By Alyssa Engebretson
The recent shift to telework prompted by the pandemic has created opportunities for more flexibility, and fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Earlier this year, County Executive Joe Parisi encouraged local employers to embrace teleworking even after the pandemic because of its many benefits, including lower vehicle emissions, reduced travel costs, and decreased traffic. “We have a real chance here to make a difference for future generations, and in many cases with workplace telecommuting practices already in place - this is just to keep doing what we are doing," said Parisi.
Employers who shifted to teleworking helped improve our air quality and reduced traffic congestion on our roads. Parisi said, “2020 marked the steepest decline in carbon dioxide emissions globally that we have seen since World War II.” The pandemic brought a unique opportunity to make a difference for future generations by normalizing remote work and decreasing carbon emissions.
After seeing the positive impacts of teleworking, our Climate Champion program updated our Employee Commuting category to include telework. The category recognizes entities where employees have shifted to environmentally sustainable commuting methods as well as those entities that make it easier for their employees to shift to biking, walking, carpooling, mass transit and telework options.
In 2021 we recognized two entities as 4 Star Climate Champions for Employee Commuting.
One local business, Green Life Trading Co., prioritizes sustainability in all that they do. The shop, located at 1334 Williamson St., sells sustainable products like compostable floss, shampoo and conditioner bars, laundry detergent strips, unpaper towels made from flannel, bamboo toilet paper and washable sponges. There is also a gift kit category on the website with gift packages like a cold brew kit with everything you need to make cold brew, a self-care kit with all the essentials, and a composter kitchen kit, just to name a few. The owner, Sasha Stone, launched an online store in 2018 as a way to make sustainable products accessible. She then opened her storefront location in May of 2020.
Green Life Trading Co. has a strong ethic of sustainability. They have been recognized as a Climate Champion in the Emissions and Employee Commuting categories. Beyond their products, they take pride in the fact that none of their employees drive to work solo. Green Life Trading Co. encourages their employees to work from home when possible and when they commute they either bike, walk or take the bus. Sasha mentioned, “By encouraging our staff to utilize these options we are furthering our mission of reducing our carbon footprint.”
Another way they stay true to their mission is by shipping in reused boxes and sealed with plant-based compostable tape and delivered by bike, which keeps cars and delivery trucks off the roads. In addition, their website has resources and educational materials on sustainability, including Zero Waste Madison, a Facebook group that is co-run by Stone. The group is a resource for those in Madison interested in zero waste. Green Life Trading Co. and its ingenuity sets a great example for other local businesses to reduce their carbon footprint and emphasize sustainability in all they do.
Another organization that got 4 Star recognition in 2021 is WPPI Energy, a member-owned, not-for-profit located in Sun Prairie that provides wholesale electric power to 51 community-owned electric utilities. The company has 112 employees who all work remotely, which led to their recognition as a Climate Champion in the Employee Commuting category. In addition, WPPI Energy was also awarded four other Climate Champion awards in the Energy Use, Water Conservation, Emissions, Waste Management, and Catalyst categories.
When considering how to transition to telework, Energy Service Manager Clint Cry says, “Communication is key. Prior to the pandemic our leadership was constantly communicating with employees and when the pandemic hit that trend continued in a very positive way. We learned that our employees even faced with the adversity of the pandemic could still provide excellent support to our member utilities. We’re a larger organization but still have the ability to move fast to ensure our success.” Employees reported enjoying the flexibility of working from home and even feel that they are more productive in this work environment.
The Greater Madison Metropolitan Planning Organization’s telework survey in our region found that 79% of Madison region residents want to work from home at least one day per week in the future. As teleworking and employees encourage cleaner commuting methods we love seeing local businesses shift to the needs of our changing world. This change creates flexibility for employees that results in more productivity and less our carbon emissions, which is a win-win.
Green Life Trading Co. and WPPI Energy are great example of how Dane County businesses are leading on efficiency and climate action. The Office of Energy & Climate Change is excited to share climate success stories like this one.