Spotlight: WorldStrides Adopts Sustainable Business Practices with a Focus on Community

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While the idea of saving energy sounds daunting, it is do-able – maybe even more so when you do it as a community. That’s what Kiersten Teitelbaum, Associate Director of Curriculum and Academics at WorldStrides, believes. And it tops the list of reasons why she wanted to join the Better Business Challenge.

Greening Worldstrides’ business practices was, of course, also a top reason why WorldStrides, an educational student travel company with more than 400 employees in Charlottesville, wanted to sign up for the Challenge, Teitelbaum adds.

In this Q&A, Teitelbaum shares some of the energy-saving and carbon footprint reduction strategies WorldStrides has implemented so far, and why she thinks that an internal, company-wide awareness is vitally important to building support for climate action.

Why did WorldStrides join the Charlottesville Better Business Challenge?

KIERSTEN: We joined the Challenge for a few reasons. First, in a previous business, I had done the Challenge the first time and had a really good experience. I loved working with Better World Betty; I loved being able to track our ideas and changes; and honestly, I loved our efforts being recognized even for doing something to help the environment.

For WorldStrides, we are participating for a couple of reasons. First, as a company I think we want to do better in minimizing our footprint. We are a large company in Charlottesville. A lot of people don’t realize we have over 400 people housed right downtown. As a company, we’ve never focused on sustainability, so being a part of the Challenge has really forced us to get data points, given us some good ideas, and really helped us build a sense of community both within the organization but also to network with those other organizations that are wishing to do the same thing in Charlottesville.

What sort of actions has WorldStrides taken so far to save energy (and money) as part of the Challenge?

KIERSTEN: We are in the process of taking action and getting things going – with such a large office it is difficult to do but we are (1) working with Batteries Plus Bulbs to move to LED light bulbs, and (2) working to minimize our in-house printing. And then, we’ll turn our focus to sustainability measures not directly tied to energy because the Challenge is a catalyst for us to make changes in general.

We are really excited about a new recycling program that will allow a lot of our students traveling in D.C. to recycle their boxed meals. We provide students with over 30,000 boxed lunches each spring and summer. If we can recycle half of those contents, we will reduce our trash by over a ton.

The other benefit, or the other action that we’ve taken is we’re starting to figure out the best way to spread awareness around our building about energy efficiency and other resource-smart practices, and I think that will be crucial as far as getting the entire company moving this direction.

What sort of energy-saving and carbon footprint-reducing measures are you looking forward to exploring or implementing (as part of the Challenge)?

KIERSTEN: There are actually a lot of initiatives. We have a strong team working on a few projects. As we spread awareness throughout our company, I anticipate having many more interested people helping us with these initiatives. Some of those initiatives still in the brainstorming cycle:

  • Minimizing our need for significant printing and shipping of items to our teachers.

  • Improving our internal mechanism for accepting contracts and sensitive materials.

  • Working to inform our students about our sustainability efforts so they can be more aware of their own actions such as reusable water bottles, turning hotel lights off, picking up trash while at a site, etc.

What advice would you offer other local businesses or organizations who may be interested in saving energy, going green, or reducing their environmental impact (in addition to joining the Challenge)?

KIERSTEN: I think the hardest hurdle is thinking that you must have the answer. So when I told the people here about what we were doing, their immediate questions were, “What are you going to do? What changes are you going to make?” And the person that initiated this and/or the group that tries to put some of these initiatives into motion, they don’t have to have the answers. That message alone is really powerful.

So even if the only initiative comes around to getting every single employee in your building or your office or your company to just reconsider the actions that they are doing, that alone is extremely beneficial because you are holding yourself and everyone else accountable.