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What is LEED certification?

Because today is Earth Day, I’m talking about LEED certification. What is LEED certification? What is LEED certification good for? What are the benefits of working for a LEED certified company? Let’s dive into it all, so you can be more educated on sustainability efforts in the workplace.

What does LEED stand for?

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED is the most widely used green building rating system in the world.

organic valley farm

What is LEED certification?

LEED certification is a third party certification program for sustainable buildings and practices. It was created by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the leading organization that promotes sustainability in building design, construction, and operation. But it all started from one architect’s idea in 1989 to design more environmentally friendly buildings. Bob Berkebile from Kansas City started the green building movement. And now, it’s an international rating system that is widely used. (Source RTS.com)

What are the benefits of a LEED certified building?

LEED buildings use less energy than normal buildings. LEED certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability for corporate buildings. LEED certified buildings save money, lower carbon emissions, and create a healthier work environment for employees. They are helping climate change too!

You all know that I am an ambassador for Organic Valley. But my relationship with the company goes back a lot farther than that. While beginning my own organic journey, their chocolate milk was what made me really take a look at organic products in general. You can read more about that in my free download, How to Eat Organic The Ultimate Guide.

But, getting back to Organic Valley, I bring them up because their Cashton office is a LEED certified building. And I thought I’d explain a little more in depth about LEED and how it actually transfers to the workplace through their building.

Plus, you will be able to see some benefits of working for a LEED certified company. Because don’t you want to work for a company doing better? Or one that provides a healthier workplace?

cow in pasture on organic valley family farm

The Organic Valley Cashton office is a beautiful office building. It reminds me of the days when I worked at Roxy/Quiksilver and they had their sweet headquarters in Huntington Beach. When you walked in that building, you could just tell it was a surf company. And, when you walk into Organic Valley, you can just tell it’s a farmer company.

This new building includes a geothermal energy system, solar powered energy, low volatile organic compound (VOC) carpets and furniture, LED lighting, specially designed waste stations, and employee engagement activities and trainings surrounding sustainability. All of these features create a healthier, cleaner indoor environment. And they also reduce operating costs significantly and improve worker productivity.

Now, this is a lot of big words and lists of things that sound fancy, but what do they really mean? What does this mean if you are an employee, and how does working for a LEED certified company matter to you when you are hunting for a job?

So, let’s use Organic Valley’s office as an example and how the items on the LEED certification can trickle down to employee benefits. Let’s talk furnishing first, because let’s be real if you’re in an office setting you are mostly sitting at a desk, meeting in a conference room, or using the break room or bathroom.

Organic Valley uses low and no Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) furniture and carpets throughout the building because of serious health risks associated with VOC. You’ve probably all heard of VOC paint right? Same thing. VOC can cause irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, headaches, loss of coordination and nausea, damage to the liver, kidney and central nervous system, as well as suspected or known to cause cancer in humans and animals. So, you can sit and breathe easy in the Organic Valley office building.

zero voc paint

Second, Organic Valley teamed up with a local company that rescues various materials to be used as reclaimed furnishings as a sustainable alternative to construct the majority of the conference room tables. The secondary boardroom at the office features a large table created from restored wood from the Odessa Family barn that was found on the property site! I’ve seen this table, it’s gorgeous!

Okay, on to waste stations. In their cafeteria, they have designated waste stations for recycle, compost, and landfill. And each waste station is made of approximately 1,425 reclaimed milk jugs! How cool! And, in addition, employees are encouraged to bring in harder to recycle items (from home) to deposit into these waste stations! Items like plastic bags, small electronics, batteries and cartridges all have a deposit station. Your trip to work also now includes your trip to the recycling center, that’s a bonus!

egg shells

At our Cashton Office Building, they have bioswales in the parking lot. These are meant to manage the water runoff so that when water leaves the property, pollutants are filtered out before it reaches our local waterways. The bioswales are planted with native species. Because they are in Wisconsin, the plants need to be salt tolerant because a lot of our runoff is salty from salting the parking lots in winter.

Organic Valley also provides many resources to all employees such as training and opportunities to reduce their carbon footprint through their sustainability department. They have ride share programs, a biodiesel fuel station, and numerous brown bag training sessions surrounding sustainability issues. Examples of brown bag training sessions include education hikes through the local Kickapoo Valley Reserve (I’ve been there!) and sustainability film showings. These sound like bonuses to me!

people together outside

Their building also includes a geothermal energy system. Geothermal energy is thermal energy generated and stored in the earth. It’s the same energy that escapes as steam at a hot spring, and why certain areas have hot springs or hot creeks like we have here in Mammoth! At Organic Valley, they are harnessing the geothermal energy for heating and cooling the building. Their system covers about 1.3 acres of land, and it provides them with 220 tons of cooling and 34,000 therms of energy for heating. This is the equivalent to heating and cooling 60 average households in the US! Think of that energy that’s being saved! And, trust me, I’ve been in this building when it is hotter than shit outside in that Midwest heat, and the air conditioning works!

Solar powered, I don’t have to explain much as I think everyone is familiar with that. But their solar provides the building with almost 9% of electricity needs, which is the use of 11 average sized homes in the US! So, if you care about the environment, you can see how LEED certified companies and buildings can make a big difference!

Maggie, the Facilities Manager at Organic Valley, is so passionate about LEED certification that she took the time to talk to me about it. And when I asked her what her favorite part of all is, she said:

“The bioswales are another innovative approach to managing a common environmental challenge – pollution from runoff. Being in the agriculture industry, we are acutely aware of the challenges posed to our waterways by runoff and I am proud we have made an attempt to mitigate the impacts from our parking lots. We also have organic certified land at both our large office buildings. This land is managed organically, just as you’d expect our farmers to do. Both the bioswales and managing the land organically require different management techniques than you’d expect to see at an average office building, but we like doing things differently and we are committed to making it work!”

people working togther

So, in celebration of Earth Day, I wanted to share more about LEED with you guys. So, if you are on the job hunt and you have a list of things that are important to you, think about adding LEED certification to that list!

Here’s a few companies that are LEED certified, but there are so many more!

Organic Valley

Cosmic Bliss

Patagonia

Costco

Apple

Google

Bank of America

Wells Fargo

Citi

Goldman Sachs & Co.

American Express

BNY Mellon

Morgan & Stanley & Co. Incorporated

Fidelity Investments

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