Helping Employees to Make Sustainable Choices

In celebration of Earth Month, we are highlighting employees who are champions of sustainability and help make every day Earth Day at Intel. We have a long-standing commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility that is made possible by harnessing the power of people and technology.

At Intel, Earth Day Every Day is part of our DNA. We empower our employees to integrate sustainability into their work life. Over the years, Intel has had several programs to encourage, fund, and reward employees. But without the power and passion of our employees, we wouldn’t get very far with ideas to make Intel and the community greener.  Sydney Wirsig is one employee who has turned her passion for sustainability into action and positive impact at Intel.

Sydney joined Intel in 2014 in our marketing organization and from day one was looking for ways to get involved in sustainability efforts, “I feel we all have a responsibility to be a good global citizen and do what we can to make sustainable choices in our own lives as well as helping others do the same.” On her personal journey to live more sustainably, she realized she wanted to help and encourage others looking to do the same.

Then, an opportunity at Intel popped up in her inbox. The Corporate Responsibility team was looking for a passionate employee to develop a pilot sustainable living discussion course for employees. Sydney jumped at the opportunity and was selected to lead this effort. By working with the Northwest Earth Institute (NWEI), who creates discussion course books on sustainability topics, Sydney launched the Choices for Sustainability course to 200 employees. The NWEI course book covered everything from food to transportation through articles and data from a variety of sources. It gave people “food for thought” and allowed them to decide for themselves what they do with the information. The format of the course allowed for open discussions about reactions to the course content, and collective problem solving. Sydney reflected on the course saying, “It was incredibly gratifying to hear stories from the group about the things they tried and what worked for them long term. I didn’t know if anyone would make changes to be more sustainable based on what they learned but it turned out, they did. The efforts of everyone were outstanding.” She facilitated two offerings of the course and engaged with about 450 employees in total. Even though she is no longer facilitating the course, this was just the start for Sydney’s sustainability efforts at Intel.

“I realized opportunities to lead sustainability projects were all around me. I just had to take initiative to pursue them,” Sydney recalled. That aha moment led to her next project. Wanting to expand access to local, healthy food and searching for ways to lower her own food miles, Sydney wanted to start a community garden on an Intel campus. And when she found out about the Sustainability in Action grant at Intel, she was determined to make it happen. The grant funds employee ideas to make Intel or the community more sustainable. After hours of research, planning, and proposal development, she received news that she was a grant recipient. Then the real work began.

The garden in full bloom

She recruited volunteers, planned raised-bed building days, and coordinated vendors to bring the 38 raised-bed organic garden to life. The results? In its first growing season, the garden club had over 50 employees participate, beat its food donation goal, and hosted a garden educational event for 300+ kids. Upon reflection Sydney revealed, “It was the most rewarding and challenging side project I’ve ever done but even knowing now how challenging it would be, I’d do it all over again.” Since the garden’s completion in 2016, Sydney continues to help run the garden and enjoys sharing what she learned through the process with others who want to start community gardens. She is glad to have been able to bring a sustainable food source to employees and the community because of the support of Intel.

But as you may have grasped by now, Sydney always has a new sustainability idea brewing. So what’s next? “I’m interested in looking at ways to divert more waste from going to landfills. I’ve started collecting my hard-to-recycle packaging to send to organizations that can properly recycle them and I’d love to try that on a larger scale in the community,” she shared.

Clearly, Sydney is a true champion of sustainability at Intel and is always looking for new ways to help employees reduce their footprint on the planet.

Want to take action today to be more sustainable in your own life? Sydney suggests, “Eat less meat. The water, grain, and resources saved by every meatless meal is tremendous. Not to mention, the personal health benefits you’ll enjoy.” Not looking to give up your hamburger just yet? Sydney also advocates for using fewer plastic grocery bags. Noting the millions of years they take to break down, she suggests getting reusable bags for groceries and shared her tip to remembering her reusable bag, “I have one that folds up and clips to my purse so I always have it even on unplanned trips to the store.”

What will you do today to lower your environmental impact? Share what actions you’re taking to be more sustainable and celebrate Earth Day by using #EarthDayEveryDay on social media and follow us on Twitter @IntelInvolved to keep up with all of Intel’s corporate responsibility efforts.

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