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A Green Office Challenge: Ruminations Post-Distributech

Michelle Ross

The theme of Distributech this year was clean energy and decreasing the utility industry’s carbon footprint. A few Ario team members attended the conference in San Antonio, Texas, to show off our platform and observe innovations in electricity transmission and distribution, particularly those advancements addressing climate change. The trip allowed us to reflect on our energy consumption at Ario and how we reduce our carbon footprint.

Jacob and Joe about to take on #DTech2020
Distributech even gave us a plant for our booth. Sadly it was taken away from us as it was meant for someone else; a scrap of leaves was left in its wake. “Did someone eat a salad and leave all the lettuce under the chair?” our Art Director asked.  


Here’s how Ario is eco-friendly:


  • Product: Our platform uses augmented reality, a technique that is nearly paper-free. We provide tools to let individuals metaphorically pin information in the air. No more pounds of paper manuals. Printouts are so last century.
  • Work Environment: Our office is nearly paper-free. Several of us don’t even know where the printers in our building are, nor have I wondered until this very moment. What’s in our filing cabinets? A lot of hand sanitizer (not relevant), reusable water bottles (relevant) and several empty drawers (#minimalism). I’ve also never seen a trashcan full in the office.
  • Decor: Office plants, particularly low-maintenance succulents are a favorite here. Succulents purify the air while also producing oxygen and increasing humidity in our office, an office full of bustling activity, take-out food, coffee and lovely other aromas. 
  • Uniform: Our office swag is from Patagonia. Their energy plan strives to maintain a carbon footprint of zero. Patagonia is working towards becoming carbon positive meaning they take more carbon out of the air than they put in. (Check out Patagonia’s mission here.)
  • Transportation: Our newest team member rides his bicycle to work which has made the rest of us reconsider our laziness. Our youngest team member drives an electric car which is an aspirational goal for us slightly less hip. And as an environmental and time waste courtesy, we have flexible remote working allowances for those with a soul-sucking commute.
Gotta stay hydrated!

We’ve poked around to see how other offices go green.  Here’s what we’ve learned from others:

  • Reduce plastics: Don’t use to-go boxes/cups, switch to reusable shopping bags and bring your own utensils. When buying cleaning supplies, use the oversized packages (less square footage of plastic per product). Sure, you might look silly with your giant bottle of hand-sanitizer, massive container of Clorox, or behemoth box of necessities, but it doesn’t matter what others think. What matters are green habits.
  • Clean your plastics: Before throwing your plastic bowl or box in the recycling bin, wash it first. If the food contaminants are still on the plastic, it will eventually be sorted and sent to trash. Peel off stickers and other non-recyclable attachments on your plastics for the same reason. Ask your podmate if they knew about these recycling rules. We bet you there’s a 50-50 chance they didn’t know. It’s certainly not as juicy as other office gossip, but it’s more productive. 
  • Carpool: If you live in the same part of town, why not carpool with a coworker? Share music, podcasts, and a little too much information about each other's lives. Politely moan about your codependent neighbor who crosses physical and emotional boundaries or about your micromanaging relative-in-law. Or, sit in silence and read a book or meditate while the other drives. Not everyone has the physical ability to bike to work or the option to take public transportation, so carpooling is an easy alternative.
  • Stop Printing: Just stop. Unless it’s mandatory. Whenever you print, think about the lifespan of the item you printed. Will it even last a day before it ends up in the trash? Half of the contents in office trash cans are paper products. Why does this happen when there are computers to prevent printing and recycling cans to repurpose printouts? If you recycle 1 ton of paper, you save 17 trees, and one tree is enough oxygen for three people to breathe. Look to the person to your right, the person to your left, and then back at yourself; that makes three and no one else. (Check out other paper stats like the above @ theworldcounts.com)
  • Check Your Product/Service: Is it green? Or is your business contributing to the climate crisis? We can look at companies we’re familiar with and observe how they mitigate their carbon footprint. IKEA sources their materials from sustainable farms, Patagonia urges customers to limit consumption of material products including their own, Target is winning the race to install solar panels, and Johnson & Johnson is removing harmful chemicals from their products.
  • Watch What You Eat: Being a vegetarian or vegan is expensive, but if you’re financially capable of making the switch, then try it out. Depending on the source, livestock farming contributes up to 15% of greenhouse emissions. Vegetables like beets and brussel sprouts have more than enough protein for you Crossfitters. (Ario loves Crossfit!) What if your office starts with no-meat Fridays? Obviously not mandatory, but a challenge for those interested.

Our little plant village at Ario HQ

Distributech was a thought-provoking conference where the focus on industry growth was linked with incentives to reduce the carbon footprint of the energy industry. Hopefully, you will feel inspired by one of the green challenges mentioned above and encourage your colleagues to participate. 


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