Every year since 1970, the global community has celebrated Earth Day, a collective effort to raise awareness of environmental concerns plaguing the planet. On April 22nd of that year, 20 million Americans gathered in parks, on college campuses, in auditoriums, and the like to advocate for a healthy sustainable environment, free from toxic clouds belched from smokestacks and toxins spilling into our waterways, poisoning fish and threatening our way of life. So powerful was that movement that it led to the creation of the United State Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.
Since the inaugural event, global consumers have continued to push both political and corporate entities to remain committed to enacting policy and provisions that benefit the environment and educate consumers on how they can reduce their carbon footprint. While strides have been made over the years, tons of waste continues to wash up on our coastlines and clog landfills, harmful chemicals still find their way onto ingredients lists, and the icebergs are still melting.
Companies Respond to Earth Day Every Day
In recent years, several companies have risen to the challenge and committed to reducing their carbon footprint, either by adopting more sustainable practices or producing eco-friendly products, or both. Certified B-corps – companies that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability – have gone mainstream, successfully raising awareness about pressing environmental issues while earning respect and loyalty of like-minded consumers. Companies like Patagonia, who gave 100% of the profits from Black Friday in the past to nonprofits working to protect the environment, have led the way, but are not alone. Large corporate brands like Proctor & Gamble and UPS have committed to adopting sustainability into their corporate DNA through innovation and transparency.
What Can You Do?
Not all companies are there yet, and admitting to that is the first step in getting there. Corporate social responsibility is a strategic initiative that can only be accomplished over time, but with a plan, can be achieved. In the meantime, in celebration of Earth Day, these small contributions can make a tremendous impact, not only on Earth Day but every day:
- Encourage employees to carpool, use public transit, or bike/walk to work. Those of us who have to drive will appreciate fewer cars on the road, and the air quality may get a little better that day.
- Turn off all the printers in the office. Store those emails in the cloud! Impose a friendly printer band and see how many people can get through the day without pressing “print.” Chances are, they’ll do just fine and know that they really don’t have to print everything. If you just have to print, go for back and front.
- Turn off the light in the breakroom when you leave. More than likely, the breakroom is most active first thing in the morning, around lunchtime, and at about 3:00 when the last pot of coffee is brewed for the day. Put up a sign and ask (nicely) that everyone turn off the light when they leave.
- Speaking of the coffee pot, turn off the burner. Coffee that has been baking on the burner not only tastes terrible but wastes energy. When the pot is low, either make another pot or wash the craft for the next person. Then turn the coffee maker off. Everyone will appreciate the fact that you spared their noses and the prospect of fire. (It can happen!) If you’re using K-cups, check to see if they are recyclable, and then do so accordingly.
- Push the thermostat up. Before you say it, yes, someone within reach can control the thermostat. See how people feel if you push it up a degree or two. If no one notices, you can probably leave it there and save energy and a few bucks.
- Bring in greenery. Most offices have windows that don’t open, so the only green you see is the trees across the street blowing in the wind. Invite the outside in by bringing in a desk plant. Something easy to care for but living. Think of them as natural air filters.
- Use recycle bins. They’re probably there. Empty. Make a mental note to toss in cans from lunch, plastic bottles, paper (don’t print) into the recycle bins today.
- Ditch the plastic bags. Those little snack bags with the pre-measurements are so helpful, right? But do you really want to strangle the planet with plastic just to know that you have 2 ozs of carrots in a bag? Bring your lunch in reusable plastic or glass bowls.
- Reduce your smoke breaks. This is a tough one but think of the planet. Consider working through your smoke break. If you find you have to go down to the smoker’s pole, make sure your butts get into the trash, not on the ground.
- Finally, and perhaps, most importantly, get everyone involved. Corporate sustainability initiatives have to leave the C-suite and make it to main street. Your employees are the boots on the ground. Get them involved. Let them organize a cleanup effort or take up composting the office food waste. Give them the challenge and watch them take the baton and run.