5 Tips for Going Back to the Building Sustainably


As students return to physical classrooms – many for the first time since March 2020 – and workers are increasingly called to return to their buildings, the sources of our collective environmental impact are shifting to reflect our changing behaviors and needs. While supporting Southface Institute helps increase the health, efficiency, and resilience of our built environment as a whole, there are many other steps you can take as an individual and family to ensure going back to the building doesn’t mean going back to unsustainable habits. Take these five tips: 

  1. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Stock up for school and work with the environment in mind. Think about what you can do without. Shop clothing swaps, thrift stores, online resellers, and used bookstores. Look for items made from recycled materials or boasting a lifetime guarantee if you need to buy new. Avoid individually packaged snacks if you can and consider reusable coffee pods for your caffeine fix. 
  2. Consider a transportation transformation. Can you and/or your kids carpool? Take transit? Ride bikes? Transportation consistently ranks as the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. What can you do differently now to reduce your costs and carbon footprint? Assess your daily commute as well as your business and personal travel — one round-trip flight can emit as much carbon as three months of commuting by car. 
  3. Go green when you go virtual. Though it’s not as visible as exhaust from a truck’s tailpipe, every email, internet search and streaming video uses energy. With billions of internet users across the globe, it adds up fast. Streaming over wi-fi instead of a mobile network, cutting down on unnecessary emails, and keeping webcams off during calls when possible are just a few of the small changes we can all make to reduce our impact.    
  4. Leave your home consumption behind. Spending so much time at home throughout the pandemic has significantly increased residential utility usage. Get back into the habit of adjusting your thermostat and turning off lights when your place is empty to save energy and money. If you own and have the resources, consider investing in things like insulation and dual-flush toilets to reap rewards in the long run. 
  5. Set a new standard for schools and workplaces. Advocate for building assessments and upgrades that increase the health, efficiency, and sustainability of the indoor spaces you spend time in. Southface’s funded programs and paid services can help. We work collaboratively with a network of other nonprofits, businesses, government agencies, universities, and technical experts to implement sustainable, high-performing, scalable solutions for all. 

Whether you work on or in buildings (or both), your actions and advocacy matter. Put these tips into practice as you head back, and together, we’ll move forward. 

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