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April 21, 2021

15 Out-of-the-box Ways to Celebrate Earth Day at Work (And Actually Make an Impact)

Illustration of earth sweeping up trash

Since its inception in 1970, Earth Day has witnessed over 50 years of environmental highs and lows. 

From the shocking loss of arctic glaciers to the recent discovery of the world’s smallest reptile, the natural world is anything but boring—and your consumers and employees agree. 

Millennials make up the majority of the workforce and 75% of them say they would take a pay cut in order to work for a socially responsible company, while 73% would pay more for a sustainable product.

In other words, your company’s commitment to sustainability and the environment has a direct impact on your success as a business.

Bottom line? You and your teams need to get your hands dirty this Earth Day. 

There are a million and one fun and impactful activities out there to help you and your employees get involved in Earth Day, from ‘going green’ in the office, to becoming citizen scientists for the day—so dive in and choose the ones that make the most sense for your unique team culture and values.

3 fun facts about Earth Day

When is Earth Day?

The first thing to know about Earth Day is it’s actually kind of a misnomer.

Fact is, Earth Day actually takes place over three days from April 20th to 22nd, but the 22nd is the big one. 

How many people celebrate Earth Day?

More than 1 billion people in 192 countries celebrate Earth Day—making it the largest civic observance in the world. 🌎

How did Earth Day start?

Earth day kicked off in 1970 after a massive oil-spill in Santa Barbara, California, spurred Senator Gaylord Nelson into action. Inspired by the student-led anti-war movement, Nelson decided to use the energy of collective action to raise awareness about the environment. On 22nd April that year, 20 million Americans (at that time 10% of the total US population) took to the streets, parks and auditoriums to demonstrate for the first official Earth Day. 

15 impactful Earth Day activities you can do at work (even if you’re WFH)

  1. Become an Earth Day partner: Earth Day is always looking for partners and sponsors. Non-profit organizations can sign up here, while for-profits are encouraged to contact the team directly at sponsorship@earthday.org. 
  2. Calculate (and reduce) your carbon footprint: Calculate, reduce and mitigate your carbon footprint to show your commitment to sustainability. The Carbon Trust has a carbon calculator specifically for SMEs, while the World Land Trust’s calculator helps calculate individual impacts. Remember it’s better to have no impact than to have to mitigate it, so always look for ways to reduce your carbon footprint before offsetting. 
  3. Encourage employees to use green search engines: According to some sources, one Google search uses the same amount of energy as turning a 60w lightbulb on for 17 seconds. If one employee does 50 searches per day, and you have 100 employees: that’s 85,000 seconds per day, or around 24 hours of light.💡And that’s before you include the energy used by an open webpage. Counteract this by using green search engines like Ecosia or Ekoru, which plant trees or donate to environmental charities for every search.
  4. Look for ways to connect: The great thing about Earth Day is it brings people together for a common cause. This is the perfect opportunity to reach out to your networks to see how you can work together, share your sustainability goals or even run a joint Earth Day event. 
  5. Donate to local or national causes: Supporting environmental causes is a great habit to get into, and there are tons of awesome projects to choose from (you can even donate to Earth Day). But be aware that many orgs use this tactic to greenwash—and consumers are wise to it—so back up your donations with tangible actions (like reducing your carbon footprint).
  6. Connect with nature: What better way to celebrate Earth Day than getting out into nature? Book a time for employees to take part in a nature walk, as a (socially distanced) group, alone, or on a video app like Zoom or Marco Polo.
  7. Run a food waste challenge: In the US alone, around 40% of food is wasted each year 😲. With Food Banks on the rise and increased climate pressure from agricultural practices, there are a ton of reasons to focus on food waste this Earth Day. Challenge employees to calculate their FoodPrint, waste zero food for one week, or run a Zoom cooking workshop with waste-free recipes (potato peel chips are a great place to start!)
  8. Run an Earth Day teach-in: From climate change to environmental justice, there’s a whole lot to learn when it comes to environmental issues, so why not host a series of virtual talks for employees and stakeholders?
  9. Create an eco working guide: Get employees in the know by creating a step-by-step guide explaining how to reduce their impact at work. Include tips on reducing electricity use, food waste, and travel. 
  10. Go paperless: These days, most banks and services provide paperless options. Take a look over your weekly postal drop and see if there’s any providers you can scale back the paper waste with. Then, move your systems online with smart tools for key processes, like hiring
  11. Do an eco audit: Whether your company’s remote, in-office, or both, conducting an eco-audit is one of the best ways to clean up your act. Book your audit in for Earth Day and spend the day identifying areas for improvement, from switching up website servers to a green host, to reducing single-use plastics in the break room. 
  12. Take part in a local cleanup: Earth Day is all about getting involved in direct action. Cleanups are an impactful and fun way to get your hands dirty for nature. Check out Earth Day’s official Great Global Cleanup page for more info and events near you.
  13. Become a citizen scientist: Citizen science has been around for decades, but thanks to technology it’s easier than ever to grab your goggles (and your app 📱😉) and head into the Great Outdoors to record every bird and beast you spot. BioBlitz challenges are a great way to get started; you can find out if your city’s involved in the global City Nature Challenge; take part in Earth Day’s own Global Earth Challenge; or download an app like iNaturalist for a solo mission. 
  14. Pledge your support to environmental literacy: The Earth Day team has made it easier than ever to have your organization’s voice heard this year. Simply head over to their website to show your support for environmental literacy
  15. Share some Earth Day love on social: Taking part in Earth Day is something to be proud of, so share your plans with the world on social. The Earth Day website has tons of pre-made social templates to pick from, along with a bunch of awesome graphics.

Happy Earth Day!

Although it only happens once a year, Earth Day is all about walking the sustainability walk for good.

Use your event as a kickoff point for a year-long commitment to sustainability. Whether you decide to run an eco-audit or send your teams out to a local CleanUp, your activities should be impactful, educational, and (most of all) fun.

Whatever you choose to do, make sure your teams are well prepped, your plans reflect your wider business goals, and your activities have long-term impact. Plus, don’t forget to register your event and check out the Earth Day toolkit for more info.

Above all, remember to have fun. Happy Earth Day to you and your team!