In just four months, the Green Workplace Challenge has dramatically reduced greenhouse gas emissions and saved impressive quantities of water and energy.

The year-long challenge is an initiative organized by Sustainable Pittsburgh to encourage business owners and property managers to use less water, electricity and natural gas in their day-to-day operations.

More than 50 entities are participating in the challenge that began in September, from Fortune 500 companies to small businesses to non-profits.

So far the companies together have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 497 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent – roughly equal to the emissions produced by 97 airplanes flying 500 miles. Participants saved more the 5 million kilowatt hours of energy – the amount used annually by a neighborhood the size of Pittsburgh’s Regent Square. They also saved 253,000 gallons of water – the equivalent used by a typical U.S. household over an entire year.

“This friendly competition is accelerating sustainable policies and practices in southwestern Pennsylvania,” said Matthew Mehalik, program manager at Sustainable Pittsburgh and organizer of the challenge. “Imagine what we could do in terms of resource efficiency and cost savings if we doubled or even tripled the number of businesses participating.”

In the large business category of 1,000+ employees, Highmark and UPMC are tied with 28 (out of 50) points each. Bayer Corp.  is the next runner up with 21 points. In the mid-size business category, (50 to 999 employees) Del Monte Foods is edging out Michael Baker Corp. with 39 points compared to 35.

In the small business category of fewer than 50 employees, Pashek Associates and evolveEA are leading the charge.

“Sustainability is about wealth creation,” said Valerie Patrick, sustainability coordinator at Bayer Corp. “During the industrial revolution, wealth creation came from gains in labor productivity. In the future, smarter use of resources will be the source of prosperity.”

The Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge is an initiative of Sustainable Pittsburgh’s Champions for Sustainability business network. More information about the GWC, including a list of participating businesses, is available here or by contacting Amanda Virbitsky at gwc AT sustainablepittsburgh DOT org.

The next Green Workplace Challenge workshop is scheduled for Feb. 24 at the Regional Enterprise Tower in Downtown Pittsburgh. The workshop will be beneficial for small and medium sized businesses that do not have full-time sustainability program staffers and others seeking help in navigating energy portfolios.