Try a Virtual Challenge to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint |

Nov 17, 2016 9:00:00 AM | environmental sustainability Try a Virtual Challenge to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint |

Our recipe for working green needs another essential ingredient—the opportunity for every single ACHS staff, faculty, student, and family to get involved.


Since sustainability is part of the ACHS mission, we set the bar high and actively advocate for the planet and a healthy lifestyle. Just this fall, we launched several new Holistic Spa Management courses. If you’re like us, you want to get your team excited about being green. We’ve been exploring ways to make reducing our carbon footprint fun and engaging, so that we can get everyone involved. We wanted to share some of our recent successes.

Earlier this year, ACHS presented at the 2016 Oregon Higher Education Sustainability Conference. Our panel presented a recipe for a greener campus that includes:

But that isn’t enough. Our recipe for working green needs another essential ingredient—the opportunity for every single ACHS staff, faculty, student, and family member to get involved in sustainability efforts. 

Getting community engagement in an online environment can be tough! Our online holistic health programs are demanding. Our busy students often want to be involved, but have little free time. So, we started looking at simple yet innovative ways to encourage our ACHS community to get involved and reduce their carbon impact. We settled on a way everyone could be involved through small, personal actions: the Northwest Earth Institute’s EcoChallenge.

Here are 5 reasons to do a virtual green challenge like the EcoChallenge: 

1. It’s simple.

The Northwest Earth Institute’s EcoChallenge has a web-based way to join a team and track personal challenges from home, at work, on campus, or anywhere. The challenges can be very simple, like eating a plant-based organic meal or committing to spend 10 minutes outside in nature.

2. It’s free. 

Students, co-workers, business partners, etc., can participate virtually and without it costing a thing.

3. It’s customizable.

We found it easy to set up a custom challenge for our employee team, and used a commuter survey to calculate our individual and group carbon impact. 

4. It’s opt-in.

Individuals can participate as little or as much as they want. They can invite friends and family, or set up their own unique challenges. However, all participation is voluntary.

5. It encourages community.

Teams are encouraged to challenge each other, and get extra points for posting their successes, giving innovative hints on sustainability, or for just chatting with their team members. The idea is that the collective small actions of many have a combined positive effect on the planet

Did you know that turning off the water while you brush your teeth saves eight gallons of water per day? 

How We Set Up Our EcoChallenge + Results

ACHS students, faculty, and staff joined 8,352 participants on 450 teams from schools and businesses all over the U.S. We formed three competing teams: one faculty and student team and two staff teams. The students and faculty team, called the ACHS Academic All-Stars, easily took the victory this year! 

The ACHS Academic All-Stars actually ranked in the top 50 out of 450 teams. The team tied for #49 with 5,445 points. This was the smallest team to rank in the top 50. Plus, one of our stellar student members on the Academic All-Stars finished #14 among 8,352 individual participants, with 2,791 points. Wow! 

Collective Environmental Impact in Just Two Weeks

Examples of our collective environmental impact during just two weeks include:

  • Replaced 97 conventional or CFL light bulbs with LEDs
  • Consumed 201 organic meals
  • Kept 268 plastic bottles out of the landfill
  • Saved 2,711 gallons of water
  • Ate 235 meatless meals
  • Exercised for 1,710 minutes
  • Traveled 110 miles by bus
  • Traveled 200 miles in a carpool
  • Volunteered for 10 hours

As ACHS President and Founder Dorene Petersen says… “At ACHS, we’re a community of holistic health learners. Our motto is: Learn well. Live well. Educate others. We operate with a focus on people and the planet, not just the bottom line. I want to congratulate the ACHS community for their personal and team efforts. I can’t wait to see what you will do next year!” 

How to Communicate Powerfully in the Workplace

Disclosure of Material Connection: I am the Assistant Director of Compliance at American College of Healthcare Sciences, the Institution that publishes this blog. However, all opinions are our own. If this blog contains affiliate links, they will be marked with an asterisk. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease. This article has not been reviewed by the FDA. Always consult with your primary care physician or naturopathic doctor before making any significant changes to your health and wellness routine. 

Susan Yirku

Written By: Susan Yirku

Susan joined ACHS to work in Compliance and Special Projects in February 2013. A dedicated student and patient advocate, Sue has always got her fingers into some healthcare reform project. Whether she is working on public policy, educational quality, or access to holistic care for underserved communities, she is dedicated to mentoring emerging CAM professionals and the amazing students that are drawn to them. Her other passion is holistic global health projects. She has particular ties to Haiti, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, and Nepali nonprofits. Susan has a degree in Collaborative Leadership from Marylhurst University in Portland, OR, and has held a series of leadership positions that include Associate VP College Relations, National College of Natural Medicine; President, Institute for Natural Medicine; and founding Executive Director for Accredited Association of Naturopathic Medical Colleges. Sue enjoys lively debate and blogging provides a great forum for discussion.