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Four Ways to Get Your Company Ready for Earth Day

| Friday March 12th, 2010 | 12 Comments

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.

Xerox’s web site has some good tips for reducing paper use and its Xerox ColorQube 9200 Series machines work smoothly using 100% post-consumer recycled paper.

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.

Business Case

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

—-

Reader Poll

[poll id="7"]

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.


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  • Pingback: Four Ways to Get Your Company Ready for Earth Day |Triple Pundit | Green Company Report

  • http://www.erideshare.com/ Steven Schoeffler

    Carpooling is simple and has a wide range of powerful financial, environment, and other benefits. Consider setting up a dedicated carpool group for employees.

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  • http://yannabe.com Kelly

    We have activities scheduled the entire week in which Earth Day falls. We try to have a good mix of things that employees can do on their own schedule, as well as events at a specific time and place like presentations or fairs. Our most popular event last year was a Local Food & Products Fair, where we invite local vendors to set up at a booth and offer free samples and information about their products. So we'll repeat that this year.

  • http://yannabe.com Kelly

    We have activities scheduled the entire week in which Earth Day falls. We try to have a good mix of things that employees can do on their own schedule, as well as events at a specific time and place like presentations or fairs. Our most popular event last year was a Local Food & Products Fair, where we invite local vendors to set up at a booth and offer free samples and information about their products. So we'll repeat that this year.

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  • Ryan Wendt

    Getting rid of bottled water in the workplace is probably not a great idea. What if one is not willing to drink tap water? Is your employer going to pay for a water filtration devise? Can one feasibly bring enough filtered water from home to last the entire work day? I know I drink at least three to four liters of water in an 8 hour shift? It seems to me that an employer would have a whole lot of dehydrated employees, which can effect work output greatly and therefore people would get less work done in any given time period.

  • Deborah

    Yes, I think it is totally a fair expectation that employers set up filtered drinking water stations! They can save $ over buying bottled water and it is healthier for everyone, earth and people.

  • Dgeorge

    Our architecture/engineering office is looking at chucking the paper cup – can you share suggestions? We are talking about switching to glass but will then need to address the issue of who will wash them. They probably won’t install a dishwasher which is exactly what the firm I was at previously did. We had silverware, dishes, glasses & mugs. Had a rotation list for the dishwasher – and this worked great. We actually installed an entire green kitchen, shower for employees to encourage riding to work and used insulation containing recycled jean material, bamboo flooring, low voc paint, carpets, bores hair carpeting. And all year long had a different focus each week with one lunch and learn a week where we watched a documentary or special to related to green issues to educate our team.

    • l.knapp@murdoch.edu.au

      Here at Murdoch University in Western Australia, we discovered through a waste audit that 2 of the 4 cafes on our main campus used more than 1000 disposable cups per day, so we’ve instigated a Keep Cup ‘subscription’ programme. Keep Cups are barista-standard reuseable food-grade plastic cups, made from recycled plastics. Sure there must be an equivalent in the US and elsewhere.
      Staff or students purchase a Keep Cup for $10 (normal retail price $14) and get a voucher for 2 free hot drinks. They can either keep their cup and have it refilled each time, or, at participating campus cafes, can hand it in when they place their coffee order and receive their drink in a clean cup- the cup they’ve handed in gets washed in the industrial grade dishwasher we had installed in the one cafe that had previously only offered disposable cups. The project has been an enormous success.

  • Deborah

    The switch to real mugs in office setting requires some type of dish washing station–be it a dedicated sink set up or dishwasher. Good luck!! Sorry I don’t have more specific suggestions for you.

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  • AdminGirlWithACape

    Wow, thanks for this article and thanks for all the comments. This was really helpful in inspiring me with ideas that I need to create come green awareness and changes in a work environment that isn’t very enthusiastic.

  • kidsgardener

    We always have our corporate family plant something on Earth Day. This year was our favorite- over 500 people planted TickleMe Plants- the only house plant that will close its leaves and lower its branches when tickled. We found it a great way to excite our company’s families about nature and gardening. Just search Tickleme Plant to get your own supplies

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  • J

    Our company is having a sneaker drive. We found an organization that will take old, used sneakers. If the sneakers are good enough to give to someone else, they will be given to people in this country (and others) who are less fortunate and can’t afford or don’t have access to proper shoes. If the shoes are not in good enough condition to give away, they are used instead ground up as mulch and installed on playgrounds. Most people have at least a few if not many old pairs of shoes that just sit and collect dust in their homes. Its a great way to get people involved, and it makes for a nice competition between departments. Better yet, this company pays you a certain amount of money per pound of shoes donated. The team that brings in the most shoes within our company gets to donate all of the earnings to a charity of their choice!

  • Audrey

    Switch to everyone getting their own mug. Yes, it requires a wash station. Typically called the sink. The employee goes to the lunchroom sink and washes their own mug. Great idea. Only have paper cups for those visiting.