Frequently Asked Questions

What's the Big Picture?

The Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge (GWC) is in its fourth term with the new 2016 - 2017 competition starting June 1, 2016. The GWC gives businesses, non-profits, municipalities, and colleges/universities the opportunity to include sustainability-based activities in an approachable competition that provides tools, information, and guidance necessary to reduce costs, improve performance, and increase long-term sustainability.

The GWC steps beyond national trendsetters in enabling participants to actively track and receive credit for their verified green actions in a secure environment. Because the GWC involves the verification of potentially sensitive information, all data used in the competition remains confidential and secure. Only broad characterizations of competition performance (in the form of competition “points”) and aggregated savings across all participants, are public.

Participants in the competition can track their current point totals using the GWC leader board, which is updated continuously for most actions and at least monthly for social equity, energy, water, materials management, transportation,  actions and displayed on the competition’s website.

The GWC is an initiative of Sustainable Pittsburgh, a nonprofit organization that affects decision-making for the Pittsburgh region to integrate the three pillars of true sustainability to Pittsburgh businesses and communities: economic prosperity, social equity, and environmental quality.

What are the 2016 - 2017 Competition Dates?

Official Start Date: June 1, 2016

Official End Date: June 30, 2017

Competition Sign-up Deadline: August 31, 2016

The challenge runs for 13 months, ending June 30, 2017, with an awards ceremony to recognize all the participants and their efforts in September 2017.

What’s new for the 2016 – 2017 Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge?

There are many exciting new additions to the GWC! See our What’s New page for all of the details.

How are points decided and awarded?

To compete, participants will complete and submit verification of the action items that are listed in this guidebook and on the GWC website.  Point values have been set in order to:

  1. Highly reward actions which have a direct, measurable impact on electric, natural gas, or water usage, greenhouse gas emissions, waste reduction, and commuter impact reduction;
  2. Provide incentives for actions and policies that are known to build capacity or result in measurable impact reductions;
  3. Reflect the degree of difficulty and/or impact scale of putting actions into practice; and
  4. Engage employees broadly throughout the organization.

See the figure below for further explanation:

Points Calculated Picture

Points will be awarded upon submission of the appropriate verification materials for each action through the Green Workplace Challenge website. The points related to the EPA's ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager will be verified when participants create a Portfolio Manager account and use the “Share Facilities” option to make energy usage data visible to Green Workplace Challenge staff. Emails will be sent to participant representatives when points have officially been awarded, or if additional information is required.

Details on how to earn points for each action are listed in the each individual section for each category of actions. Selected actions are repeatable and can receive points multiple times, indicated in the description and verification sections.

What is the difference between “competitors” and “observers”?

Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge competitors are those organizations that meet the eligibility requirements for the challenge. Competitors are eligible to win awards at the conclusion of the Green Workplace Challenge.

Observers are organizations that register after the August 31, 2016 deadline. The observer category is also open to organizations that would like to participate but not compete. Although they are not eligible to win awards at the conclusion of the competition, observers still receive participant newsletters, are invited to participate in workshops, may submit completed GWC actions, and appear on a separate leader board.

Does my organization have to own the building(s) in which we operate in order to compete?

No – owning your building isnota requirement for participating in the Green Workplace Challenge. Tenant participants are encouraged to access their utility information and make use of Energy Star Portfolio manager to track energy and water use. See actions EN1 – EN4 for incentives related to collaborating with your landlord and fellow tenants to address the “split incentive” of energy efficiency.

If you are unable to access your utility data, there are hundreds of points available to your organization through other categories of action, and other actions within the Energy and Water section.

What are the Eligibility Requirements?

All businesses, nonprofit organizations, colleges/universities, and municipalities with operations in Southwestern Pennsylvania are invited to participate in the Green Workplace Challenge.

In order to be eligible to compete, you must:

  • Register to compete by August 31, 2016
  • Operate in at least one building within Southwestern Pennsylvania
  • Complete actions in one of the following areas outlined in the competition guidebook:
    • Social Equity
    • Engagement
    • Energy
    • Water
    • Materials Management
    • Transportation
    • Employee engagement
    • Corporate policies

Although it is not required to create and update an EPA Portfolio Manager account to compete in the GWC, it is highly recommended. Many competition points are associated with information regarding energy measurement through EPA’s Portfolio Manager.

If your organization has been located in its current facility for less than one year, you will be unable to input enough utility information in EPA’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager to create a baseline. Portfolio Manager requires 12 months of prior utility usage data to establish a baseline; therefore only organizations that are able to establish baselines are eligible for energy and water measurement action

There are plenty sustainability actions from the competition guide besides those requiring Portfolio Manager that you can complete and remain competitive!

Can my organization get credit for an action we completed prior to the start of the challenge?

Generally, yes with the following guidelines and restrictions:

You may submit any action that your organization has taken after the start of the baseline year (June 1, 2015) for this year’s GWC, with the following exceptions:

  1. You must submit evidence of continuation or expansion of actions for which you have previously received credit. For example:
    • You must submit evidence that your Green Newsletter is current and updated.
    • You must submit evidence that you are an active participant in a sustainability network.
    • You must submit evidence that you have reviewed and updated, and/or are still implementing and following your Computer Shutdown policy.
  2. You may not submit a building, fleet, landscaping or other infrastructure project that was submitted previously unless you can provide evidence for updates, improvements, expansions, or continued maintenance completed after June 1, 2015. For example:
    • Your previously submitted green roof requires continued landscaping and maintenance throughout the year.
    • You have installed additional electric vehicle charging stations since the previous GWC
    • You have switched additional lighting from incandescent to LED since the previous GWC.
  3. You may not submit events and workshops that took place prior to June 1, 2016. Events and workshops must be attended and take place during the competition year for points.

