'Green' Moves At Duke Save Money, Effort

Sustainable system at Duke Clinical Research Institute makes 'green' behavior easy

Reusable crates on wheels and conveniently located recycling bins are key components of the Duke Clinical Research Institute's 'green' moving system.  Photo by Marsha A. Green.
Reusable crates on wheels and conveniently located recycling bins are key components of the Duke Clinical Research Institute's 'green' moving system. Photo by Marsha A. Green.

A few years ago, Cristine Karasek entered a recently vacated office cubicle in the Duke Clinical Research Institute to prepare it for a new occupant. In the desk, she found paper, paperclips, pens and 325 unopened packets of Post-it Notes. 

The discovery galvanized Karasek and others at Duke Clinical Research Institute, also known as DCRI, to create a 'green' moving system that focuses on recycling, re-using office materials and using reusable packing containers. 

"I'd seen lots of stuff left behind in moves before, but the Post-it Notes took the cake," said Karasek, director of facilities services for DCRI. "I just couldn't bear to toss all that stuff."

The institute's green moving system reduces waste generated during office moves and saves money. Last year, the program salvaged supplies with a total retail value of $7,818. This success, Karasek said, is because the green moving system also makes moving more convenient for employees.

This is important for DCRI, which moves workspaces of up to one-third of its employees each year because work teams are constantly reconfigured as clinical trials begin and end. Some moves are down a hall; others involve moving between different campus buildings and locations in downtown Durham. The next move is in April when about 60 employees will transfer from the Hock Plaza and North Pavilion buildings to the 11th floor of the Durham Centre. 

"Our goal will be to make the move as easy on employees and the environment as is possible," Karasek said. "It just takes a bit of planning."

In April, the moving process will begin one week in advance when facilities services crews place recycling bins and a "Shred-it" container in a convenient location near employees who are moving. Next to the recycling containers, they will place other large bins for collection of reusable items such as pens, paperclips, folders and binders.

The facilities team will sort and store reusable items for DCRI's annual office-supply give-away in honor of Earth Day in April. During this event, the surplus supplies are spread over several tables in the lobby, and employees are invited to stock up on supplies for their work area at no cost. 

"Last year I picked up a really nice seven-slot paper organizer for my desk," said Holly Ashley, a staff specialist in the statistical department of DCRI. "It's great to be able to re-use stuff like that." 

DCRI will also use its supply of reusable, stackable moving crates in place of cardboard boxes. On packing day, a dolly with four or five nested black plastic crates will be delivered to each employee's work area. The employees pack the crates with personal files and belongings, then movers will roll the crates to the next location without ever having to lift heavy loads. 

Marshall Bain, coordinator for DCRI facilities, said that each time a crate is used, the institute saves $1 on the purchase, delivery and recycling of a cardboard box. 

"Those stack and pack crates are the best invention ever," said Celeste Webster, staff assistant for the chief financial officer for DCRI. She helped coordinate her department's move from the ninth to the fourth floor of the Durham Centre last July. "They are so much easier to deal with than boxes." 

Webster said the care and planning that DCRI puts into making office moves easier on the environment has encouraged her to look more closely at her own habits.

"When you are at a place that promotes sustainability in this way, it raises your awareness of how much waste there is in our lives," she said. "Because of DCRI's efforts at work, I'm also trying to be more sustainable at home."