Earth Day, which is celebrated each year on April 22nd, began in the United States in 1970 during a time of anti-war protests, lack of legal consequences for environmental pollution, mass air and water contamination and more.
The holiday came from an idea by Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, who saw news of the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara and wanted to do something about it. Nelson wanted to ignite the flame of action under environmental protection in politics, and he decided the best way would be to create a national holiday to celebrate the world we were given and discuss how to best protect it. The very first Earth Day featured 20 million Americans marching in streets, parks and auditoriums in the name of protecting our planet. The event received bipartisan support and actually led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as the passing of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species acts.
Today, the holiday is celebrated by 192 countries all over the world. We’ve outlined a few ways in which you can help celebrate the world in your workplace.
Invite coworkers to a reusable water bottle decorating event. Encourage them to bring their own in order to reduce one-use plastic for drinking. Use fun stickers, sports logos and more to get them excited.
Have employees go together (or on their own!) to choose an area in the community to help clean up. Challenge each worker to fill a specific amount of trash bags — even make it a fun competition.
For a week, or just a day!
Have workers come up with one or more items from the recycling that could be reused in some way in the office. The most creative idea wins!
Most people aren’t sure where the recycling actually goes once it leaves the office or it’s picked up at your home. Take a field trip to get out of the office and see how it works.
Come up with themed days for one week and give workers points for posting about them on social media. Have them mention the workplace challenge and a fact about Earth Day and conservation that relates to that day’s theme.
The person with the least amount of used plastic wins! Reusable plastic does not count!
Instead of after-work drinks, go for a post-work hike or yoga class.
Try to turn old files into digital archives and recycle the paper you are now saving! If possible, go completely paperless. Why not?
Challenge workers to either carpool with coworkers or friends and family, or to take public transportation if possible, rather than driving oneself to work.
Have an environmentalist (or a coworker already familiar with composting!) come in and show the office how to start your own compost. Learn what a compost even is and how it can benefit the environment.
Have locally grown and sourced foods brought in for a catered work lunch!
Assign each coworker a day to send an environmentally friendly hack via email to the company listserv. Maybe they will teach their coworker about a low water dishwashing method, an alternative to plastic sandwich bags and more.
Send the workers out for the last hour of the day to plant trees and flowers around the office or in a local park.
In another how-to class, have a team bonding session involving creating bird feeders.
Workers can learn what these groups do, what they are protecting exactly and how they can get involved if they want to!
Plant more than just trees and flowers — have workers start a company garden. With the dedicated space, they can grow their own fruits and vegetables and have a locally sourced meal every day for lunch.
Using multiple plastic bags every time we grocery shop is a huge waste of plastic. But what’s the alternative? Reusable cloth bags that are both sturdy and trendy! Have workers decorate them like with the water bottles, or simply challenge them to find their own and replace the excessive amount of plastic ones hanging out under the kitchen sink.
Ask workers bring in things they no longer want, like clothes, shoes, household items and more. Create a donation pile rather than throwing them out and having them end up in a dump.
Cut back while brushing your teeth, washing your hands, washing dishes, taking showers, washing your car and more. Have workers share how they’ve been going about this to inspire others to do the same.
As an office, challenge yourselves to use the air conditioning less when it’s hot and the heat less when it’s cold. Turn lights off when they are not being in use, and, if not already implemented in your workplace, install energy saving lights that turn off when motion has not been sensed in a certain amount of time. Replace old light bulbs with newer, energy saving ones.
Hold your office accountable for the future. Don’t just protect the Earth during Earth day (or week!) Make it a priority to continue these new methods and make them company policy.
The Earth Day holiday serves the wonderful purpose of getting the world excited about protecting our planet. But the larger goal behind the holiday is to promote this type of activity every day. Challenge yourself to take these Earth Day practices and make them an everyday habit. Clean up trash on your morning run, turn off the water when you brush your teeth and ride with friends when you’re heading the same direction. Plant trees and build bird feeders. And challenge your friends, family and colleagues to do the same!