the fact that less than 10 percent of us drive to work. When we switched to a paperless format to avoid printing handouts for a weekly meeting, we told staff why. Similar opportunities include sharing data on the number of pages printed each month or highlighting where we can save energy by putting lights on sensors or timers.
Synapse is fortunate that its employees are a fairly green bunch. On any given day, you can hear them discussing their home composting tips, the solar panels on their homes, or the deep energy retrofit they’ve undertaken. Many of them are also among the brave group that bikes to work throughout the Boston winter. As we look for additional ways to become more sustainable, we are proud to work in a community where so many share our commitment to a sustainable workplace.