How about breaking a world record for collecting and shredding paper, or filling the lawn of your office building with “sculptures” made of recyclable cups, or holding a haiku competition to promote your sustainability website? These are just some of the more creative ways companies have marked April 22 over the years since 1970, when the Dayton Hudson Corporation, now known as Target, gave out free trees to its customers on the very first Earth Day.
So what is your company doing for Earth Day?
Don’t panic if you have nothing planned because Earth Day activities can be as small or as large as you want it to be.
For many corporations, Earth Day activities represent the culmination of their yearlong green efforts. For others, it might be the ONE day that they focus on sustainability. No matter where you are on the green spectrum, you should take advantage of the attention Earth Day generates because it sets the tone for the rest of the year. Sustainability, after all, should be a year round effort, especially since it can lead to significant savings.
Need ideas? A look at what businesses have done over the years reveals that Earth Day activities generally fall into one of four categories:
- Earth Day fairs: Many large corporations invite green vendors and organizations to set up tables in their lobbies and cafeterias to distribute educational literature, showcase green products and services, or even stage games designed to teach and encourage sustainability at home and work. Some companies have even expanded events from Earth Day to Earth Week.
- Attention-getting displays: In 2008, Yahoo! placed hexagon dome “plants” made out of used paper cups on the lawn of their main campus to bring attention to their “Chuck the Cup” day. Great Forest, a sustainability consultancy, created a giant bird sculpture made out of discarded plastic bottles, cans and paper to remind office workers in one New Jersey building to recycle. They also constructed a 20-foot tall tower using discarded cardboard cafeteria trays to visually illustrate the “height” of waste. These giant displays get people talking and thinking about the collective impact of their actions.
- Show and tell: To promote greener modes of transportation, one company in New Jersey brought in an electric car and charging station. Others installed bike racks and we heard one Hewlett-Packard office in Oregon held a bike tune-up clinic.
- Talks and lectures: Brown bag lunch talks and lectures are popular and easy to organize. Invite an author, local community leaders or industry experts to come talk to your staff and colleagues. Topics can range from climate change to composting to pollution.
- Recycling Drives: In many offices (and homes), old computers, cell phones and other electronics are often just stored away, taking up valuable space. This is a great opportunity to clear backlogs of e-waste and to raise awareness about recycling at the same time. While a typical building usually generates close to one ton of e-waste every few months, RBC collected over 15 tonnes of old electronics in just one Earth Day e-waste drive.