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.
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?