If you care about the environment and also want to engage and motivate your employees, Earth Day is a perfect opportunity to take action.
We all know that the environment needs protecting, now more than ever. And as we saw in yesterday’s article on environmental ethics, taking environmental action can have positive effects for a business too.
In today’s article, we’re going to look at ten Earth Day activities for work. These ideas are just a starting point, of course, and there’s no limit to your own creativity. So, by all means get imaginative and organize your own Earth Day activities—let us know about it in the comments!
Earth Day falls on a Sunday this year, but that needn’t stop you. Some of the activities are ideal for a weekend, or you could always do something in the days after the official date of 22 April. Feel free to use this as a template for planning next year’s activities too!
1. Organise Employee Events
One of the simplest ways to celebrate Earth Day in the office is to organize an employee event supporting the goals of the day.
This year’s focus is on ending plastic pollution, so why not arrange a screening of a movie like A Plastic Ocean.
You could make it a fun cinematic event, with popcorn and other refreshments, and then talk about it afterwards and brainstorm about what you can do within the company to make a positive change.
Or you could invite someone from a local environmental organization to come to the workplace and give a talk, or perhaps find someone from within your own employees who cares about the issue and can lead a brown-bag discussion at lunchtime.
You could even take inspiration from Yahoo’s paper-cup Earth Day sculptures and make a huge, attention-grabbing installation out of all the plastic that’s discarded in your office in a single day. There are loads of possibilities.
If you need more ideas or guidance, download the Earth Day Action Toolkit, which walks you through organizing and publicizing your own event.
2. Raise Awareness
You can also raise awareness of Earth Day and what it’s about in other ways. You could stand in the lobby of your building as people arrive and hand out copies of the Earth Day Plastic Pollution Primer and Action Toolkit, which is packed with educational resources about the impact of plastic pollution and how to tackle it.
Or if the idea of using all that paper on Earth Day makes you shudder, you could explore the electronic options:
- Send the PDF around by email.
- Post links on Slack.
- Write about it on your company intranet.
- Write a blog post or article on the company website.
If you want to take the message out into the community, why not host a broader event that’s open to the public? You could make it like a street fair, with free food and drinks (provided in reusable receptacles to avoid waste, of course) and stalls at which your employees give out information or perhaps provide some entertainment. Again, the sky’s the limit, so get brainstorming!
3. Start a Competition
Sometimes, the best Earth Day events are those that extend beyond the day itself and encourage meaningful changes over a longer period of time.
So why not start a competition in your workplace, centred around this year’s theme of plastic pollution? Set a timeline of, say, one or two months, and see who can save the most plastic in that time.
To get you started, you can have everyone use this plastic pollution calculator to calculate their plastic consumption, and record the results in a spreadsheet. Then talk about possible solutions and ways of cutting back, and offer a prize to the person who has achieved the biggest reduction when they use the calculator again at the end of the contest.
For extra motivation, you can encourage people to contribute their conservation actions to Earth Day’s Billion Acts of Green program.
4. Make a Commitment
Speaking of long-term actions, Earth Day is a great time to get your own environmental policies in shape for the year ahead. You can review yesterday’s post on environmental ethics for more ideas on how to do that.
There are lots of possibilities here, but this year, you could focus in on the theme of plastic pollution. Be systematic in reviewing your business's use of plastic and identifying areas where you can reduce it. For example, can you cut back on packaging for your products, use less plastic in manufacturing, or improve your recycling schemes in the office?
Quick wins, such as providing extra recycling containers to make sure it's easy for your employees to recycle in the office, can go a long way when they’re implemented over the long term.
5. Make a Splash on Social Media
You can communicate your company’s values to the wider world by using social media or your company blog to publicise Earth Day and your company's commitment to it. Plan out some special posts to spread the environmental message, taking care to focus more on the environment than on self-promotion.
You could also take other digital actions, like changing your logo or website to something green or with earth symbols for the day. Apple even adds a green leaf accent to its physical logo in retail stores for Earth Day. While this may be too much for smaller companies with smaller budgets, you could take inspiration from it and create a digital alteration of your logo to use online for the day. If you don’t know how to do that, you can hire a freelancer on a site like Envato Studio to do it reliably and cost-effectively.
6. Volunteer in the Community
We often think of the environment on a large scale, but it's also about your local environment. You can harness the power of your organisation and its employees to improve your local environment in simple ways.
For example, you could organise your employees into volunteer teams to clean up the local park, remove garbage from a nearby beach, or beautify a town square.
If you want to go further than cleanup and start planting trees or plants, you may need permission from the local authorities that control the space, but it’s a great thing to do if you can organise it. Or you could work with an existing organisation that arranges this kind of thing, like UK charity The Conservation Volunteers.
7. Give Out Awards
Some companies have marked Earth Day by handing out awards recognizing outstanding environmental stewardship by certain employees.
For example, several years ago AT&T honoured ten employees and teams for things like making their own biodiesel, installing a windmill generator, and installing low-flow toilets to save water and money.
Even if you work in a smaller company where people haven’t done such spectacular things, you could still run an awards ceremony for employees who have done smaller-scale things like arranging for unwanted office electronics to be recycled more efficiently. The awards could be for activities at work or in their personal lives.
The whole process of asking for nominations and running the awards will get people talking about environmental issues, and recognising their efforts with money or another type of reward will send a powerful message. And you may be surprised to discover some of the amazing things your employees have done!
8. Raise Money
Running an event like Earth Day takes money. You can help out by making a donation to ensure that the event, which has been going on since 1970, continues to grow from year to year.
You could, of course, simply make a donation from your own pocket or from company funds. Or you could work with other employees to organize sponsorships, cake sales or other fund-raising events.
And if Earth Day itself doesn’t do it for you, you could donate to another environmental charity instead, perhaps focused on a particular cause that you care about or that's relevant to your business.
9. Experience Nature
What better way to celebrate Earth Day and raise employees' appreciation for it than by being in nature? Organise an employee outing to a beautiful forest, lake or mountain nearby. Since Earth Day is on a Sunday this year, an out-of-office celebration makes sense (as long as you give people incentive to join in on their day off).
This kind of event is perfect for getting family and friends involved too, so encourage people to cast the invitations far and wide. If you want to make it more active, you could organize a 5K run or a guided hike, but if not, a simple outing to appreciate nature works fine too and is perfectly in tune with the ethos of Earth Day!
10. Go Beyond Plastic
Although the theme of Earth Day this year is plastic pollution, you can go beyond that and take other actions. You could take the opportunity to make your business more sustainable in other ways. Here are just a few examples:
- Become more energy efficient.
- Reduce your carbon footprint.
- Go paper free in the office, or at least reduce unnecessary paperwork.
- Offer incentives for your employees to use eco-friendly transport for their commute.
- Put pressure on your suppliers to have strong environmental standards.
- Create an extensive environmental policy.
See yesterday’s post for more ideas on putting environmental ethics into practice and committing to actions that will last all year round, not just for a day.
In this tutorial, you’ve seen ten simple ideas for ways to celebrate Earth Day at work. Most of them don’t need big budgets or time commitments, so you can implement them even if your business is small.
And if you work in a business rather than being an owner, you can still do plenty to support Earth Day. Simply explain to your line manager or HR representative what you want to do and why, and they should be happy to support you. Being proactive about organising events like this can help you not only to spread awareness about environmental issues, but also to demonstrate your ability to take the initiative and create change.
There’s lots more information and resources available on the Earth Day website, so head over there to get more ideas about things you can do to celebrate Earth Day in the office. If your company does something cool for Earth Day, let us know in the comments below!