8 unique ways to celebrate Earth Day at the office
This April 22, try some of these new ideas on for size at your workplace to engage and energize your staff.
At 52 years old, Earth Day has settled into a comfortable middle age in the cultural zeitgeist. We all know the drill by now — on April 22, maybe you’ll walk or ride your bike to work, plant a tree (or is that Arbor Day?), remind everyone to recycle rather than throw away their paper at the office.
After so many years of Earth Day in the spotlight, the small ways that we can positively affect the environment at work may seem stale. But there are still plenty of ways to make an impact in the workplace, some of which you might never even have heard of, let alone thought to implement.
First though, some quick background. Earth Day began on April 22, 1970, as the brainchild of then-U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson, who previously served as the governor of Wisconsin. That first Earth Day inspired 20 million Americans — at the time, 10% of the total population of the United States — to take to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate against the impacts of 150 years of industrial development which had left a growing legacy of serious human health impacts. Today, Earth Day is widely recognized as the largest secular observance in the world, marked by more than a billion people every year as a day of action to change human behavior and create global, national, and local policy changes.
So, why should companies care about Earth Day and sustainability? According to Michaela Burke from TeamBonding, a team-building resource, there are three primary reasons:
- Cost savings
Reducing the consumption of energy, water, and waste in the office will ultimately lead to saving money and resources that can be used elsewhere. These costs can be cut by making simple changes like not heating an empty office or installing lights that detect motion.
- Consumer values
Focusing on your environmental footprint as a company not only has monetary value but creates a positive brand image in the mind of the consumer. According to BusinessWire, sustainability is one of the most important purchase criteria for at least 60% of global consumers. The study shows over 30% of consumers are open to paying a higher price for sustainable products, and suggests that sustainability is likely to become, “the expectation and not the exception in the future.”
- Employee values
Today employees are no longer just looking at just job titles and pay. Gen Z and millennials are set to make up the majority of the workforce by 2025. These generations prioritize job offers based on flexibility, benefits, and seek employment with socially and environmentally responsible companies. By creating a sustainable impact program or plan, companies can attract and retain top talent while improving their global footprint.
Creative ways to recognize and celebrate Earth Day at work
If you’re interested in trying some new ideas at the office this year, consider these options:
- Calculate (and reduce) your carbon footprint: Calculate, reduce, and mitigate your carbon footprint to show your commitment to sustainability. The Carbon Trust has a carbon calculator specifically for small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs), while the World Land Trust’s calculator helps calculate individual impacts. Remember it’s better to have no impact than to have to mitigate it, so always look for ways to reduce your carbon footprint before offsetting.
- Encourage employees to use green search engines: According to some sources, one Google search uses the same amount of energy as turning a 60w lightbulb on for 17 seconds. If one employee does 50 searches per day, and you have 100 employees, that’s 85,000 seconds per day, or around 24 hours of light — and that’s before you include the energy used by an open webpage. Counteract this by using green search engines like Ecosia or Ekoru, which plant trees or donate to environmental charities for every search.
- Reward your clients and customers for being green: Offer discounts for customers who recycle; run a “bring in recycling,” get 20% off program; ask your clients to share your green initiatives online for a perk/reward; or host a “free dinner for all green clients” evening.
- Start donating food surplus to homeless shelters: Perhaps you already have a company vegetable garden. That fresh produce can be used in your company kitchen, but it can also be donated to homeless shelters or local food pantries. Even if you only donate 30% of all unused food to the homeless, it can make an enormous difference in their lives.
- Compost your office food waste: In addition to donating unused food items, you can get closer becoming a zero-waste facility by composting food waste on site instead of tossing it in the trash. And that compost can go right back into your company vegetable garden that you decided to start after reading the previous tip.
- Join the Meatless Monday challenge: Why go meatless? Accounting for 80% of deforestation, land use change driven by agriculture is one of the leading causes of forest loss. And 75% of our planet’s agricultural land is used for livestock, which produces more carbon dioxide in a year than all the planes, trains, and automobiles in the world. That means that skipping meat for even just one day every week can add up to a significant impact over time.
- Bring bees to the office: No, seriously. Some companies are using bees to lure employees back to the office after working remotely since the start of the pandemic. The U.S. Department of Agriculture states that honey bees contribute to the pollination of approximately 80% of plants that produce flowers. That’s over 130 different species of fruits and vegetables!
- Hold your next meeting outdoors: Spring weather in Wisconsin is always unpredictable, but as the temperature starts to rise, shut off all the lights in the office and take your meetings outside. Not only will you be using less energy — and saving money — but the vitamin D produced by exposure to sunlight helps protects against disease, optimizes physical performance, and improves mental health, making for happier, healthier employees.
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