Earth Day is only six weeks away (April 22nd). Are you ready?
While we all know that a commitment to sustainability goes beyond going green one day a year, Earth Day is the perfect opportunity to remind employees of your commitment, highlight programs and accomplishments and launch a new campaign.
Pick Something Tangible and Visible
While greening your data center, reducing packaging or cutting energy use might be your most strategic corporate initiative, Earth Day is the ideal time to focus on a tangible and visible campaign that engages employees and inspires action. Consider asking for a public commitment to take a specific action and identify clear metrics for tracking your progress.
Four campaign ideas are detailed below:
- Adopt a “Double-Sided” Policy
- Chuck the Cup
- Ban Bottled Water
- Personal Sustainability Practices
Four Ideas for Earth Day
Here are details for these four campaign ideas for Earth Day:
Adopt a “Double-Sided” Policy: Launch a new campaign that will reduce your paper use. Increase the post-consumer recycled content of the paper you purchase, print double-sided (see Green Your tips), or better yet, go paperless. Where possible, set up computer software to default to double-sided printing. Here are a few resources to check out: HP’s Eco Solutions, a portfolio of tools, software, hardware, services and expertise to help customers reduce their environmental impact and save money. HP helped the University of California, Davis reduce energy use 35 percent and save $68,000 per year by printing double sided.
The City of Mill Valley, my home town, has a good model one-page handout on ways to reduce paper use.
Chuck the Cup: At Yahoo! last year, “Chuck the Cup” Day was held at four campuses to raise awareness about the environmental impact of using paper cups, highlighting the things employees can do to create a more sustainable workplace. A Green Team member, Kai Haley, calculated how many paper cups were consumed every 15 minutes (over 100) on the Yahoo! main campus and created hexagon domes out of thrown away cups. Along with providing incentives to encourage employees to bring their own mug, Yahoo! put the attention-getting sculptures on the main lawn along with signage to raise awareness.
How can you use art to raise awareness of an environmental issue on Earth Day?
Ban Bottled Water: If you are not ready to make a full commitment to eliminating bottled water at events and meetings, consider banning their use for the day or week to raise awareness about alternatives. Have a water taste test to discourage bottled water use or hold a viewing of the new video coming out March 22nd: The Story of Bottled Water (from the makers of the Story of Stuff! See today’s post for more details). Genentech has reduced its use of bottled water, saving $200,000 annually by using filtered water machines and reusable containers.
One of eBay’s Green Teams was determined to phase bottled water out of the office. It invited employees’ children to participate in a poster contest with the theme “what does water mean to you?” Winning posters were displayed around the office, along with facts and statistics to educate employees on the environmental impact of bottled water production and consumption. The team credits the poster campaign with increasing awareness and support for the project. And again, The City of Mill Valley has a good model one-pager on bottled water.
Engage Employees at Home
Another option is to launch a campaign that educates employees on how to be greener in their personal lives. Team Earth, a project of Conservation International, has a new free tool available to motivate individuals to take small actions that cumulatively will make a big impact. And the Earth Day Network’s Billion Acts of Green site makes it easy for individuals to make an Earth Day pledge.
Check out Angel Points (see previous 3P post), a new web-based tool for large companies that supports tracking metrics related to personal sustainability commitments. As part of an Earth Day special, it is offering 25% off the first year contract value.
If you need help bolstering the business case for doing any of the above programs, check out this recent report from the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF): The Business Case for Environmental and Sustainability Employee Education.
NEEF’s Business and Environmental program focuses on increasing the ability of business leaders to engage and educate employees to develop and meet sustainability goals. The report highlights six business benefits:
- Improve operational efficiency
- Strengthen customer relations
- Increase innovation
- Enhance supply chain management
- Strengthen community ties
- Attract and retain the best employees
Please elaborate on your answer in the comments. Here are some questions to think about:
What is the focus of your efforts for Earth Day? (Greener workplace, personal sustainability at home, community service, etc…)
What programs/activities do you have planned? (Speaker, eco-fair/event, awareness raising, educational, specific campaign, etc…)
What specific commitment to action are you asking of employees?
What campaign do you wish your CSO would launch?
Deborah Fleischer is President of Green Impact, a strategic environmental consulting practice that helps companies walk the green talk. Green Impact designs campaigns to engage employees and develops sustainability communications that bring successes to life. You can follow her occasional tweet @GreenImpact.