While TEP employees have been hard at work building a cleaner, greener grid for our community, we’ve also been building a more sustainable workplace.

In 2020, we launched Employees Creating Opportunities for Sustainability (ECOS), a ‘green team’ that supports our company’s sustainability initiatives and raises sustainability awareness among coworkers and in the community. The group revamped our recycling program, donated reusable water bottles to schools, hosted sustainability ‘lunch and learn’ meetings and more.

Alyssa Gutierrez, ECOS Steering Committee Chairperson, discussed how the group was formed and shared several ideas on how to start your own green team during a recent appearance on the Mrs. Green’s World podcast. For Earth Month, here are a few ideas to help businesses create a more sustainable workplace.

Listen to Your Employees

Gutierrez said the energy for TEP’s green team comes from the employees who are excited about new initiatives and sharing their ideas. Before the group organized, employees in different departments sought ways to become more sustainable.

“Our employees were going to our leadership throughout the company, saying they had these initiatives or projects and ideas that they wanted to get off the ground, but there really wasn’t an outlet or a focused channel for them to do that,” Gutierrez said. “They just needed help channeling these ideas.”

Senior leaders supported creation of the team and continue to participate in activities.

Be Creative

TEP’s sustainability team was just getting off the ground in 2020 as the pandemic hit. During those challenging conditions, employees had to find new work processes. While they were at it, they looked for more sustainable ones.

For example, employees in multiple departments adopted paperless work practices that reduced or eliminated printing costs and paper waste.

“Sustainability really is innovation. And what do you get out of innovation? You get efficiency,” Gutierrez said. “When you’re in a constant state of innovation, and you tie into green ideas, it absolutely makes good business sense.”

Look for Partners

Forming partnerships was an important part of developing a strong sustainability team. In addition to collaborating with Mrs. Green’s World, we sought support from the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management. With more than 1,000 TEP employees in the Tucson area alone, team organizers received support from a group of UArizona master students who helped identify and prioritize initiatives with the highest likelihood of success.

“We knew we needed help launching the team with specific goals and targets that our company could tackle first,” Gutierrez said. “Seeing employees champion those initiatives, and then put their own spin on it, was so exciting to see.”

Gutierrez also advised other companies to continue looking for new opportunities to become more sustainable. For example, UNS ECOS team members volunteered to support Zero Waste Tucson, a  waste reduction and recycling event on April 16.

Make it Fun

Although TEP’s sustainability team has invited guest speakers to talk about complex topics like water in the Southwest and energy resource planning, it’s also made time for fun with ‘sustainability bingo’ and Earth Day quizzes. The team also offers healthy lunch recipes during “lunch-and-learn” sessions and provides quick tips to help employees become more sustainable.

By investing in a green team, you invest in your company.

“It makes good business sense, and positively impacts employees and your community,” Gutierrez said.

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