Is Your Business Ready to Take the Lead on Earth Day?
This year’s Earth Day, an event occurring annually on April 22nd, is moving ahead full-sail with the tagline “It’s our turn to lead.” Last year over one billion people participated in green activities across 190 countries, and this year is shaping up to be even bigger yet. Is your business ready to take the lead on the environment?
One of the most effective steps towards any successful Earth Day initiative is to engage your customers and employees. Pledges to “go green” at home and in the office are both difficult to track and tend to receive only mild participation that doesn’t last beyond the week. However, if done right, these initiatives can make a big impact.
Ingersoll Rand came up with a very effective “Walk the Trail Clean” event, in which employees and local residents were encouraged to walk about their campus and the surrounding areas and remove any garbage they found. It was simple to organize and execute, thoroughly attended, and had a very noticeable impact. A simple activity like this can go a long way towards making a lasting impression and getting people on board for future events.
Interact with any local student bodies, from grade schools to college or university campuses. Earth Day was originally founded to get youth to participate in our environment. Alcoa held an “Imagine your World” art contest with students from around the world, where the winner’s schools were given a grant towards greening their community. But you don’t have to have global reach or deep pockets to help out- many schools celebrate Earth Day on their own and you can get involved simply by reaching out to them and asking how you could help. Earthday.org offers toolkits for both younger students and higher learning institutions.
Earth Day isn’t the only day to take advantage of. The entire week surrounding the 22nd is Earth Week, and is the perfect time to institute environmentally conscious practices. Making attempts to be a greener business presents a willingness to be engaged in your community, a strong sense of integrity, and a desire to be as transparent with your customers as possible. Just be sure to continue these practices after the week’s end; a few small daily or weekly habits such as shutting off computers over the weekend can result in as much as a 20% reduction in energy use!
Avoid “greenwashing” during this time (or really, ever). With the rising demand of environmentally friendly or sustainable goods and services, many companies attempt to change their image to match without actually attempting to switch to green practices at all. This is at best misleading your customers, and at worst can be patronizing or insulting. Chevron’s “We Agree” ad campaign in 2010 is a notorious example of greenwashing, and was met with a great deal of scathing spoofs of their ads and a PR nightmare.
Perhaps most importantly, start visibly and get the word out. Whatever it is that you do, make sure it has a memorable, lasting impact. An activity or a challenge that people enjoy completing is far more likely to drive change than a day-of announcement or observance that is quickly forgotten and makes no impression.