Archive for December, 2009

Sustainable Team Building in the Northwoods

December 9, 2009

In our current difficult economy, many companies are looking for ways to build employee morale using unconventional and cost-effective team building strategies. Facing tight budgets and, in many cases, impending layoffs, HR departments have been forced to get creative when designing programs to keep their remaining employees engaged and content.

At Paydirt, we encourage our clients to use environmental stewardship as an issue and initiative for rallying employees. Often our clients will form internal “green teams” to help assess their company’s environmental impacts and to develop strategies to reduce those impacts. Our strategic framework is designed to help companies identify and implement strategies that make a measurable difference in environmental performance, while also meeting critical business objectives.

Even in a recession, we find that “engaging employees” and building morale is still one of the most important business objectives for our clients. It’s been heartening (and maybe a tad surprising) to see how willing employers are to invest time and energy in developing employee-focused sustainability programs.

This summer, Paydirt worked with one particularly employee-centric company that was advanced enough to realize that, in addition to being a valuable learning and development tool, sustainability can also just be plain FUN. Krass Monroe, a mid-sized, Minneapolis-based law firm, engaged Paydirt to develop an eco-themed teambuilding exercise for the firm’s annual retreat.

The event objectives were to encourage friendly competition among staff, strengthen team member relationships, and integrate an environmental theme in interesting and unexpected ways. To meet those goals, Paydirt designed an “Amazing Race”-style scavenger hunt highlighting natural resources and historic landmarks in the Northwoods of McGregor, Minn.

Each team was tasked with completing a series of challenges with only a map, camera, vehicle, and their team’s skill, dexterity and resourcefulness to support them. Each participant received a McGregor tourism map that contained all of the information required for completing the scavenger hunt. However, the clues were designed to force the teams to be patient and work together.

The three teams (Team Awesome, the Killer Bees, and the Left-Handed Spatulas) set out for their “Quest” on a sunny afternoon in late September. All of the teams started at the same retreat location but were then sent to different second sites. Quest challenge locations included Savanna Portage State Park and the Long Lake Conservation Center, as well as a local winery.

Teams were also given the option to complete “bonus play” to subtract from their finish time, but were required to verify their completion of bonus tasks by documenting their participation on a digital camera. Once the teams arrived at the final Quest location (a hammock!), the Quest “Captains” verified their performance and documented their final time.

Although the winning team (Team Awesome) was undoubtedly the happiest, all of the participants had a great time. Quest participant Shanna Strowbridge noted, “The Quest that Paydirt put together for our firm was not only a great competition but also valuable for team-building. All of the team members had to be involved to help solve the clues and determine the best course to take.  Unlike team-building exercises we’ve had in the past that were mostly lecturing by “experts” on how to work together or make the most out of people’s different styles and personalities, our eco-challenge allowed for a real case study in how to evaluate the best person for each task and to devise mutual ways to succeed at the challenges.”

As for Paydirt, it was also a blast to plan the event! We hope that The Quest signifies the beginning of a trend for companies to realize that sustainability doesn’t have to mean a new set of “boring” or onerous rules and policies, but that “green” programs can also encourage people to get out and enjoy the beauty of nature. We salute Krass Monroe for their commitment to their employees and the environment!


Sustainable Seasons Greetings

December 9, 2009

During the Holidays, many of us tend to consume a LOT more than usual and forego the “green” habits we follow during the rest of the year.

Following are a few easy tips for ensuring a greener Holiday season and a more sustainable lifestyle as we head into 2010!

  •  Switch to solar-powered Holiday lights. Traditional electric lights are a big power drain and can use more than 100 watts of energy per string. Solar-powered LED lights produce a bright, clear light and automatically switch on at sun down.
  • Make your own wrapping paper! Most wrapping paper is used only once and then ends up in the landfill. Instead of purchasing mass-produced paper, look around your house for other creative options, such as the inside of brown shopping bags, newspaper, magazine collages or even handmade artwork. Use natural items from your yard or leftover pieces of ribbon to create a beautiful package that would make even Martha Stewart proud.
  • Reuse gift bags. More and more people are starting to take advantage of the ease of reusable gift bags or boxes in lieu of wrapping paper. Make sure to take good care of the bags you receive so you can “re-gift” them to others, and then encourage your gift recipients to do the same!
  • Recycle your Christmas tree. If you celebrate Christmas, take the time to investigate the tree-recycling program near you. You can locate your local program by visiting To be even more sustainable, select a pesticide-free tree from a farm near you.
  • Go Green and Give Back! Save the money you would usually spend on Holiday cards, and donate it to a local charity. Send out an electronic greeting with your favorite 2009 picture instead!