December 21, 2014

Marking Earth Day (Month?) in Meaningful Ways

Tomorrow is Earth Day. Well, is it Earth Day, Earth Week or Earth Month? Apparently, it’s all three.

But Earth whatever-you-call-it has, in recent years, become something of a PR bonanza. Businesses use April to strut their greenness, sometimes in trite or superficial ways. (“Come to our Earth Day sale!”) And some businesses  miss the point that they should be thinking about their environmental practices every day – not just on April 22.

Even so, it’s not a bad idea for businesses to commemorate Earth Day or “Earth Month,” and use it to reinforce their commitment to green practices, while engaging customers on the topic of environmental stewardship. An original purpose of Earth Day in 1970, after all, was to promote pro-environmental behaviors and policies.  We’ve made a lot of progress, but we still have a long way to go.

Earth Day

The challenge is to avoid the superficiality and mark Earth Day in meaningful ways that will resonate with customers. Here are some ideas for how to achieve that:

1. Explain the value of buying green products. It’s fine to have an Earth Day sale and offer discounts on your eco-friendly products or services – in fact, that’s a great idea. But make it about more than just selling “eco-friendly” stuff. Add heft by telling your customers how buying the featured product or service is good for the environment. A company selling products made of 100 percent recycled paper, for instance, might let customers know that recycling one ton of paper saves 7,000 gallons of water, 13 mature trees and enough energy to power the average American home for six months. Those are pretty powerful facts.

2. Raise money for environmental causes. Pick a nonprofit that supports or advocates environmental protection and donate a portion of sales around Earth Day to that cause. Make the gift significant enough that customers will care, and get them engaged. I think this upcoming Earth Day “Cut-a-Thon” by a Burr Ridge, Illinois, hair salon is a neat idea.

3. Set new, more ambitious goals for your business. No time like the present to consider ways to ramp up your green practices. Perhaps you’ve been thinking of substantially cutting your business’s energy use or starting a recycling program. Use Earth Day as an opportunity to raise the bar–and let your customers know.

4. Volunteer your time. There are lots of ways to get involved with local, national and international Earth Day events. Devoting a day or a few hours of your time and your employees’ time to an environmental-related event – even if it’s picking up trash at a local park – shows you’re willing to devote both time and money to the environment. It’s also a great way to engage employees around company green efforts.

Are you doing anything to mark Earth Day at your business? If so, what?

7 Comments ▼

Kelly Spors


Kelly Spors Kelly Spors is a former small-business and entrepreneurship reporter and blogger for The Wall Street Journal who has also written for Yahoo!, Entrepreneur, NFIB's MyBusiness magazine and The New York Times. Kelly is now a freelance editor and writer based in Minneapolis and has previously managed communications for an environmental non-profit that helps businesses find ways to be greener.

7 Reactions

  1. Earth Day is tomorrow! So it is definitely a great time be thinking about what each of us can do to help upkeep our Earth best we can. Dr. Alley, of Penn State University, has been studying the effects of pollution and the idea of climate change here on Earth. I thought some of you might be interested in some of these videos and interviews with the renowned scientist. Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/h8EY6q
    Take care.

  2. Offsetting your business’ carbon emissions can help too. If you don’t mind me posting the link, we’ve recently offset some of our carbon emissions and are featured in The Carbon Directory (www.thecarbondirectory.com).

    Every little helps.

  3. I would add that companies should encourage employees to participate in “green” activities at home. You could reimburse employees for a tree they planted at their house or a house plant they have in their apartment. Schedule a half day activity where employees go and help a service group clean up an area or plant trees at a local park.

  4. Earth Day SHOULD BE more meaningful – it seems to have gotten less press this time around than years before. Point #1 on saving water is very important. In the US we SO take this resource for granted! I’ve linked back to your article from my Earth Day post.

  5. Dave Lucas,

    We can’t take the resources for granted, but we are free to use the resources according to our needs. I see the environment as my surroundings. If you had practiced Earth Day to its core, you wouldn’t sit here and now, using technology, computers, web sites, etc.

  6. Love it. Thanks for clarifying the Earth day, week, month dilemma. Helpful tips to use all year round!

  7. Great post, Kelly!

    As each year goes by, I get more aware of how important it is for all of us to really focus on making our planet a cleaner and better place to live.

    Thanks to you, and some of the Green posts the past couple of years on Small Business Trends, not only do I turn off my power strips nightly, I’m driving the rest of my family crazy about keeping lights off in unused area etc! (More crazy than usual, that is.)

    So, thanks! Every little bit helps.

    If all of us started doing the little things, it really will start to add up.

    The Franchise King®

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