Columbia University School of Nursing Sets Bar High in Workspace Sustainability


SON Workspace Certification team

From left to right is the SON team that has achieved excellence in the Columbia Workspace Certification Program: Jason Wright, Vice Dean of Finance & Administration, Pamela Peña, Senior Coordinator of Human Resources & Faculty Affairs, Juan Gonzalez, Simulation Technology Manager, Lara Philipps Assistant Director of Strategic Communications & Marketing, Judy Wolfe, Associate Dean of Student Affairs, Joshua Massei, Senior Coordinator of Scholarship & Research Development, Matthew Richardson, Manager of Operations, Alden Bush, Doctor of Nursing Practice Student.

Faculty, staff, and students from the Columbia University School of Nursing (SON) consistently achieved the highest score in the Sustainable Columbia Workspace Certification program since 2017.

The Workspace Certification Program was started by the Environmental Stewardship Office at Columbia University. The program is a checklist of actions to make workspaces more eco-friendly such as waste, energy, water, transportation, and more, while fostering a culture of sustainability.

Departments and teams are scored based on the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) system which reflects a rating of bronze, silver, gold or platinum. Platinum is the highest score. To achieve platinum, participants need a score of 75 or higher.

According to Allie Schwartz, assistant director for Planning and Outreach in Environmental Stewardship, “The School of Nursing continues to serve as a model for the rest of the University. They’ve done some truly incredible work over the past few years”.

How has SON accomplished such great feat? Matthew Richardson, manager of Operations for the School of Nursing shared that it has been a team effort. “Being creative and energized also helped. We hosted a successful School of Nursing sustainable lunch bag and reusable lunch utensils giveaway event with faculty and staff to raise awareness about the school’s commitment to supporting the university’s sustainability initiative. For example, when evaluating office supplies, technology and other products, we always opted for the most energy efficient and recycled paper version, when available.”

SON participants also met periodically and consistently to discuss how to incorporate changes over time, including what changes could be made immediately versus those changes that would require further discussion or review at a higher level. This helped ensure that they stayed on track and continued to work towards meeting the checklist requirements.

“It was difficult in the beginning to help keep SON green, such as making sure that we were turning off lights, using less paper at meetings, switching to reusable plates, cups and silverware, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator,” explained Richardson.

The team also experienced challenges with the appropriate labeling of trash and recycling cans and their availability. Thanks to CUIMC Facilities Management’s Engineering team, they were able to obtain additional trash and recycling bins as well as guidance on applicable labeling.

“I was not surprised at all that the School of Nursing has done so well in the Workspace Certification Program,” says Jeet Viswanathan, director, Energy Management & Sustainability, CUIMC. “They deserve kudos and recognition for their achievement and teamwork. Any individual or team who is hesitant to enroll in the Workspace Certification Program should reach out to us. The certification involves simple, easy-to-follow instructions in eight areas that remove all the guesswork from being sustainable.”

Jason Wright, vice dean of finance and administration for the School of Nursing, and leader of the school’s sustainability team, shared, “When SON started officially tracking our sustainability efforts, many felt walking into a new state-of-the-art, LEED-certified building meant we’d done the work. That mindset has evolved as we took the necessary steps to align our day to day habits with a highly efficient building. I’m so proud to be part of a school and sustainability team that continues to take broad actions for positive change.”

The School of Nursing hopes to continue educating and engaging faculty, students and staff in sustainability efforts through collaborative meetings, digital display boards with information, events that promote green spaces and beyond. Learn more about the Columbia Workspace Certification Program and join today!