The Joinery is an iconic Portland, Oregon furniture company, and one of the many businesses that has engaged employees and made positive changes using NWEI programs.
We sat down with Joinery owner Jon Blumenauer for this Changemaker Interview in order to dig deeper into how NWEI courses and EcoChallenge can positively impact an organization. Jon notes that “The Joinery is a great model for how business can and should be run. It produces beautiful, high quality furniture in a way that values employees, contributes to our community and protects the environment.” Read on for the Joinery’s NWEI story.
What inspired you, and the Joinery, to participate in NWEI’s discussion course and EcoChallenge last year?
We did the Sustainable Systems at Work discussion course last February, and all of our employees participated. We made the course mandatory, and provided paid time at work to read the materials and offered several timing options to attend the discussion courses. This made it easy for people to participate, and clearly demonstrated that it was important to the company. We wanted to do the discussion course as a way to introduce everyone to sustainability concepts and provide a common framework. It allowed those with a stronger interest to step forward, and these folks formed a new sustainability team. Participating in NWEI’s EcoChallenge was a logical and fun next step for us — we liked that it offered a way to continue our employee engagement efforts after the discussion course.
Can you tell us more about the Joinery’s Sustainability Team that formed as a result of the discussion course? What projects are you undertaking?
As I mentioned, all of the Joinery’s employees participated in the course, and several folks were quite engaged and wanted to do more. As a result, we launched a Sustainability Team made up of people across all key functions in the organization. The Sustainability Team was tasked with following up on things identified during the course, as well as to investigate new opportunities. Currently we are getting comfortable with the Natural Step framework as a reference, and benchmarking our resource use. We’ve had Energy Trust and the City’s Sustainability at Work folks come in and conduct assessments, and have identified electricity as the highest value opportunity for efficiency improvement. We are looking at more transformational ideas as well, which we’ll be able to share more about as they evolve.
We decided to do NWEI’s EcoChallenge in the fall, so about six months after the discussion course, and we had over 80% of our employees participate. The Sustainability Team also came up with our EcoChallenges, which included a goal around not eating meat, eliminating non-essential printing, and eliminating paper towels.
What were the impacts of the EcoChallenge? What did you accomplish?
We collectively achieved a total of 203 meatless days from our employees (plus several more from the participation of significant others), and five people on our team went the entire two weeks without eating meat. We reduced our printing by 38% during the EcoChallenge. We eliminated paper towels during the Challenge, and have continued with this action going forward.
We kicked off the EcoChallenge with a vegetarian lunch for the team, and concluded it with a vegetarian potluck. One of our employees was so fired up about the meatless challenge that he decided to become a vegetarian permanently! And the Sustainability Team has institutionalized the vegetarian potluck, and we host them regularly — we have scheduled it for every other month, and are incorporating sustainability themes into the lunch with discussions and presentations.
All in all, our experiences have been inspiring — and the changes we’ve made have been lasting!
Thanks to Jon and the Joinery for sharing this story of change! To learn more about NWEI’s forthcoming discussion course on business sustainability, and how you can use NWEI programs to inspire your team, click here. You can pre-order a copy here too.