A Green Business Network Member Spotlight
Meet Aaron Itczak, a senior learning designer at Cerner and member of the Green Business Network. We recently chatted with Aaron to learn more about how he’s inspiring sustainability efforts in the workplace.
A teacher by trade, educating and inspiring others comes naturally to Aaron Itczak. He currently works as a senior learning designer at Cerner and creates corporate training tools.
“I primarily work with corporate required training, which mostly includes a lot of legal or compliance-based education. My job is to make trainings more exciting and engaging – so that learning is more likely to stick with people, which hopefully translates into in behavior change,” says Itczak.
His passion to inspire change in others serves him well in his other role at work: informally leading Cerner’s volunteer green team.
Itczak started at Cerner two and half years ago, and his questioning about green practices connected him with people who previously led the green team. They encouraged him to revitalize previous green team efforts, which he rebranded as the “Eco Warriors”, a group on Cerner’s internal social networking site. The group started with 24 members and has since grown to more than 600, representing employees across nearly all of Cerner’s work locations, including six local Kansas City campuses, and a multitude of national and international office locations and client sites. Itczak says it’s been exciting to see the group grow and become an active community within Cerner.
“At first, I was the one primarily posting, trying to share inspiring resources and daily tips. Now, people from around the world share regularly! It’s a real global community effort of growing interest and passion. It’s so exciting to connect people, provide them resources, and give them hope.”
Under Aaron’s leadership, the Eco Warriors’ first project was to resume a workplace collection program for battery recycling.
“We use a lot of battery-powered devices – mice and keyboards – so many people work mobile, most tools are battery-operated. To me, it was a no-brainer place to start, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It took me some time learning how things work in a big corporation, having never worked in one before.”
Itczak said he quickly discovered that implementing a sustainability initiative often requires making the case for cost savings in order to get executive buy-in for a program budget. He describes it as a catch-22 situation – to get executive buy-in, cost savings must be proven. To make the case for cost savings, he needed access to company data, but couldn’t get access without executive buy-in.
“We still have a long way to go in the process, but in the meantime, we’re trying to collect used batteries on our own and take them to the household hazardous waste facility. It’s a totally grassroots effort.”
Itczak moved to Kansas City from Chicago to marry his husband and start a family, and he says it’s been interesting to see the differences between the two cities through a sustainability lens. He says that while he’s discovered pockets in his new city where sustainability efforts are visibly present, he’s been a bit surprised about what he doesn’t see.
“Coming to KC, the lack of public transportation was a shocker. The reality of where it is and what I expected are vastly different. I’m wanting to see that change more.”
As a result, creating a carpooling system within Cerner has been one of his most recent focuses.
“We just had our 140th person sign up for carpooling. It’s very exciting!!”
Even with the celebratory milestone, Itczak admits coordinating a carpool program hasn’t been without challenges.
“Everyone lives and works in different places. We have so many campuses, that even if I can connect people who live near one another, they might not be working at the same campus.”
Despite this, he’s been able to match about 75 percent of carpoolers. He manages online forms where participants can sign-up and log their carpooling miles to help them quantify the program’s affect.
“Not everyone submits their mileage in the form, and I get it. It’s an additional task that is easy to forget. While having the data would be great, I’m happy knowing carpooling is happening.”
He’s found that “I’ll-take-what-I-can-get” approach beneficial to move past roadblocks he comes up against while trying to implement new green initiatives.
“I can only focus on what I can control. No efforts are too small,” he says.
He also says his participation with the Green Business Network (GBN) has taught him that giving grace is crucial when working with others to implement change.
“Everyone is on their own journey, and GBN taught me the importance of meeting people where they are.”
Itczak can’t remember a time when caring for the environment wasn’t important to him.
“It just feels innate. Middle school is the first time I remember actively getting involved, but even as a kid, I would pick up trash on my way home from school, and I’d be frustrated when people would throw it out the car window. My parents always taught my brother and I to clean up.”
His biggest environmental pet peeve today?
“I would love to get rid of single-use plastics,” says Itczak. “Being in the healthcare industry, I know that plastic is important – it helps keep things clean and sanitary – but I think we overuse it, especially single-use plastics, and now it’s causing a lot of problems for our health, too.”
He admits that finding alternatives isn’t easy.
“I don’t know exactly what the answer is – we could ban them as an option, but we need other options to choose from. Finding sustainable options isn’t easy, and if they aren’t convenient, people are less likely to try. You really have to look and be vigilant. I think manufacturers also hold some responsibility in making different options more easily available.”
Acknowledging there are many roadblocks to single-use plastic elimination, Itczak circles back to the idea of tackling that which he can control. He’s starting new conversations at Cerner to eliminate plastic to-go containers in their cafeteria. Stay tuned!
Interested in joining the Green Business Network and sharing your story? Become a member today! GBN is a program of Bridging The Gap that educates, connects and inspires metro area businesses to implement sustainable initiatives in the workplace. Read more about GBN