Global environmental problems sometimes appear to be beyond our control as individuals. The reality is that UN staff can contribute a lot in their day-to-day lives to building a more sustainable world – beginning in their own organizations.
Of course, there are already a number of major, official processes underway to make the UN more sustainable. These include the work of the Environment Management Group, initiatives such as Greening the Blue and UN-wide action to calculate carbon emissions and develop emission reduction plans. The Secretary-General has also urged the UN Secretariat and UN agencies, funds and programmes to lead by example and become climate-neutral and many organizations, including UNOG, are already taking measures in support of this objective.
More low-key but no less exciting is the growing number of grassroots initiatives that are flourishing thanks to UN staff members who want to see change happen fast, and are working to achieve this wherever they are and with however much time they have available. These initiatives support the overall objective of “greening the UN” and recently an informal Geneva Green Group has been formed. All those motivated to bring about environmental change are encouraged to join!
Some of the activities include:
What motivates these staff? Why not simply let the larger official UN processes run their course?
Motivations differ but a common theme is that staff members want a workplace that reflects their values. Another issue is credibility. Many staff members believe that before the UN goes out to help the rest of the world, we must first have our own house in order. More broadly, there is recognition that this is simply good practice: a green workplace has many benefits: employee retention, potential cost savings and benefits for the health and well-being of staff members. Finally, these staff members want to go beyond actions that involve only themselves and simply recycling paper and cans. They want to take actions that can have broader and more cumulative impacts, but require only a small investment of time and energy.
If you also want to ‘go beyond recycling’ and make a difference with however much time you have available, consider connecting with other members of the Green Group Geneva to share ideas and inspiration. It is completely informal, non-bureaucratic and everyone is welcome. If you are interested in joining the group, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was written by J.Drake and taken from the UNSpecial N.701, December 2010