April 22, 2015 marks the 45th anniversary of Earth Day. Earth Day is celebrated each year and is made up of events across the world that show support for environmental protection. The day was started in 1970 by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson; now the Earth Day Network organizes events with more than 50,000 partners in 192 countries.
The Earth Day Network says more than 1 billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world. You and your co-workers can be a part of the movement by helping reduce your ecological footprints with these easy ideas:
Instead of using plastic cups and forks in your workplace that you toss after each use, use utensils you can wash and use over and over. Also, get away from using plastic water bottles; the non-profit organization, The Water Project, Inc., says U.S. landfills are overflowing with 2 million tons of discarded water bottles alone. Ask your employer to install a filtered water machine into your break room and use refillable water bottles instead.
If you must use bottles or cans, make sure to recycle them! According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the recycling rate for Americans in 2012 was just 34.5 percent, so we have a long way to go. The EPA says on average we recycled and composted 1.51 pounds of our individual waste generation of 4.38 pounds per person per day. It’s not just the typical things you can recycle either; your old office equipment can even be recycled. You can help even more by purchasing recycled products, such as printer paper, and using earth-friendly products.
3. Power down
Do you turn off your computer before you leave for the day? A 2009 study found that nearly half of American workers don’t shut their computers down before they head home for the night, costing $2.8 billion in unnecessary energy costs every year. In addition to turning off your computer each night, make sure to turn off all lights, lamps, and even the thermostat; installing a programmable one will give you one less thing to worry about at the end of the day.
4. Pare down your paper
Cut down on paper by only printing when you absolutely need to. If you do need to print, then use both sides of the paper and avoid printing off PowerPoint presentations at all costs. The EPA says paper makes up 27 percent of municipal solid waste, which is more than any other material that Americans throw away. Americans recycled about 65 percent of the paper they used in 2012. That’s good news, but it also leaves a lot of room for improvement.
5. There’s no place like home
If the type of work you do can be done from anywhere, you may want to see if telecommuting is an option. According to statistics from the American Community Survey, telecommuting has risen 79 percent between 2005 and 2012. 3.2 million workers in America now use this option, which is 2.6 percent of the work force. Now these numbers only take into account full-time employees who work from home for someone else at least half of the time. If you add in the self-employed, those whose work needs to be done outside of an office (taxi drivers, etc.), companies where everyone works remotely and those who work at home one day or less a week, they say the percentage is as much as 30 percent.
6. Hitch a ride
If telecommuting is not an option and you need to drive to the office, try to carpool. Ask around the office to see if any of your co-workers live in your neighborhood, or can maybe pick you up on their way. Or offer to pick up someone else you know is on your route. If you work for a larger company, you may want to consider putting up a ride share board, so everyone can see the carpooling options. If carpooling isn’t an option and you don’t live too far from work, why not walk or ride your bike? The environment and your health will thank you!
7. Take action
To mark Earth Day, why not put together an office wide event to benefit the environment. This is something you can do on Earth Day, but hopefully continue throughout the year. One very popular idea is to plant trees; this can be done on your own property or at areas designated by your community. Not only do trees look nice, they filter pollution from the air, provide shelter, create shade, provide homes for animals and have many other benefits.
Some other things you could do are volunteer at a recycling center or partner with your area department of transportation to “adopt a highway” to collect litter along your area roadways. Another idea that many people are adopting is “meatless Monday” to refrain from eating meat one day a week. While this may not seem like much, it really is; in a 2006 study, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture organization found that nothing produces more greenhouse gas emissions than livestock production.
Any steps you can take to lower your environmental impact are steps in the right direction. To get an idea of what your ecological footprint looks like, you can take a quiz by clicking here which will show you the impact you are having on the planet; the results may surprise you.
Do you have any plans for Earth Day? What are some things you and your co-workers like to do to mark the day? What are some things you do throughout the year to reduce your impact on the planet? Let us know!