April 22nd of this year marks the 50th anniversary for Earth Day. It's never been more important to work together to slow the impact of climate change and preserve our planet.
You might be surprised by how much your business can do to host an Earth Day. You can even use this day to catalyze an ongoing sustainability effort so that you contribute to help the Earth every day.
This article will show you everything you need to take Earth Day seriously. You'll see Earth Day ideas for making helping our planet a core value.
When and What Is Earth Day?
When is Earth Day celebrated? Every year, on April 22nd. That's been the case since 1970 when United States Senator Gaylord Nelson rallied students across the country for the environment and to increase awareness. More than 20 million people participated in the first Earth Day.
Today, Earth Day is a global initiative. Even businesses take the day to ask how to help the Earth and sponsor projects.
The Problem of Caring for the Earth
“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” - Robert Swan
Our society gets exactly one chance at preserving the Earth. Too often, we focus on providing for people today and leave Earth on the losing end of the deal.
Unfortunately, this means that each successive generation inherits a bigger problem. We owe it to future generations to enact ways to help the Earth.
Before we dive into Earth Day tips, let's take a look at some of the leading issues of our time. These will serve as the guideposts that influence initiatives you can take:
1. Climate Change
Leading scientists and experts agree: climate change is real, and it's man-made. According to NASA, there's a greater than 95% chance that humans are the cause of the shifts we see in climate.
Climate change is an ongoing, major disruption to our society. It displaces people from their homes, disrupts agriculture, and can increase the severity of weather events like hurricanes.
2. Depletion of Natural Resources
Many of Earth's natural resources are finite. It took millions of years of natural forces to form and create them and now society is depleting them in a matter of thousands of years.
That's clearly problematic. Not only does it mean that we'll lack the resources that we need, but it also creates an "arms race" for nations and businesses to capture those scant resources rapidly. Even worse, extracting raw materials often pollutes the surrounding areas.
According to the Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems, "total material consumption in the U.S. rose 57% from 1970 to 2000." It's this increased rate of consumption that should alarm anyone concerned about the Earth.
3. Air, Water, and Soil Quality
There's a great saying when thinking about the environment: "we all live downstream." That means that everything we do has an environmental impact and others will experience our effects.
This is particularly observable in air, water, and soil quality. Too often, those who are most harmed by pollution lack the voice or influence to create change. Also, because this pollution is sometimes "invisible," too many people overlook it.
Here are some sobering statistics about the impacts of pollution on air, water, and soil quality:
- Air pollution causes 9% of deaths globally accounting for over five million deaths. (Our World in Data)
- According to charity: water, nearly 1 in 10 people worldwide live without access to clean water due to either access or pollution.
- In 2017, the United Nations warned that a third of the land is seriously degraded, primarily driven by rapid consumption.
4 Earth Day Tips and Ideas Your Company Can Follow All Year Long
If you're excited for April 22nd, you might be looking for things to do on Earth Day 2020. Now is a great time to kick off your initiatives and make the environment a focus.
Here are four of our favorite ideas for ways to help the Earth.
1. Support Volunteerism By Sponsoring Employees
If you're serious about supporting Earth Day, there's one step you can take that your employees are sure to love: sponsor their volunteer hours.
In many companies, employees might weigh using vacation hours to leave for volunteer work. But, most employees are limited in the number of hours they use each year. They're more likely to use those hours to vacation and take much-needed time away instead of volunteering.
Consider awarding hours specifically for the use of volunteering for environmental causes. When you specifically allocate volunteer hours, you're sure to see more volunteer contributions. Basically, you remove the friction of volunteering.
When you do offer hours, here are things to do on Earth Day:
- Plan a community cleanup. This checks many boxes for good Earth Day 2020 activities. It helps the environment in general, and more specifically the community you operate within.
- Conduct an energy reduction search. If you've an office, you're sure to have opportunities to reduce energy usage. Find energy-sucking devices to unplug, replace historic fixtures with LED bulbs, and research lower energy alternatives.
- Host an education session. Raising awareness is sometimes the first step to creating great change. Host a learning session to show your team how to help the Earth.
Forward-thinking companies remove the inertia of volunteerism. If you sponsor Earth Day by giving employees time for things to do on Earth Day, you take a serious step to help the Earth at scale.