Additionally, your organization will be rewarded for its continuous efforts in the GWC via Legacy points. 

What are Legacy Points, and how are they rewarded this year?

In order to reward continued and increasing commitment to sustainable action demonstrated by returning competitors, the GWC will continue to recognize legacy points for 2016-2017.

This year, all points from the GWC 2014 - 2015 will be rolled over as 2016 - 2017 legacy points at 50% of the previous value from the final totals except for the following:

  1. No points involving reductions in energy, water, waste, and commuter footprint savings, or engagement actions (points associated with the GWC 2014-2015 actions GP3, GP6, GP10, GP15 and the Engagement category) will be counted in the 2016 - 2017 legacy points.
  2. Any points listed as legacy points from GWC 2014 - 2015 (purple in the leaderboards) will be rolled over again as legacy points in GWC 2016-2017 at 25% of their value.  In other words, if an organization had 100 legacy points for 2014 - 2015 GWC, 25 points would be counted towards the 2016- 2017 legacy points.

Note that legacy points do not count towards the number of times an action can be taken for the current competition year. For direct savings actions, the legacy points are in addition to any savings points awarded for savings actions in the current competition year against the 2015 – 2016 GWC baseline, June 1, 2015 – May 31, 2016.

What are the Measurement Tools Used in the Green Workplace Challenge?

The GWC emphasizes measurable achievements in the areas of energy, water, air quality, waste, and commuter transportation and verifiable actions that build capacity for making a measurable difference.  The GWC Competition Guidebook’s point system awards the largest proportion of points based on the deployment, use, and reductions based on the following tools:

  • EPA Portfolio Manager, which measures energy, water, and greenhouse gas reductions from energy and water usage
  • Waste audits, input through your own log, which provides performance measures on waste generation and reduction (including composting, recycling, and total diversion rate).
  • CommuteInfo, which provides periodic measures of commuter actions and associated energy, air, and greenhouse gas impacts

Organizations deciding to compete in the Challenge have the best opportunities to win the competition to the degree that these tools are adopted, deployed, and used to measure performance.  The Challenge offers training workshops on using these tools to participants in the Challenge (workshops are available to both competitors and observers).

What are the Competition Categories This Year?

Organizations can compete in the following categories:

  • Businesses (micro, small, medium, large)
  • Non-profits (small, medium, large)
  • Municipalities (small, large; by region)
  • Colleges/Universities
  • Observers for those who want to participate but not compete

Differentiation for Businesses and Organizations:

  • Micro organizations (10 or fewer employees)
  • Small organizations (11 - 75 employees)
  • Medium organizations (75 to 499 employees)                                                                                  
  • Large organizations (500 or more employees)

Differentiation for Municipalities, competing against others in the same geography of North, South, East and West.

  • Small (24,999 residents or fewer)
  • Large (25,000 or more residents)

Are homes or home-based businesses included in the Green Workplace Challenge?

Homes are not included for this iteration of the GWC.

I’ve already registered for the Green Workplace Challenge, but I’d like another individual at my organization to receive GWC email newsletters and notifications as well.

If there is another individual at your organization who should be receiving GWC communications, please contact us to share that person’s contact information.

What is the difference between the Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge and the Pittsburgh 2030 District?

The Green Workplace Challenge and the Pittsburgh 2030 Districts complement one another. Both are supporters of the Pittsburgh Climate Initiative, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the City of Pittsburgh 20% by 2023 (from 2003 levels) as well as improve our region’s overall air quality.  Here is a quick snapshot that describes the programs:

  • The Green Workplace Challenge has a regional scope, including all ten counties of Southwestern Pennsylvania, whereas the Pittsburgh 2030 Districts focus primarily on Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle and Oakland districts.
  • The GWC is a year-to-year competition; Pittsburgh 2030 Districts have a long-term focus.
  • The GWC’s competition guidebook is a “Ready-Made” checklist of green actions for organizations to implement. The 2030 Districts involve each building’s individual building strategy plans.
  • The GWC has an emphasis on occupied space, which encompasses both tenants and building managers. The 2030 District has an emphasis on entire facilities, which mainly involves the owners of those facilities.
  • The actions outlined in the GWC competition manual are based on short term implementation, which affect day-to-day operations, practice and culture. The implementation of the 2030 District goals are more tied to the full-life cycle of the building, such as equipment capital investments, e.g. a new roof, HVAC system etc.
  • While both programs use the EPA’s Portfolio Manager as the measurement tool, the GWC’s measurement comparison is actual usage, from year to year. The 2030 District measurement comparison is based on the cumulative performance vs. an industry average benchmark year 2003.

The Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge’s ready-made guidebook of sustainable actions provides a guideline for organizations to track and actively measure their progress in energy, water, air quality, waste and transportation. The measurements and reductions that result from actions taken throughout the Green Workplace Challenge will aide in the progress towards Pittsburgh 2030 District goals.