Assiniboine Credit Union's Small Ideas Add Up to Big Wins for the Environment

Tiny garbage bins - smaller than two litres of milk - sit on staff desks at Assiniboine Credit Union marked "This is all the garbage I make." It is just one of many signs that explain why ACU, Outlook Financial's parent company, keeps winning awards for being light on the environment.

The tiny bins remind employees that there are many ways to dispose of office trash other than throwing something in the garbage. At ACU everything from pop cans, to office paper to outdated computers and printers are collected and recycled.

But it is not the recycling program that makes ACU stand out - it's the year-long efforts of the Eco-Excellence Team that monitors the co-operative's footprint and creates office eco-action plans to reduce its environmental impact.

"We track everything we do and we can show that our efforts are actually making a difference in several areas. And we also achieve financial savings," says ACU's Vice-President of Social Responsibility and Community Investment, Priscilla Boucher. "We prove to ourselves every year that we can be environmentally responsible without breaking the bank, so to speak."

In recognition of their success ACU was recognized as one of Canada's Greenest Employers by the editors of MediaCorp Canada on Earth Day. In early April, ACU was honoured with the Manitoba Excellence in Sustainability Award for Action on Climate Change, Air Quality and Energy Efficiency. Last year the credit union received the Gold Award in the Commuter Challenge; and the 2012 Commuter Friendly Workplace Award.

Some of those environmentally smart measures that employees have helped create include:

  • turning unclaimed single-sided print jobs into scratch pads.
  • re-programming printers to print double-sided and use less paper.
  • using online surveys instead of paper surveys for employee feedback.
  • reducing energy consumption in branches.
  • adding environmental features in every new and renovated building
  • recycling office supplies and furniture between locations and with non-profit organizations.
  • removing non-reusable kitchen supplies like plastic cutlery or cups.
  • providing subsidized bus passes and a carpool-matching service for employees.
  • providing bike racks at most ACU locations.
  • creating the only dedicated Manager of Environmental Sustainability position within Manitoba credit unions.
  • providing grants and sponsorships for community projects, programs and events that focus on improving the environment.

By the Numbers
 50 - per cent of employees who took the ACU Eco-Pledge to personally find ways to reduce waste and energy use at work.
 91 - per cent of employees who say they trust ACU to make business decisions that are environmentally responsible.
 32 - per cent of total waste reduced from 2008 to 2012 (from 99 kg a year per full time employee to 67 kg).
 12,000 - aluminum cans recycled in 2012.
 1.2 - million kilometres of green and active commuting by ACU employees in 2012. (That's 40 trips around the equator.)

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