News & Events

CAPS gets gold for green initiatives

The School of Continuing & Professional Studies (CAPS) Danforth Campus offices have earned the second highest WashU award for office sustainability.

Receiving a Green Office Program Gold Seal is an honor that has been eight years in the making.

CAPS started participating in the Green Office Program in 2016 when Amanda Mueller discovered the program and decided to see how many of the requirements CAPS, University College at the time, could check off.

“I think we got a bronze level the first year and then the next year we got up to silver and we’ve been in silver ever since,” said Mueller, noting that participating in the program had multiple benefits. “It makes us feel more a part of the university community because there are many, many offices and labs across all of the campuses participating in this program. It also let’s us feel good about doing our part to help and make our offices less wasteful. A lot of times I feel pretty powerless when it comes to looking at all that needs to be done, but contributing to a greater initiative makes you feel like maybe you are having some impact.”

While Mueller has spearheaded Green Office Programs for CAPS over the years, she says that achieving the second highest designation is an achievement that could not have been reached without the help of all of the CAPS staff.

“It certainly wasn’t just me,” she said. “I want to thank everyone for doing something this year. Everyone participated.”

The Green Office Program has four levels of participation: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Each level is based on what percentage of sustainability goals each office can achieve. To receive a Gold award an office has to complete 80 percent of the benchmarks recommended by the Office of Sustainability each year. The Silver award, which CAPS’ West Campus has achieved, requires completing 65 percent of the benchmarks.

Mueller said those benchmarks cover everything from energy waste and printing practices to purchasing, transportation and office culture.

“It’s all on a big spreadsheet and we fill it out and then they tally the points,” she said, noting that after the pandemic the award process also included individual staff surveys to account for new flex/work from home schedules. “This year we got full participation in that, which earned us some points.”

“Most of our courses are also fully online, so most of our students don’t commute to class, which is one of the check boxes that really only applies to us,” Mueller added.

CAPS also earned points for using window treatments to reduce heat loads, lowering blinds to help mitigate bird strikes during migration seasons, turning off workstations over weekends and holidays, recycling, using fair-trade coffee, and keeping live, not plastic, plants in the offices.

“There are places we can still improve,” Mueller said, adding that she would love to see both campuses achieve Gold status next year.

Those possible improvements include, but are not limited to, composting, having more staff sign up for the Office of Sustainability newsletter and taking the Green Monday pledge, attending sustainability events, forming a Green Team, and participating in EDI training.

Mueller said she also plans to continue to remind staff to lower blinds, turn off power strips, and possibly invite the Office of Sustainability to a staff meeting.

“Staff can also pay more attention to what is recyclable and what is not,” Mueller added. “You can also check out the sustainability website and keep an eye out for their events on campus.”

She said staff interested in improving CAPS’ impact on WashU’s sustainability efforts should check out the Green Office Checklist to see what other steps they can take.

“Let me know if you want to participate in getting our offices, especially West Campus, up to speed so we can get an even better score next year,” Mueller said. “Please reach out to me if you have any questions or if you would like to try to get the Office of Sustainability to come to one of our meetings.”