This Earth Day, you might be thinking, "Hey, there’s a pandemic. Let’s sit this one out."
Probably no one would blame you. But journey back with me to last year, at the beginning of COVID-19, when the roads were clear and the air was pristine. If you were like me, it might have been the very first time you saw your city not wrapped in smog.
That vision of what our earth could be inspired me, and if it inspired you, too, then don’t sit this one out: Make this Earth Day a chance to level up your commitment to our gorgeous planet.
Without access to office recycle bins and other on-site programs, this is a perfect time to foster new habits with your employees that they can use at home. Here are a few tips to make this Earth Day engaging and transformational and instill lasting habits with your employees, even if life looks a bit different right now:
As many employees are accustomed to living their work lives online, this is the perfect time to develop trainings and virtual events around sustainability. At Young Living, we have developed several internal trainings to help educate employees about how to properly sort and recycle materials common in neighborhood recycling programs.
These interactive trainings helped to define what is collected in mixed waste, metal, glass and organic recycling bins and where employees should place different materials. These trainings also help employees to understand that "wish-cycling" — throwing items in the recycle bin when unsure and hoping they will be recycled — is actually very harmful to the recycling process.
You’ll likely find your employees will welcome a break from thinking about calendars and tasks to hear ways they can incorporate the values of Earth Day every day. These virtual events should be fun and light-hearted and useful. Even something like a virtual training on how to repair clothing and other items around the house to increase their longevity is useful.
Encourage employees to adopt reusables into their lifestyles and boost morale while doing so with fun rewards such as branded gifts — from water bottles to shopping bags. Providing employees with a sustainable gift is a fun way to get employees more involved while at home. Some departments at Young Living have adopted reusable notebooks that allow the user to transform their notes into a PDF and erase the page once it is full.
You can consider holding sustainability-themed contests, such as who can recycle the most soda cans or which family can throw away the least amount of waste during a week or who’s found the most creative way to reuse a non-recycling item. We also have contactless recycling at our headquarters, so employees can drop off even hard-to-recycle items such as batteries.
Your employees can’t meet together in person, but that doesn’t mean they can’t take advantage of this day. Encourage them to get out and enjoy nature or try something new and start a compost bin. Give them gift cards to a local nursery to plant native plants that help pollinators or start a plogging (picking up litter while jogging) Slack channel where your employees can show off their cleanup adventures.
At Young Living, we also give employees one floating PTO day per year to use on a day of their choosing for performing service in their communities. We encourage employees to find activities that restore the environment or help to protect it. Employees have performed a variety of services, including planting trees in parks, communities and other areas of the state, cleaning up trails and parks, removing invasive species and other restoration projects.
We’ve created a Global Stewards team internally to engage and brainstorm with passionate employees on topics of sustainability. The team is open to any that are interested and is used as a platform to proof ideas, look for new opportunities, survey opinions and share information.
If your C-suite is still hesitant about making a concerted effort to become greener, real change isn’t likely to occur. Change has to begin at the top. If you have to, map initiatives back to the bottom line.
Incorporating environmental sustainability projects makes sense from every angle, from cost to risk mitigation to reducing turnover and increasing loyalty. If your C-suite doesn’t know where to start, there are many organizations that can help. Utah, for example, has a Sustainability Business Coalition, where many competing businesses join together to work toward a common goal.
That short experience I had at the beginning of the pandemic seeing what our environment could be like really changed me.
I want clean air. I want to see the mountains not covered in smog. I want insects and cooler temperatures and healthier food. If companies take the lead, that could become a reality. Amid the tragic circumstances, this time away from normalcy is a gift in that it has given us a chance to reevaluate ourselves and reimagine the possibility of a future with a clean earth.