Cisco employee
Jordan Hart-White

This guest post comes from Jordan Hart-White, Sustainability Manager, Workplace Resources, Cisco.

From freshly baked bread to homegrown tomatoes, people have found new ways to thrive at home this year. And with more time in the neighborhood, observing the local bird population and monitoring local air quality, issues of sustainability can feel close to home too. While travel and commuting are on hold, we have found comfort in connecting virtually with friends and family.

For employees who are interested in connecting with their peers on environmental sustainability, Cisco makes it easy to pick up new tips, hobbies, and skills through our internal employee engagement platform called Cisco GreenHouse. Through the platform, our employees can:

  • Share what they are doing to reduce their carbon footprint
  • Network with fellow employees who are passionate about eco-friendly solutions
  • Inspire each other and find concrete actions to live more sustainably

Inspiration Behind Cisco GreenHouse

A Cisco employee kissing a mug
A Cisco employee participating in the “Hug-A-Mug” campaign

Five years ago, groups of employees came together in sustainability interest groups, known as Green Teams, around the world. To allow all of our global employees to join in on the fun, we launched Cisco GreenHouse as an additional virtual option (now the only option, since Cisco’s corporate offices are closed).

Now, anyone at Cisco interested in sustainability can join and post pictures and comments, allowing them to connect with colleagues outside of their department or office location. GreenHouse launched with 1,000 employees in 2016. And four years later, membership has grown to over 9,000 members.

Cisco GreenHouse: Engaging Employees to Take Action

We partner with internal groups to host events and competitions, focusing on actions that are the best fit for those groups. One pre-pandemic example of this was the “Hug-A-Mug” campaign, which encouraged employees to embrace reusable options (like mugs and water bottles) instead of disposable items. We hosted this campaign because many of our employees had requested that we move away from paper cups and other single-use items in our break rooms and cafeterias. Employees checked off specific actions within the campaign, like bringing in a reusable mug from home, sharing mug selfies to motivate others, and tagging friends to get involved. At the end of the campaign, we recognized those who had checked off the most actions with prizes and launched several paper-cup-free programs in Cisco office locations around the world.

Impact Cisco GreenHouse Has Made So Far

Many activities on the platform incur both monetary and environmental savings. For example, energy-saving actions like adjusting your thermostat, using blinds on your windows, unplugging devices and appliances, and air-drying laundry can reduce your energy bill. Buying food with little to no packaging, composting, gardening, and avoiding unnecessary or single-use items can reduce waste. And eating locally grown foods and less meat reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated by your diet.

On the Cisco GreenHouse platform, people can see the environmental outcomes of their personal actions along with the sum of all Cisco employees’ impacts. Per person, the outcomes of these actions may seem small, but when people come together it can add up fast. Over the last several years, our collective impacts include:

  • 9 million kWh of energy saved (the amount of energy used by 155 US homes a year)
  • 4 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions avoided (equal to taking 330 cars off the road for a year)
  • 2 million gallons of water saved (almost two entire Olympic-sized swimming pools)
  • 224,000 pounds of waste reduced (nearly 100 dumpsters worth of waste)

Start Making a Difference

Whether or not you work at Cisco, you too can start making a difference by researching small (or large) sustainable changes to implement in your life and encouraging others to join in. Paul Hawken’s Project Drawdown lists the 100 most substantive solutions for reversing global warming (read the Cisco blog on his presentation at SustainX). Here are five actions to get started from the comfort of your own home:

  1. Discover your own impact: Use an online carbon footprint calculator to quantify the environmental impacts of your lifestyle.
  2. Look for opportunities to save energy at home: Most times, our appliances are consuming power even when they are not in use and will waste energy. Switch off lights and unplug items where possible and research energy efficiency opportunities that make sense for where you live. For example, proper insulation can reduce the amount of energy needed to heat and cool your home in hot and cold climates.
  3. Reduce meat consumption: Not only do plant-rich diets reduce emissions, but they also tend to be healthier. Start with swapping one meal per week, or commit to Meatless Mondays, and work your way up!
  4. Don’t waste water: Be more mindful about how you use it, and support policies that seek to increase efficiency in water usage. Start by keeping track of your shower time and only washing full loads of laundry and dishes.
  5. Look for more ways to connect: Commit to meet with friends virtually to talk about books and documentaries on environmental issues you’re passionate about. There’s lots to choose from!

It takes just one step forward to get started. And if we work together, our actions will have a big impact.

To learn more about environmental sustainability at Cisco, please visit our website. You can also learn more about the progress we’re making by visiting our ESG Hub to read our CSR Impact Report.


Catherine Paquette

Business Analyst

Global Energy Management and Sustainability (GEMS)