2. Include the Impact of the Triple Bottom Line
We all know about the classic "bottom line" in business—the company's earnings. For too long, this metric has been the sole driver of many businesses. Companies gauge their success by watching the direction that this metric moves.
In reality, this metric is too limited. It's also too focused on short term incentives that don't consider the long-term viability of an organization.
Instead, drive your team to consider the triple bottom line. That considers the social, environmental, and financial implications of a decision. It means that the environment will always have a seat at the table when decisions are made.
When you review potential projects, do you consider the environmental impact of each one? Sure, it's easy to consider the impacts on finances, growth, and sales, but you can't neglect the environmental element. Drive usage of the triple bottom line to ensure it's all considered.
Here's a classic example: a project to install solar panels on an office building. In the short term, these types of projects are often difficult to financially justify. It might take several years to recoup the cost of installation. Often, this leads companies to opt for other initiatives instead, such as equipment that automates work for example.
But, a company that prioritizes the triple bottom line will see that this same project helps them drive results in non-financial areas.
To put in place the triple bottom line, start small. When you and your co-workers are working on a new initiative or setting new plans, make sure that you discuss the triple bottom line impact. Add the environment and community to traditional financial discussions.
3. Conduct a Supply Chain Assessment
Remember that natural resources are limited. We owe it to the environment to think about how we impact those finite resources via our purchases and consumption. Every product has a life story.
Reviewing this story is called a life cycle assessment. It's an end-to-end consideration of how your raw materials are produced, sourced, and disposed of.
If you manufacture products, it's crucial to consider the total impact of your supply chain. Sure, you might not directly harm the environment by assembling a finished product. But your raw materials have a footprint that impacts the environment.
Talking to suppliers and following the origin of your inputs might surprise you. It could lead to you sourcing from more sustainable suppliers. Also, make sure to consider the environmental impact of your finished product.
Want an example of a life cycle assessment for a well-known product? Check out this thorough life cycle assessment of craft beer. Use it as inspiration as you track down the history of your inputs.
4. Make Sustainability Part of Your Strategic Plan
To be authentic about your sustainability goals, it's not enough to focus on the Earth one day per year. If you want to instill a culture that focuses on the environment, it's all about making the environment a part of your daily business operations.
Many companies publish an annual sustainability or environmental report. Apple calls theirs the Environmental Responsibility Report and is a great example of a robust plan
We can't all be Apple, but their report can serve as a guidepost. Most importantly, you'll see that they've got well-defined metrics to reduce their environmental impact.
There's a great saying in business: you manage what you measure. Once you start measuring and monitoring those metrics for helping the Earth, you'll naturally put more energy to drive improvements.
Having trouble getting buy-in from your workplace? Here are three points that every company should consider on Earth Day to include ways to help the Earth as part of its strategy:
It's the right thing to do. There's a purely ethical angle to helping the environment. Many employees may buy into ways to help the Earth because of the "feel-good value."
It's fiscally responsible. Whether direct or indirect, there are costs to impacting the environment. Eventually, we're all forced to pay the price of neglecting it. By leading in ways to help the Earth, you defray those long-term liabilities.
- It promotes your brand. Consumers are ever more drawn to companies that do good for the environment and their communities. Positioning your company as one that cares about the environment attracts like-minded consumers.
If you've got a seat at the table to influence your business, be the advocate for including sustainability in your strategic plan.
Learn More About What You Can Do for the Environment
Sustainability is a core value of our content on Envato Tuts+. Make sure to check out these articles to see other ideas to celebrate Earth Day 2020 and adopt sustainability in your business:
- How to Become an Environmentally Friendly Company (Earth Day 2019)Andrew Blackman22 Apr 2019
- How to Celebrate Earth Day (10 Activity Ideas for Your Work)Andrew Blackman22 Apr 2018
- Community Involvement: How to Be a Company That Gives BackAndrew Childress21 Nov 2019
Use Earth Day as a Launching Pad to Care, Everyday
You know by now the answer to "when is Earth day celebrated?" Use April 22nd and the Earth Day tips in this article to start writing your sustainability story.
Now, let me ask you a question: what will you do to help the Earth on April 23rd and every day thereafter? The planet needs to be protected every day. That means including it in all of your decisions as you run your business, not just once per year.