VVOB was awarded 3 stars out of 3 by Brussel’s regional government for the ways in which our head office acts ecologically. While you are probably already engaging in some straightforward practices yourself, we may be able to inspire you to do even more and become ‘Ecodynamic’ too!
Walking the walk
Keep It Cool in South Africa, Skilling for Sustainable Tourism in Ecuador, establishing eco-friendly schools in Cambodia… VVOB’s endeavours for quality education in our partner countries are increasingly influenced by a deep concern for the planet. Internally too, VVOB colleagues are doing their part by integrating easily attainable and more ambitious practices to reduce our ecological footprints. A thorough screening by Brussels resulted in our very own Ecodynamic Organisation Label, proving we don’t just talk the talk through our projects, but have changed our own behaviours and walk the walk for the environment.
The regional administration Brussels Environment of the Brussels-Capital Region accredits organisations in Brussels with the Ecodynamic Organisation Label that take action to reduce their impact on the environment, and inspires others to start doing so with new initiatives. Indeed, while VVOB head office was already well on its way to become a fully-fledged ecodynamic organisation, we were encouraged to go the extra mile. In the end, we received 3 stars out of 3 for our eco-management processes after being screened on issues such as waste prevention, sustainable food and rational energy use.
So how did we go about this organisational change? While some activities are rather straightforward and easily integrated in everyday life, we implemented some innovations you could consider too that are more long-term and – in our opinion – more sustainable because they change mindsets.
First, the decision to do something about our ecological footprint was a participatory one of all colleagues. A task force was set up and baptised VVOB’s Green Team. These colleagues are responsible for ecological actions at the office, e.g. taking care of our assortment of air purifying plants, thinking of ways to make sure colleagues use less water, plastic and energy, and many other very practical things. They are also the strategists responsible for securing the Ecodynamic Organisation Label for VVOB.
As an international organisation, we also need to think about the consequences of our frequent flying on our carbon footprint. The Green Team developed a self-made ‘flight selection tool’, which calculates which flight options are best taking into account criteria such as CO² emission, efficiency and price. Ecological arguments are made for all other office purchases too.
And when furniture or other items are no longer of use, we donate them through a Facebook page dedicated to sharing items in Brussels that deserve a second life. Individuals and social organisations working with strict budgets always welcome these!
A handful of other suggestions
There are many more things we already do but also could do more of. What follows are just a few practices we have incorporated in our office routines, for your inspiration.
- Events influence an organisation’s ecological footprint. To keep our gatherings positive, we take the following steps:
- We ask people to subscribe to our free events (and excuse themselves well in advance) so we can communicate the number of attendees to our caterers. Brussels Environment estimates 25,000 ton of food goes to waste in the Belgian capital alone.
- Our gifts (mugs, pens, tote bags etc.) are sustainable and ecological.
- There are plenty of quality vegetarian options.
- Cutlery, plates, glasses etc. are reusable.
- We rent shuttle busses to and from difficult-to-reach event locations to dissuade attendees from driving.
- Transport or mobility in general should be an area of scrutiny by any organisation (and individual) ready to do something about their footprint. We have a company bicycle for travelling short distances. Incentives to use public transport as much as possible have proven impactful for VVOB too.
- It’s the 21st century, and high time to reduce our paper use. Documents are shared digitally, scrap paper is collected in a central spot and used for taking notes, print machines are set to print front-and-back in black-and-white by default, ink is saved with Ecofont, our printing paper is recycled climate neutral paper, etc.
- Efforts to use water more mindfully include sensor-driven faucets and drinking filtered tap water. Glass bottles are provided for the heavy (water!) drinkers. Our cleaning team uses eco-friendly products only.
- Most food offered at in-house lunchtime meetings comes from biological sources. The caterers are local businesses who walk to our office or take public transport. The office also provides plenty of containers and tote bags if colleagues want to go and buy food at the local shops.
- And of course, we sort our waste for recycling purposes.
All these efforts are good for the environment, good for our health and good for our finances. If you would like to learn more about our journey, or if you have additional suggestions for us, please contact us.