My Adventures in Millvale: The Green Workplace Challenge

September 29, 2017

Foreward: In the busy world of Millvale and the Millvale Library, we tend to get carried away in all the exciting things happening around us.  The Green Workplace Challenge (soon to be the Sustainable Pittsburgh Challenge) is a wonderful and easy way for us to document and track organizational sustainability efforts so that we can keep our focus.

This year, the Millvale Community Library, Tupelo Honey Teas, and Rolling Pepperoni, all participated in the Challenge to see how our efforts stack up against like-minded organizations around the region.  Below is a blog written by Millvale Library Sustainability Intern, Kelli Williams, documenting her experience with the GWC!  I think you’ll find that we had a little bit of fun along the way!

(Note: The following post is written by guest blogger and MCL Sustainability Intern Kelli Williams.)

Something always draws me back to Millvale. Besides being an adorable .68 square mile town, with great shops, amazing beer and nice people—a larger force always seemed to pull me back.

Each time I meet with the town’s Sustainability Coordinator, Zaheen Hussain, he leaves me inspired by the work he is doing. Because of this, I jumped at the opportunity to work for the Millvale Community Library as a Sustainability Intern.

Initially, I was given small tasks as a new intern: making flyers, assisting with sustainability tours of the town, finalizing documents, and meeting with local business owners. My first huge undertaking, however, was the Green Workplace Challenge (GWC).

The Green Workplace Challenge (next year to be called the Sustainable Pittsburgh Challenge) is a sustainability competition open to all businesses and organizations in the area. Organizations are divided into categories by type (university, non-profit, business, etc.) and by number of employees. Sustainable Pittsburgh’s website provides resources, tips, and a twelve-page long checklist of actions (that soon became my best friend) for each organization to complete. Each action has a point value and a list of requirements necessary to receive full points. The wide array of actions is as simple as having potted plants in the office to having solar panels installed on the roof.

My Adventure in the GWC

One afternoon in June, Zaheen mentioned that he received an email from a colleague at Sustainable Pittsburgh, joking about the whopping “zero points” that the library had recorded to date.  To me, a naturally competitive person, the joke screamed, “CHALLENGE.”  Needless to say, with only a month left in the competition year, my work was cut out for me!

I printed out the checklist and began to sort out what the library already had done but needed documentation for, and actions that could be accomplished in the short time frame remaining. I slapped the checklist down on Zaheen’s desk with a grin and confidently said, “You know we’re going to win, right?”

The next few weeks were a blur of creating and finalizing documents, taking photos of the library (shelves, plants—even the toilet), digging up receipts and utility bills, and persistently asking a TON of questions.

[Short aside…]  I need to personally thank Zaheen, Lisa Seel (the library’s Executive Director), the rest of the library staff and Board, and Kait Miller from Sustainable Pittsburgh for answering every single one of those questions! I don’t know how any of them put up with me that month, but I am truly thankful that they did.

June 30th at 11:59:59 pm

This was when the competition closed for submission of actions. My favorite joke was that the library would still be submitting actions in that last crucial fifty-nine seconds. I remember barging into Lisa’s office on June 29th carrying jugs of water and asking if I could put them in the backs of the library’s toilets. She didn’t seem surprised what-so-ever at this strange request and nodded her head in approval. I ran out of her office yelling “water-savings per flush and two more points,” I could hear her laughing out loud at my moxie.

[Another aside…] Have I mentioned how competitive of a person I can be? I grew up playing sports—cross-country, soccer, track and field, and even gymnastics for a time. There are few greater feelings than crushing your goals (winning is always a bonus), especially when the clock is against you. I also have an obsession with making lists for any occasion, and crossing off items on that list feels so satisfying!

September 14th:  The GWC Awards Ceremony

This was the day we would finally know if all of our hard work paid off. After a compelling speech from Pittsburgh Pirates owner, Bob Nutting, it was time for the awards to be announced. My stomach was in knots waiting for the library’s division to appear on the screen. Finally the “Micro-Nonprofit” category was up. Three finalists’ names were shown on the screen, including the Millvale Community Library. The winner’s point total was announced before the nonprofit’s name.  When the MC announced that the winner of our category finished with over 1,000 points, my heart dropped. I had calculated our score to be only about half of that total. Zaheen and I hung our heads in disappointment, as we thought we would be the come-back kids.

I nearly fell out of my chair when we were announced as the winner! We all looked at each other, squealing with joy at the shocking victory. Unbeknownst to us, our energy savings from the previous year landed us a few hundred extra points. I ran up to the stage and thrust the trophy in the air while looking at my fellow Millvalians— the competition had brought us all so close together.

The Green Workplace Challenge is an incredibly fun way to bring sustainable actions into your workplace and to set new goals. It is also a great way to engage your staff and the community, all while encouraging “green” behavior in all aspects of their lives. Completing the actions can lead to saving money (especially with utility bills), and can ultimately make your workplace a more livable and comfortable space. It also never hurts to throw some friendly competition in to the mix—encouraging members of organizations to interact with each other and work together to meet common goals.

In the end, win-or-lose, seeing the result of our actions really helped us to visualize our accomplishments and better share our story with our community. The Challenge ultimately brought inspiration and togetherness to our staff and showed community members our dedication to sustainability.

I had so much fun working for Millvale—and I wouldn’t change a second of it.


So, we won!  As did Rolling Pepperoni for the Micro-Business category!  Are you interested in the Sustainable Pittsburgh Challenge for 2018?  E-mail us at sustainable.millvale@gmail.com to learn how you can get involved!  Many thanks to Sustainable Pittsburgh, and the Green Workplace Challenge team for helping our region continue on its path to being a leader in sustainability.  Finally, thank you Kelli for your hard work!  Your passion showed itself through the course of this challenge!  Onward and upward into 2018!

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