Ms. Jennifer T. Wilson
Going Green Touches Everyone at the Texas Water Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Texas
Point of ContactMs. Jennifer T. Wilson
Ms. Jennifer Wilson is a champion of green practices and an agent of change for the USGS Texas Water Science Center (TxWSC). She spearheaded efforts to expand TxWSC's recycling capabilities, encouraged employees to reduce their commuting carbon footprint, and educated staff about more sustainable every-day practices. Ms. Wilson was a founding member of the TxWSC Green Team in 2009 and became the team lead in 2011. The Green Team, under her leadership, has implemented numerous innovative strategies to cut waste, establish sustainable practices, and encourage conservation at the TxWSC. In 2012, the first year of the Green Commuter Challenge, carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by 647 pounds through use of alternative commuting options. Recycling efforts have also resulted in a reduction in the TxWSC waste stream. The TxWSC now fills only one dumpster instead of two, resulting in substantial cost savings. As a result of Ms. Wilson's efforts, the TxWSC Austin office recently became a participant in the City of Austin Green Business Leaders Program and was awarded gold level status.
Jennifer Wilson has been a champion of green practices and an agent of change for the USGS Texas Water Science Center (TxWSC). Jennifer was a founding member of the TxWSC Green Team in 2009 and became the team lead in 2011. The Green Team, under her leadership, has implemented numerous innovative strategies to cut waste, establish sustainable practices, and encourage conservation at the TxWSC. Jennifer and the team also have worked to bring the benefits of fuel economy and energy savings to the attention of TxWSC management. Jennifer and the Green Team spearheaded a major change to office practices: greatly expanded recycling. Prior to Green Team action, only white paper was being recycled. The TxWSC now recycles cardboard, Styrofoam, plastic, magazines, glass, aluminum foil, and all kinds of paper. The Green Team also has made substantial changes to wasteful practices in the TxWSC break room. The break room now boasts single-stream recycling bins and two compost pails. To discourage wasteful use of paper towels, the Green Team has provided a dish drainer and cloth dish towels, which are laundered regularly by a Green Team member. Styrofoam cups and plastic coffee stirrers have been replaced by ceramic mugs and metal spoons. Jennifer organized a group of Green Team members to clean break-room refrigerators every quarter, to encourage TxWSC employees to bring their lunches to work rather than going out, and to discourage employees from having dorm-style refrigerators in their offices. Under Jennifer's leadership, conservation education and outreach to members of the TxWSC is available on the TxWSC internal home page. At the top of the page, a Green Tip of the Month provides information on a variety of topics. With one click, readers can access the Green Initiatives page, which provides information on green meeting practices (WebEx and tips for reducing environmental impacts of travel); public transportation and cycling routes to the office; green tips and resources; and a link to the USGS Environmental Management System (EMS) SharePoint web site.
A key link on the Green Initiative Page is the Commuter Challenge. Here, on a daily basis, TxWSC staff can enter their mode of alternative transportation (bicycle, bus, carpool, economy car, scooter, train, or walking) and miles traveled to the TxWSC, and instantly compute the reduction in their carbon footprint relative to one person in an average car, in pounds of carbon dioxide. The link stores information on carbon reduced by each employee—users can compare their reductions to those of others, as well as total miles traveled and transportation popularity. At the end of the year the Commuter Challenge Champion is announced at an All-Hands Meeting. (Screenshots of the Commuter Challenge tool)
With the Green Challenge web tool, it's easy to compute daily reduction in carbon dioxide emitted based on alternative transit options to the TxWSC. Jennifer and the Green Team continue to tackle more weighty issues that require support from TxWSC management and the building owner. The Green Team includes members from management, IT, and the field unit, and those members are promoting ways to increase conservation in those areas. These include:
(i) Working with the Administration department to compile an inventory of utility costs so that the carbon footprint for the TxWSC Austin office can be determined
(ii) Working with the IT department to reduce paper use, gadget use, and electricity use associated with computers
(iii) Working with office management to improve fleet mileage (the fleet now includes one hybrid vehicle), and to encourage webinars to reduce vehicle and air miles traveled
(iv) Working with the building manager to reduce pesticide and water use on landscaping (Jennifer successfully lobbied the property owner to have native, drought-tolerant plants put in when the building was built).
Results and Achievements
Results of Jennifer Wilson and the Green Team's efforts are visible throughout the Austin office of the TxWSC. Recycling containers by printers, in the mail room, the break room, the laboratory, and the warehouse are convenient reminders of the breadth of materials that can be recycled. A bulletin board and the internal web page provide updated information on green office activities. Recycling efforts have resulted in a meaningful reduction in the TxWSC waste stream. The TxWSC now fills only one dumpster instead of two, resulting in substantial cost savings. In 2012, the following was estimated to have been removed from the waste stream through recycling: 405 pounds of batteries; 2,483 pounds of scrap metal; 5,050 pounds of paper; 3,600 pounds of "single stream" items (mixed glass, metal, and paper); 960 pounds of cardboard; 150 pounds of Styrofoam; 250 pounds of organic matter. In 2012, the first year of the Green Commuter Challenge, carbon dioxide was reduced by 647 pounds through alternative commuting options (counting only those people who consistently filled out the survey). Employees bicycled or car-pooled to work, took the bus or walked, drove a hybrid vehicle or a scooter. Jennifer set an example to all by riding her scooter to work. As a result of Jennifer's efforts, the TxWSC Austin office recently became a participant in the City of Austin Green Business Leaders Program (http://www.austintexas.gov/department/austin-green-business-leaders). The office was awarded gold level status on the basis of scorecard results.
Communication has been an important goal of Jennifer’s efforts, both within the TxWSC and to other USGS offices. Green Team meetings are shared by conference call so that anyone in the TxWSC can participate. The EMS SharePoint administrator has agreed to share some of the best practices implemented by the TxWSC with other offices.
Jennifer has organized volunteer members of the Green Team to help out with a variety of tasks. These span the range from taking Styrofoam to a recycling facility on the way home, to cleaning out refrigerators, to designing a web page. Her unflagging motivation, great organizational skills, and abilities in a leadership role have been critical to inspire others in the Science Center to work together and achieve tangible results. Jennifer’s goal, and that of the Green Team, is to establish a network of USGS Green Teams that can share ideas, conservation success stories, and innovative approaches to implementing sustainable practices across the USGS. Virtually all of the many changes that Jennifer and the Green Team have brought to the TxWSC could be implemented at other USGS offices. Similarly, other offices might have come up with other ways to improve the sustainability of everyday practices. A USGS-wide network of Green Teams, working with EMS, would be a grassroots approach to tackling the question of sustainability in our agency.