Bicycle commuting succeeds, coffee grounds fail

Steven C. Berman is an attorney with Stoll Berne. You can reach him at sberman@stollberne.com or 503-227-1600.

Steven C. Berman is an attorney with Stoll Berne. You can reach him at sberman@stollberne.com or 503-227-1600.

I work at a law firm that prides itself on its commitment to sustainability. Despite our best intentions, not all of our sustainability initiatives are successful. I’ve become fascinated with why certain sustainability efforts work while others don’t. I think our experiences might provide others with guidance why some workplace sustainability efforts thrive, while others fail.

On any given day, 20 percent of the people at my office bike commute. During the summer, we might get as high as 35 percent. It wasn’t always this way. When I began working at the firm in 2001, there was only one other consistent bicycle commuter. In the past decade, we’ve become a workplace that embraces bicycle commuting.

I consider this an unmitigated success. Not everyone I work with can bike to work. Some people live too far away, some have family commitments that would make cycling impractical, and at least one person has expressed an irrational disdain for cyclists. But many of us who can bike commute do. As a workplace we’ve made small, but meaningful, strides in reducing our carbon footprint, improving employee health and enhancing our good corporate citizen street credibility.

Compare this to the office's least successful sustainability initiative of recent memory — the coffee grounds/home composting project. It seemed like a good idea. The firm goes through gallons of coffee every day. Coffee grounds make great composting material. The firm’s sustainability committee proposed that rather than toss the coffee grounds, we have people who want them take them home, for the garden or compost bin.

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