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Lisa Jacobson/MEDILL

A local recycling truck picks up what offices and tenants have worked hard to recycle in the Chicago Green Office Challenge.

Gentlemen and Ladies: Start your recycling

by Lisa Jacobson
Jan 21, 2009

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Calculate your car's footprintDo an energy audit of your officeLearn more about the Green Office Challenge

Green Fun Facts: (brought to you courtesy of The Chicago Action Plan)

• 75% of all greenhouse gas emissions are generated in the world’s urban areas.
• 70% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings or the energy needed to serve them.
• Another 21% comes from transportation, specifically the burning of fossil fuels to operate cars, trucks, buses, and trains.
• Average Chicago temperatures have risen by 2.6 degrees since 1980.
• 39% of Chicago’s greenhouse gas emissions come from commercial buildings.
• The average Chicago resident uses approximately 12.7 metric tons of greenhouse gases in carbon dioxide equivalent units to be emitted each year.
• Turning off unneeded lights can reduce energy consumption by 45% .
• Of 104 million office PCs in the U. S., at least 31.2 million are left on overnight.
• The average office uses 1.5 pounds of paper per person per day.
• Americans use over 14 billion paper cups a year.
• 17 million trees are cut down in this country to supply fax paper alone. 
• U.S. residents use three times as much water a day as Europeans.
• Turning off the lights and pulling the drapes at night can reduce deaths of birds flying amid downtown skyscrapers by 83%.

The self-proclaimed “Queen of Green” would like you to know that “just by being active and being engaged you can make a significant impact.”

“Chicago has come up with an aggressive climate action plan," said Angela Ford, who has spent the last eight years greening Chicago buildings as president and CEO of T.A.G. Worldwide, Inc, a sustainable real estate company. Buildings account for 70 percent of Chicago’s greenhouse gas emissions, and the city's recently enacted Climate Action Plan aims to reduce the city's energy consumption by 30 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.

In a lunchtime meeting last week for interested Chicago business people, Ford talked about the plan's new program, the Green Office Challenge. She also offered advice on what they can do to reduce their office's carbon footprint.

The Chicago Department of the Environment has collaborated with Local Governments for Sustainability, a government organization, to create the Green Office Challenge. Businesses will compete against one another to reduce waste and energy consumption. The prizes include a big trophy, recognition by Mayor Richard M. Daley and the reduction of their carbon footprint.

“We’re just trying to make our company a little bit more sustainable," said George Starr of the Chicago-based Abelson-Taylor ad agency, who is considering joining the challenge. "We’ve already done a lot of the things that were suggested. But when we saw this program we thought it was another good challenge .... to get our company to take that further.”

This Green Office Challenge is a response to the Chicago Climate Action Plan, which was announced in September. The plan lays out five strategies to decrease greenhouse gas emission by 25 percent by 2020. They are: energy-efficient buildings, clean and renewable energy sources, improved transportation options, reduced waste and industrial pollution and adaptation.

The challenge, which addresses the strategy of energy-efficient buildings,  is a friendly competition that began Jan. 1. Offices will be evaluated using a Green Office Scorecard that offers points for eco-friendly tasks such as turning off their lights, using fewer paper cups and turning off office computers before leaving for the day.

Property managers can improve their scores by using energy-saving light bulbs, encouraging recycling in their buidlings and getting their tenants involved.

Both groups will learn how to implement easy, step-by-step, sustainable practices.

All current Green Office Challenge participants and anyone interested in learning more are welcome to attend the next meeting on Feb. 19 at the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

“I think people are interested and would like to learn more." said Jessica Weninger a challenge participant. "Hopefully I can be a conduit and get the information here and bring it back to them and share it."