How to measure your greenness

Tuesday - 10/5/2010, 5:08pm EDT

Marian Van Pelt, principal, ICF International

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By Olivia Branco
Federal News Radio

So you want to be more green around the office. But how exactly do you measure your changes? Marian Van Pelt, a principal with ICF International, joined Chris Dorobek on The Dorobek Insider as part of the Greening of Government series to discuss different ways you can assess how your changes are going.

Van Pelt, an international recognized expert in industrial greenhouse gas emissions, said it's important to first get a baseline on energy usage in order to figure out the savings.

"It's challenging because of the whole baseline question," Van Pelt said. "Sometimes people start to make the changes and then they want to know afterward what the impact of those changes are but they haven't collected the baseline information to show where the levels of recycling were in the first place or levels of energy consumption at the level of detail that can show those changes once you've made them."

So how does Van Pelt suggest making a green impact? She said starting with anything that has a utility bill: from electricity use, to water consumption. Other ideas include turning off the lights at night, turning off your computer or printing double sided.

Van Pelt also noted that there are some leaders in the government that federal employees can look to.

"The Green the Capitol program with the U.S. House of Representatives is doing a lot of really innovative things and they're being very vocal to demonstrate the results to try and be leaders. The National Parks Service is also doing some very interesting things. There are a lot of different things going on and I wouldn't necessarily say that anyone is more of a leader than others because different groups have different priorities, but I think that there are very innovative things going around around government that lessons could be learned."

While you can look at larger governmental organizations, Van Pelt concluded saying it's best to look at those directly around you for encouragement.

I find that with most of my clients those activities that take place with a grassroots involvement are the ones that are most successful," Van Pelt said. "There are a lot of activities that can be done within a building for example, or within just a group of people but a lot of it is just the relations between yourself and your peers."

"If everybody seems to be doing it, than you're going to throw your recyclables in the recycling bin instead of the trash. But if nobody else is, then it might not happen, same with turning off the lights. I think that anybody that's interested in affecting change should start with the people that are surrounding them."