At ASH, going green means getting competitive

August 25, 2013

Organization: American
Society of Hematology.

Location: Washington.

Employees: 75.

Last April, Ryan Washabaugh and some of his colleagues sent an e-mail to several team members who were overseas on business.

The gist of the message, Washabaugh said, was this: “Hey, when you come back, your whole office? It’s going to be unplugged.”

That’s because Washabaugh and his co-workers at the American Society of Hematology were vying to win the organization’s Green Challenge, a week-long event to encourage staffers to reduce their energy consumption.

The challenge started with the staff getting a report from an energy management company about their energy usage. The organization’s Washington office spans four floors and the report provided figures for each floor’s consumption. Then, staffers join together in a floor-against-floor battle to have the greatest energy reduction.

Some of their tactics were simple, such as shutting off monitors before heading home and turning off the lights in rooms that were not in use.

But Washabaugh said many participants had fun taking it even further, working with the lights off in their offices and unplugging any gadget that was not currently in use.

“There was a lot of watchdogging,” Washabaugh said. “People would be saying, ‘Hey, do you really need that second monitor?’ ”

Washabaugh’s team from the eighth floor won the competition. In keeping with the conservation theme, each participant was awarded a coffee mug, a token to encourage them to not use disposable cups.

And it led to other ideas for promoting conservation around the office: For example, many employees are now bringing silverware to eat their lunches instead of using plastic cutlery.

Matthew Gertzog, ASH’s deputy executive director, said the organization reduced its energy consumption 12 percent during the week of the challenge. And while it inched back up a bit, Gertzog said they have generally kept their energy usage at a lower level than it was prior to the competition.

» Life at Work highlights novel workplace practices, produced in collaboration with the nonprofit Alliance for Workplace Excellence in Cabin John. Does your company offer a special benefit? Tell us about it at capbiznews@washpost.com

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economics news.
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