This week the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) is poised to become the first environmental agency in North America to meet rigorous reporting standards for sustainability measures set by a global organization serving thousands of organizations worldwide.
The release of Ecology’s Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Report combines for the first time financial, environmental, social and governance performance indicators and standards for measuring sustainability in a single document.
The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is a non-profit organization working to establish standardized reporting of sustainability practices for private businesses and public and non-profit organizations around the world. Its goal is to make sustainability reporting as important as preparing financial reports.
Increasingly, the GRI standard is being adopted across the U.S. and Washington state. Companies such as Starbucks, Weyerhaeuser, Microsoft and others are using this universal, standardized measurement tool to communicate their impact to their clients and community.
The state of Washington’s Department of Ecology is the first environmental agency in North America to release a Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) report. The recently released report highlights what the agency has done to reduce energy, fuel use, and greenhouse gas emissions, plus engage stakeholders and employees.
“Ecology’s sustainability plan sets goals for the agency to merge sustainability into our decision-making, employee education and ecological footprint,” said K Seiler, Ecology manager of the Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction Program. “By publishing our GRI Report, Ecology shows Washington citizens how we walk our talk.”
Seiler added, “This report makes it easier to show where we’ve done well and where we still have work to do to incorporate sustainable practices in our policies and actions.”
Back in 2005, Ecology’s headquarters was awarded the Silver LEED certification. In 2009, Ecology launched the Carbon Smart Initiative in response to a challenge by Governor Christine Gregoire to reduce its emissions. Ecology partnered with an energy services firm as part of the initiative and performed an energy audit on three of its facilities. From the findings of the firm, Ecology picked projects that would save the most energy and have the best payback. The projected annual utility savings as a result of the energy upgrades are $103,965. The projected annual operational savings as a result of the energy upgrades are $25,605.
In 2010, Ecology launched a green information technology initiative that saves the agency $1.2 million over five years by reducing electricity and cooling costs through reducing the need for new servers. At the beginning of the project, Ecology had 115 physical servers, but now there are only 38. The state agency invested $400,000 in this project.
Ecology replaced the toilets at its headquarters with low-flow 1.2 gallon models, which saves the agency over 160,000 gallons of water a year. The agency also replaced urinals, showerheads and automated faucets at headquarters. In total, all the replacements save almost one million gallons of water a year, the equivalent of one and a half Olympic swimming pools of water.
Ecology has completed the following steps to reduce its fuel use:
- Bought hybrid vehicles which now total 31 percent of Ecology’s fleet
- Reduced fuel consumption by 20 percent between 2007 and 2009
- Started a carpooling system for employees
- Use a video conference system to reduce travel between its offices
- Started an alternative transportation incentive program at one of its facilities
In 2009, the Washington State Agency Climate Leadership Act went into effect. The law requires state agencies to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, 36 percent below by 2035, and 57.5 percent below by 2050 or 70 percent below the expected state government emissions that year, whichever amount is greater. Ecology has ongoing projects that will meet the 2020 emissions target, and achieve 93 percent of the reductions needed to meet the 2035 target. More than half of the planned emissions reductions are from energy efficiency improvements.
Image credit: Department of Ecology