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Eco office: greening the American workplace

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Whatever approach companies take, three factors motivate them, says Madeline Turnock, vice president of Hill & Knowlton, a public-relations consultancy in Portland, Ore. The first involves altruism; employers know their efforts are good for the environment. Second, they realize that going green makes good business sense. Energy-efficient practices lower costs. Third, they find that green policies help them recruit and retain talent.

"People want to work for companies that have strong values and care about sustainability," Ms. Turnock says.

People also want to work for companies that solicit their green ideas. "Anytime employees make a suggestion and vote on it, and the company acts on it, that's really powerful in terms of building pride in the workplace," says Patricia Bjerrisgaard, a senior director at Business Objects, a software firm in Vancouver, British Columbia.

At Business Objects, green teams focus on one initiative each quarter. The first one established a "no bottled water" policy. "They took out bottled water in the vending machines and added filtered-water stations," Ms. Bjerrisgaard says.

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