A Sustainable Workplace

Thomas O'Neill III, Peoria County Board

In August 2011, the Peoria County Board adopted an internal sustainability plan that provides guidelines designed to establish Peoria County government as a leader in environmental stewardship and sustainability. The plan meets the board's goals of ensuring a safe and healthy community, being a high-performing public organization, and providing high-quality public facilities for residents and visitors. The plan also affirms the board's commitment to improving the long-term quality and regenerative capacity of environmental, social and economic systems that support our organization and our community.

In addition to a leadership commitment to sustainable practices and goals, however, several key components are necessary for the successful implementation of any sustainability plan, public service agencies notwithstanding. These include:

  • Staff involvement in plan development and implementation
  • Internal sustainability champions to promote organizational "buy-in"
  • User-friendly tools and informational resources
  • Employee training of plan requirements and resource tools
  • Ongoing education/communication to employees regarding plan implementation and outcomes
  • Routine progress reviews, plan updates, and performance measurement reporting.

Another consideration that Peoria County has implemented is the establishment of a revolving funding mechanism. The money saved through current sustainability efforts is used to support or enhance future sustainability efforts.

Peoria County's sustainability plan details specific goals and objectives to help employees and vendors integrate additional sustainable practices and resource conservation into its operations and services. It identifies performance measures that help assess the positive environmental impacts of our efforts. The plan's six elements address our buildings, operations, use of land, purchasing policies, employee activities, and solid waste reduction and disposal. For these elements, we continually promote best practices that maximize pollution prevention efforts and minimize harmful effects on the environment.

The objectives set for the buildings and construction element of the plan include: minimizing electrical, natural gas and water consumption; increasing renewable energy usage; and improving air quality. Actions that Peoria County has already taken to meet these objectives include: installing LED exit signage, replacing T12 lighting with T8, using 90-percent recycled or recyclable interiors in the county courthouse, and installing motion sensors for lighting and plumbing features. We are also seeking LEED Gold certification for the Peoria Riverfront Museum facility and LEED Silver for Heddington Oaks, the county's new elder care facility set to open in West Peoria next spring.

Operational objectives include: increasing electronic documentation, utilizing alternative road treatment solutions during winter months, and minimizing fuel consumption and the use of toxic products like pesticides and paint and cleaning products. Sustainable objectives for county-owned land address the management of water resources and grounds. We can reduce our impact on land, air and water quality by creating bioswales to reduce rainwater runoff, installing permeable pavements, utilizing native plants and perennials for landscape designs, and minimizing irrigation activities.

While the county's sustainability plan also includes objectives and actions that focus on the development of a more sustainable purchasing program and solid waste reduction throughout the organization, the human element is particularly critical to the plan's success. Therefore, we incorporate tools, training and opportunities in the workplace for employees to improve sustainability of the work environment, office procedures and personal habits.

Shortly after adoption of the plan, the county's internal sustainability team formed a Green CREW (Conserving Resources and Educating Workers) comprised of employee-volunteers to assist with implementation of the employee objectives. These include: supporting reuse of office equipment and supplies; encouraging recycling and increasing opportunities; reducing paper usage; and decreasing energy consumption by turning off lights and electronics, eliminating space heaters and fans, and minimizing travel.

An employee's activities and choices have a significant impact on the overall amount of resources used by an organization. Therefore, educating employees and soliciting feedback from them on the sustainability program is essential to its success. To view Peoria County's sustainability plan in its entirety, please visit the information library at peoriacounty.org/recycle/files. iBi

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