Updated March 2021
In 1970, 20 million people took to the streets for the very first Earth Day. Today, over 50 years later, the earth still needs our support, perhaps even more than ever. We have less time to deal with climate change, we’re still striving to conserve resources by reducing waste and being more sustainable, and now the pandemic has the world in its grip.
As we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel, let’s make this Earth Day an opportunity to plan and celebrate a better future to come.
How do you mark Earth Day during a global crisis? Here are a few ideas to help your business or organization engage staff, colleagues, and tenants to show support for each other and the environment, while staying safe at home or in the workplace.
EXPAND YOUR DIGITAL HORIZON
With many events still happening online this year, your access to Earth Day events has actually expanded. Go ahead and explore what the rest of the country, or the world, has to offer. Google or visit Earth Day network to find webinars, film screenings, and other online programs to attend. Here are two spotlight events to consider:
- REGISTER NOW to join us on April 22: “Lessons From A Year of COVID-10: Managing Waste For A Sustainable Future.” Celebrate Earth Day 2021 with Great Forest. Find out what a year under COVID has taught us about waste & what is essential for a sustainable future. Registration details to come.
- This year, EarthDay.org and partners are organizing 3 days of climate action beginning April 20, 2021. The events include a multi-hour multi-channel livestream with workshops, discussions and special performances.
ORGANIZE YOUR OWN VIRTUAL EVENT
Need an Earth Day event customized for your business or organization? With video conferencing platforms, you can easily adjust and move an originally planned event online, or organize a simple outreach like a book reading, a virtual “Lunch and Learn,” or a webinar. Ask your Great Forest representative for more ideas.
SHARE WORK-FROM-HOME SUSTAINABILITY TIPS
With many still working from home, put together a list of tips to distribute for Earth Day to help workers continue to practice good waste reduction and sustainability habits at home. Remember, these habits will transfer to the office when COVID restrictions are lifted. Some ideas:
- Provide tips on what to do with PPE like masks and gloves.
- With everyone doing more online shopping, share this short video on what to do with cardboard boxes.
- Ordering food online? Remind them to say no to disposable utensils or single-use items like straws.
- Provide tips on what can be recycled, how to recycle right, and how to avoid wishful recycling (tossing items into the recycling bin that you hope or wish can be recycled.) Wishful recycling may not only contaminate your recyclables and cause them to lose value, but it may also damage recycling equipment. “Wish-cycling” items include PPE, plastic bags, hangers and more.
EARTH DAY AT HOME
Can’t organize an Earth Day event in the office this year? Encourage your staff, colleagues or tenants to do something hands-on at home. Here are two ideas:
- Conduct a home waste audit! A home waste audit is a simplified version of a business waste audit. It involves going through your home waste streams over a period of days to sort and identify what you are sending to, or diverting from, the landfill. Put together a simple guide using information like this. This exercise will lead to a better understanding of waste generation that many will remember when they return to the office. Besides, “dumpster” diving can be fun, especially with the kids.
- Organize a spring cleaning event. Spring is around the corner. Encourage workers to go through their homes to set aside reusable items in good condition that can be donated for reuse. The pandemic has struck disadvantaged communities hard. The need is greater than before. This guide, Transforming Waste – A Guide To Donating For Reuse, Avoiding Landfills, and list of donation resources can help.
SAY THANK YOU
It’s been a difficult year.
Show your staff, colleagues, and building tenants your support. Say “THANK YOU” for all their waste reduction and sustainability efforts over the years. This can be as simple as sending an email with facts and figures showcasing the success of your sustainability programs. Saying thank you also helps to raise awareness about your green efforts among those who might not already be contributing.
ASK FOR ONE GREEN ACT
Ask employees, colleagues and tenants for one green act that they can do anywhere – at work or at home. It can be as simple as switching off the lights for one hour, going through their homes to set aside items for donation or recycling, or using a cloth rag instead of paper towels. Every act that reduces waste counts. Sharing photos of these green acts is one way to celebrate Earth Day and its champions.
MAKE A COMPANY PLEDGE TO RESTART GREENER
Show your leadership. Make a company pledge to emerge from the pandemic better, stronger, and greener using Earth Day as your launching pad.
Think about both short-term and long-term strategies you can implement to reduce waste, be more sustainable, and affect climate change. Strategies such as Zero Waste will help you achieve sustainability goals, may save you money in the face of increasing waste removal costs, and will give your public reputation a boost. Also consider certification like LEED and TRUE Zero Waste, and carbon reporting.
SET A GOOD EXAMPLE FROM TOP DOWN
Sustainability programs succeed when there is buy-in, and that begins from the top down. Employees will take cues from how seriously sustainability is viewed and treated by management. Making a pledge to emerge from the pandemic stronger and greener (as described above) is a good start. Share a message or photos from management to show them “walking the walk”… and the rest will follow.
SHARE YOUR SUCCESS
Sustainability is a group effort. Celebrate shared accomplishments. Highlight the results of your waste reduction and sustainability programs to show everyone how much you have all accomplished together, and to remind them that their efforts have helped to make all the difference.
But be honest. Has the pandemic affected your sustainability goals? If your efforts are falling short, re-examine your programs to pinpoint the problem and communicate the solution. Then set new goals that everyone can work towards.
With work-from-home protocols still in effect in many places, and many meetings held over zoom, workers might be feeling disconnected from company and co-workers. Appointing a green team leader is a good thing to do under normal circumstances, but it’s crucial during COVID restrictions.
Green team leaders can help motivate and answer questions. They can be the point person for any inquiries related to sustainability. Knowing that there is a person to approach with ideas, questions or concerns will help keep your team cohesive, and offer them the support they need.