Each year in April, we celebrate Earth Day, a united call for the creativity, innovation, ambition, and bravery needed to protect the planet we call home. It’s the largest secular observance around the globe, with more than a billion Earthlings from 193 countries lending their voices for a better world and a sustainable future.
All too often, however, those pledging their awareness of the looming environmental crises treat this day with antique shop etiquette: look but don’t touch. Consider this: Earth Day began in 1970—accruing 50+ years of awareness to date—yet, we’re only now beginning to address some of the biggest challenges to ever face humankind.
From here on out, our actions must speak much louder than words.
Being aware is easy—it’s taking the next step that requires boldness, and for many, knowing where to take that first step is the hardest part. Well, with pollution, emissions, and preserving natural resources in mind, we’d like to remind you of our forte: recycling.
Recycling is one of the most accessible outlets for celebrating Earth Day on an individual and organizational level, and we invite you and your business to join us in taking five actions to build a more sustainable future together.
Grow: Restore Our Earth
Earth Day’s 2021 theme is Restore Our Earth, a recognition that environmental degradation has led to a breakdown of our natural systems, a rise in disease, and detriment to our global economy. The restoration of our planet is about more than keeping blues blue and greens green—it’s jobs, livelihood, health, and happiness, too.
Like us, EARTHDAY.org advocates for a five-pronged approach to countering the threat. Its first pillar, conservation & restoration, is an action we call “Grow.” And while RoadRunner Recycling isn’t in the business of planting trees, we recently partnered with an organization that does to incentivize recycling and boost its impact.
By partnering with One Tree Planted for the entire month of April, RoadRunner funded the planting of one tree for every yard of recyclable material we diverted from landfill for new customers using our FleetHaul service.
We were so motivated by the participation, we created an optional in-house program for our employees to donate trees as an act of appreciation to coworkers (with RoadRunner matching all donations). In the 10 days leading up to Earth Day, 1,000+ trees have already been funded.
Few oppose the idea of sustainability, and companies that embrace growing their ecological impact through operations, supply chain, human resources, and more can see improvements in morale, brand perception, and the bottom line.
Learn: Break Free From Plastic
Learning something new about recycling often means reducing your contamination, breaking bad habits, and waking up to the reality that we can be much better as a country and a planet to pump the world’s “seventh resource” back into the global economy instead of the landfill or ocean.
This Earth Day, your lesson can be as simple as counting to seven... We’re talking about improving plastics recycling.
62% of Americans believe a lack of knowledge leads them to recycle incorrectly. Even more telling, the national recycling rate for plastic has NEVER cracked 10%.
That means there's a distinct possibility you’ve never learned the numbered plastic recycling symbols. To learn more about your role in the plastics crisis, you can read our post, but if you do nothing else, commit this simple illustration to memory:
Want to put your newfound know-how in action? This Earth Day, gather all of your single-use plastic bags and prepare them for proper disposal. Created with plastic #2 or #4, this thin, film-like material cannot go through the traditional recycling.
[More from RoadRunner’s Waste Watchers blog: These Items Are Nonrecyclable]
Instead, seek out a local drop-off collection operation. They’re often found at retail stores and municipal centers, and there’s a strong chance you won’t have to travel far. You can search nearby with tools from Earth911 and Plastic Film Recycling.
Collaborate: Lend a Helping Hand
While last year, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, was celebrated virtually—this year is taking more of a hybrid approach.
And this Earth Day, the tradition of picking up littered trash and recyclables as a team is back. Throw on a reusable cloth mask (not a disposable blue one) and reflective gear to hit the local streets, creek beds, and parks with friends, family, and coworkers. EARTHDAY.org keeps tabs on organized events all across the nation, but check your local community sites as well.
If you can’t make an organized clean-up, or don’t want to leave the workplace, your contribution can still be felt. You can:
Donate household items, furniture, clothing, and office supplies. Nonprofits like Goodwill and Vietnam Veterans of America, as well as online options like thredUP, accept a wide range of gently used materials. Just ensure that nothing you donate is damaged, degraded, or depleted—there’s a steep price for anything they cannot rehome.
Take an active stake in your own recycling program. Learn what valuable materials you’re inadvertently throwing away. Once you’ve audited your streams—a service we can help with—the act of sorting your recyclables will keep treasure out of the trash and money in your pocket.
Play: Think Outside the Box
Almost every human on this planet has a daily interaction with cardboard in today’s world, and that’s likely to increase further. Last year, heightened by the pandemic, the U.S. made 3.4% more cardboard than the year prior—enough to completely cover every square inch of New York City.
With at-home shopping and shipping at an all-time high, cardboard costs continue to soar as availability dwindles. And yet, clean cardboard can be recycled five or more times in its lifetime, and one ton of recycled cardboard saves 5,000 kilowatts of energy and up to 475 gallons of oil and other fossil fuels.
If your business isn't recycling, it's missing a big opportunity to cut overall supply chain costs and environmental impact. Preparing cardboard boxes and miscellaneous paperboard for pickup is easy, too.
[More from RoadRunner’s Waste Watchers blog: Breaking Down Cardboard Waste]
Consider recycling to be the prime goal. But, if your cardboard cannot be recycled—say, if it’s water-logged, degraded, or plastic-lined—you or your business can be still responsible AND creative.
Compost it. Greasy pizza stain or left out in the rain, carbon-rich cardboard can be returned to the soil after breaking down into compost. Standard corrugated boxes, non-laminated shoe boxes, egg cartons, and other flat cardboard can be shredded and layered in with other materials like food scraps—just remove stickers, tapes, foils, and adhesives. Not sure where to start? Check out RoadRunner’s composting service for businesses.
Reuse it. As long as it’s structurally sound, a cardboard box and flat cardboard can be used again in a number of ways. For example, toilet paper tubes and open-top cartons can be used as biodegradable pots for planting, while your run-of-the-mill box can easily become a chest of drawers organizer.
Have fun with it. A little more DIY fun can help your cardboard reclaim its value, at least to you personally. With a little creativity, cereal boxes can become photo frames, corrugated boxes transformed into pet beds or houses, and, with a lot of time on your hands, a shoebox can be made into a smartphone projector.
Go: Be the Change
Some actions may seem small or insignificant: like knowing which plastic container can go in your recycling bin; delivering a load of plastic bags to a collection box; picking up litter along a highway; or stacking clean cardboard for pickup.
However, collective and repetitive actions should never be underestimated. In fact, it’s how progress is made. And approaching a problem on a global scale only requires your willingness to be part of the solution.
We’re fortunate to be able to realize the big picture impact through the neighborhood restaurants and mom-and-pop shops to the hospital networks and national manufacturers we serve.
And our “Go” is embodied by RoadRunner’s FleetHaul service—where we can make meaningful, decisive, and sustainable changes to how our nation’s businesses recycle. For us, every ounce of your company’s recyclable material we divert from the landfill makes a world of difference.
But only you can take the needed steps to be the change.