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Building a Global Green Network

photo of San Jose Chapter picking up litter after lunch.
San Jose Chapter picking up litter after lunch.

Imagine something you’re passionate about. You share it with your coworkers and find more people who like your ideas. You pick up some steam as more and more colleagues become interested, and eventually find yourself leading a global employee movement at Cisco.

That movement became a reality for two employees who share a passion for all things “green" –— Thijs Van Severen and Christine Liu brought together their love for sustainability to help build Green Teams.

Thijs, an engineer out of our Belgium office, and Christine, a sustainable packaging program manager in San Jose, found like-minded colleagues and brought them together to volunteer their time to green the office space through waste reduction programs and energy efficiency campaigns.

As leads for the BeLux and San Jose Green Teams, they were able to connect all existing Green Teams to form what is now the global Cisco Green Team Network.

What Inspired Them

photo of Thijs Van Severen with this family.
Thijs Van Severen with this family.

Thijs grew up in a small town within Bruges and still lives in the city with his wife and three children.

"My brother and I played in the open fields surrounding our house, built a tree house and had a great time," he recalled. "As time progressed, I saw the open areas start to disappear to make room for more houses. Current estimations say that by 2050, 41.5 percent of Flanders — the Dutch speaking part of Belgium — will be occupied by a building of some sort."

"As a parent, I want to do my best to protect what we have," Thijs says. "Our house has solar panels, roof insulation. I bike and carpool to work — big thank you to my carpool buddies — and we use the car as little as possible."

Christine graduated with a degree in Industrial and Packaging Technology, and outside of work she runs a blog about living a zero waste lifestyle.

photo of
Christine enjoying a slice of her favorite pizza.

“It was from my degree that I noticed the huge disconnect between our consumption and our waste generation," she explained. "America alone makes up 5 percent of the world’s population yet generates 40 percent of the world’s waste. I was absolutely compelled to see what I could personally do, so for the past three years I have been on the journey of living a zero waste lifestyle in the hopes of inspiring others to live simply and sustainably.”

Starting from Scratch: the Beginnings

Thijs started with an interest in energy efficiency. A few years ago, he got involved in a makeover of our Cisco lab in Kortrijk.

"We completely modified our ‘open’ lab to a cold/hot aisle data center model and even included free-cooling," he said. "Not much later, the BeLux board decided to give the BeLux social community a boost by starting projects all focusing on one aspect of our social life at Cisco. One of those was 'green,' and this is where I first got in touch with people from different departments who also wanted to get their hands dirty."

photo of RTP Chapter sorting donated scraps at Scrap Exchange
RTP Chapter sorting donated scraps at Scrap Exchange.

“Later, we found out that there were similar Green Teams across the globe — such as in Amsterdam, San Jose and Bangalore —  and most of these teams were focused on reducing waste, and more specifically, reducing the use of paper cups,” Thijs added.

Meanwhile, already having started her zero waste journey when she arrived at Cisco, Christine had a goal to help change the way people thought about sustainability at work.

"Luckily, a few coworkers were also interested in Green Team activities, so we decided to launch a grassroots green team in our building," she said. "We launched a Bring Your Own Cup Campaign as our first active project, and had loads of fun making it a success, while bringing awareness and action to employees in our building. Moments after, I was being asked if there was a Green Team for the entire San Jose campus — that’s when we knew this would become much bigger than what we originally planned!"

Using platforms such as Cisco Greenhouse and social communities, Thijs and Christine connected to even more colleagues and smaller teams on campuses dedicated to reducing waste. “It made me think that there was an opportunity to connect us into something bigger,” Christine said.

photo of San Jose Chapter getting tour of a local waste facility.
San Jose Chapter getting tour of a local waste facility.

Joining Forces

Christine and Thijs created Cisco Green Team Network (CGTN), a recognized employee network within our Inclusion and Collaboration communities, with eight local teams spread across the world.

"Thijs and I were able to come together to see how we could mobilize these grassroots teams to make an even bigger impact to the entire company," Christine said. "We’ve been setting global goals, brainstorming how we can best collaborate with other employee groups, and are always seeing how we can leverage existing movements or organizations to demonstrate how sustainability affects everyone.”

The Bigger Picture

So why is this important to them? Why this work?

“Not so long ago my answer would have been ‘so my kids will inherit a healthy planet,' but given the enormous acceleration of the global challenges we face today, I’m convinced that the coming changes are going to impact all generations. Current and future,” Thijs explains.

Christine agrees: “Our everyday lifestyle and actions have a direct effect on our wellbeing, health and planet. The more I connect the dots of my actions, the more I realize that there is huge potential to change our footprint for a safer and healthier planet in the future."

"By starting the CGTN with Thijs, I know that by making the Green Teams an official employee organization at Cisco, that we are paving the way for other employees to continue to inspire, drive awareness, and take action to make Cisco a greener company for our world."

When it comes to sustainability, issues such as climate change and drought seem too big to tackle for a single person. However, with the collaboration of the CGTN, employees can be encouraged to change their actions with clear awareness and tips, knowing that they are making an impact on this planet with other employees together.

What You Can Do

Do you have a passion for all things sustainability? Looking for ideas on how to make your workplace greener? Here’s how to get involved:

  • Join the next CGTN call in May, when Christine teaches the basics about zero waste living. Subscribe to your chapter, or the general CGTN mailer to be updated for upcoming events.
  • Get in contact with your local Green Team, or start your own — email for more information.
  • Join Cisco Greenhouse for tips and tricks on sustainable living.
  • Join the Global Green Team Spark room for the latest news and ideas.
  • Take the initiative to use reusable cups and utensils in your office.
  • Give feedback on sustainability in your office through yourvoice.cisco.com.
  • Find green volunteer opportunities near you in Bright Funds.

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