The Green Project Manager

by Nicholas J Picard

Tips for the Green Project Manager: Shrinking a Project’s Carbon Footprint

By now, you’ve probably heard that by unplugging your cell phone charger when not in use and by driving slower on the freeway you are reducing your carbon footprint – the amount of greenhouse gases produced as a result of an activity or group of activities. As recent television ads attest, the love affair major corporations have with our planet has always been core to their business strategy. Where have you been?

Unless you have the authority to create a lawn on the roof of your new production facility or to roll out fuel cell vehicles to your sales force, the environmentally-conscious project manager is left to wonder:  How can I green my project?

The intent of this article is to give project members, managers and business leaders alike some easy tips to incorporate greener and smarter business practices into their projects, thereby reducing the projects’ carbon footprint.

While Initiating the Project…

  • Create a green mission statement – Clearly state the projects’ commitment to environmentally-sensitive practices (printing only when necessary, shutting off computers before going home, etc).  As new team members transition onto a project, ensure they have read the green mission statement.

  • Designate a green stakeholder – Designate yourself or another greenophile as a green stakeholder.  This person will be the point-of-contact for all things green and serve as a liaison between the latest green information and the project.  You know you want to do this.

While Planning the Project…

  • Conduct green kick-off events – Not only do off-site kick-off events strengthen project identity by getting the team outside the office and defining a clear start to the phase, but they can also help the community which makes everyone feel good! These events do not have to be full day excursions – they are just as successful as an extended lunch hour. Examples include cleaning up a school playground, planting flowers/trees in a local park, visiting an environmental organization, etc.

  • Collect and post project member profiles – Teams are more likely to coalesce around a goal when they view each other as people, not resources. Have each project member fill out a personal profile that is accessible through a team website and include fields for where people live, what their hobbies are, favorite book they’ve read, etc. This will result in increased communication and increased probability of ride-sharing.

While Executing the Project…

  • Explore commuting options – Propose to your management that employees be allowed to telecommute on occasion. Telecommuting reduces energy consumption and the pollution produced from the commute to the workplace. Another idea is to communicate the alternative transportation options in your area.

  • Use reused paper for note taking If taking meeting notes electronically is not possible, use scrap paper that typically finds refuge in messy piles next to the printer/copier.

  • Employ workstation power policy – Ensure workstations are powered off every night. On your way out each day, do a sweep of your team members work stations and compile a list of people that are going to get “reminded” the next day.

  • Reduce travel – Many project members miss the opportunity of efficiency in terms of travel. Look further into the projects’ planned lifecycle and meet with stakeholders early. Build those relationships near the beginning of the project and you may discover future travel is unnecessary. For the travel that is deemed necessary, aim for 50% of airfare being offset with carbon emissions. Plan to share a rental car, or even better, use public transportation.

While Monitoring the Project…

  • Collect paper consumption metrics – Several freeware applications exist to track the amount of paper printed for a project. By reporting this metric along with typical project performance data, it is likely to be adopted as a corporate standard.

  • Explore greater use of technology – Use online discussion boards/instant messaging software to facilitate low impact discussions instead of expending the energy of booking an energy-hungry conference room. Use paperless faxing programs like E-Fax.

  • Collect green lessons-learned – Create an online repository to collect new ideas for further greening and/or input on how to improve existing green measures.

While Closing the Project…

  • Conduct green post-mortem analysis – What could we have done to further reduce the projects’ footprint? Were all the travel trips necessary? Could the travel visits been collapsed into fewer trips? Ensure this information is captured and summarized for future projects.

While Leading

Although it may not seem like it at times, your team members look up to you.  You are a source of inspiration to them.  After all, doesn’t everyone want to be a project manager?  OK, that might be a stretch.  As a leader for your organization, you should work to minimize the footprint your project will leave behind and there are many things you can do as a project manager that will inevitably catalyze the greening of your project and eventually, your organization as a whole.


(Oct 25, 2012) Rich Maltzman said:
Thanks for your post.
We have been writing about this for several years and applaud your efforts. We think green PM goes beyond just ‘greening’ the project itself but taking on a more holistic view of the steady-state of your projects’ deliverables. Please refer to our Cleland Award-winning book, Green Project Management, and our blog, which has over 400 posts on this very topic!

Thanks again!


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