A group of employees at Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta recently formed an independent "Green Team" to promote sustainability internally and externally. The group’s leaders, Allison Naman, Maybelline Mendoza, and Patrick “PJ” Newcomb, sat down with us to discuss their goals and how the "Do One Thing" campaign they are leading will help others realize their potential to make an impact on an individual basis.

When and why did you decide to establish the 'Green Team'?

Allison:  I was thinking of something to pitch during Startup Weekend. I had been part of Green Teams at my previous employer and really wanted to see something like that at Coca-Cola. We utilized techniques we learned during Startup Weekend, including interviewing current employees in Sustainability and other departments to determine if this is something they would be interested in and identify issues they feel are not getting visibility. We made sure to interview people from relevant teams at Coca-Cola to better understand what’s being done today and how a Green Team could help versus getting in the way. We found a lot of passion around the idea and are starting with helping out for Earth Day.

What do you hope to accomplish as the 'Green Team' at Coca-Cola HQ?

Maybelline: We hope to spread awareness, engagement and understanding of the broad topics under the umbrella of “sustainability” and what it means to make an “impact”

Allison: Maybelline is dead on. Awareness, engagement and impact are the key goals. Through the interviews, we found that many employees were not aware of our amazing sustainability initiatives. We want them to be aware, and then to be engaged so they can feel they are part of these great initiatives. At other companies, the establishment of a Green Team has led to increased employee morale/engagement, as well as hard savings from things like reduced energy usage, increased recycling, reduced landfill rates, etc.

What is the 'Do One Thing' campaign and how do you think it will change people’s mentalities about their environmental footprint?

Maybelline: It's an internal Coke campaign to encourage associates to share the ONE thing they’ll do for sustainability. I don’t think it’ll change any mentalities, but I think it’s a great start in exposing how we can work together to make a noticeable difference with sustainability.

What do you think is the easiest thing a person could do to reduce their environmental footprint?

Maybelline: That’s a tough one. I think it varies person to person. A sustainable behavior change would most likely sync in with someone’s day-to-day. An example might be to buy seasonal and local produce if it’s readily available in your area. This helps in a couple of ways: buying what’s high in supply and buying something that hasn’t traveled far to get to you (lower transport cost and maybe lower emissions if it’s usually delivered by truck).

What environmental issues do you feel most passionate about?

Allison: Recycling. I was involved in the American Plastic Recyclers before joining Coca-Cola. It’s amazing how much material is not recycled. That material has a lot of value and it just sits there in the landfills. This is an easy behavior change that could improve our sustainability footprint.

How is The Coca-Cola Company working towards improving the condition of that issue?

Allison: Coke is one of the leading promoters of sustainability in the world. I’m very proud of that. We donate bins, participate in industry work groups, promote consumer understanding, utilize recycled materials to drive demand, and much more. I smile every-time I see that recycling loop on our products.

PJ: The company is working to improve recovery and recycling in all of its markets. However, we cannot solve this issue by ourselves, so we have entered into industry-level partnerships to offer loans and grants to assist local governments in improving recycling infrastructure, including bins, carts, messaging, processing, etc.

What do you think is the biggest misconception in regards to individual environmental protection efforts? Can one person really make a difference?

PJ: One person certainly can make a difference! And it’s the synergistic impact of individual efforts that create a bigger impact.

How can Coca-Cola work with individuals to help reduce their environmental impact? 

Maybelline: Educating for one – from the inside out (employees to end users), from outside in (learning from others and using those learnings) and thinking of ways to make small, yet scalable changes.

Allison: Agree. We do a great job with recycling education, but there’s always more to be done. Our employees can be the role models in our communities to drive positive sustainability behavior changes!

 Yes, by creating educated, engaged and empowered ambassadors, the company creates a multiplier effect that extends into our communities and customers. We need to show them how Red is the New Green!