This past Wednesday, October 28th was Sustainability Day 2020, an international celebration of sustainability to remind countries and communities of the importance of caring for the environment around them and the proper steps for doing so each day. Every year, Sustainability Day takes place on the fourth Wednesday of October, but because this topic is so critical, many universities and colleges, as well as other institutions observe Sustainability Month throughout all of October.
At RoadRunner, we believe that every day is an opportunity to celebrate sustainability, whether it's in your professional, academic, or personal life. So, what better day to share some helpful tips than during Sustainability Week/Month? We hope no matter when you read this blog, you’ll have some key environmentally-friendly takeaways to apply to your life whether it’s Sustainability Day/Month or not! Keep reading to learn more about this “green” holiday and what you can do to get, and stay, involved.
What Is Sustainability and Why Should Businesses Care?
In 1969, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) introduced sustainable development because air and water quality, among other environmental problems, were a concern for the United States Congress. With this in mind, NEPA addressed these fears and defined sustainable development as such: “To create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony, and fulfill the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations of Americans.” As a result, the policy insists that federal agencies consider environmental effects before taking any permanent actions.
Today, especially as we navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses are prioritizing the Triple Bottom Line concept, which aligns sustainability with profitability by measuring a business’ success using economic, social, and environmental factors, including pollution prevention, carbon-offsets, profit, and social inclusion. Unsurprisingly, companies that give back are seeing giant leaps in profit. The Harvard Business Review tracked the business practices and sustainability efforts for 30 large corporations and discovered results that showed: “Sustainability is a mother lode of organizational and technological innovations that yield both bottom-line and top-line returns.” In addition to profitability, we’ve written before about the significant increase in consumers that actively seek out environmentally-conscious businesses and solutions. In fact, 7 of 10 consumers look for environmental information on packaging materials and 87 percent of consumers will purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they care about, proving the investment in sustainability is incredibly worthwhile.
How to Celebrate Sustainability Day
There are a few easy steps every company, or institution, can take to educate stakeholders about the environment while also encouraging them to act sustainability to make a difference in their communities and the environment at large. Moreover, not only does Sustainability Day provide a platform for individuals to strengthen their engagement around sustainability, but it also serves as an opportunity to recruit new leaders, form new committees, and set organizational initiatives for the upcoming year.
Oftentimes, these events include teach-ins, recycling train-ins, planting trees, lunch and learns, sustainability pledge drives, waste audits, service projects, volunteer trash pickups, and more. This year, however, many businesses and schools will likely celebrate a little differently due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, don’t lose heart, because there are many ways in which both organizations and individuals can still participate in making our world cleaner. And, thankfully, you don’t need to be a part of a college campus or company to get involved in Sustainability Day! Below, we detail opportunities for both individuals and organizations to join in on the celebration of sustainability, today and every day, while explaining how doing so can truly make a difference in your community, in others’ lives, and in the world as a whole:
Donate unwanted clothing
According to the World Resources Institute, it takes 2,700 liters of water to make one cotton shirt. Sadly, Americans throw away over 14 million tons of clothing every year. Given this, businesses and individuals have a unique opportunity to take action against material waste by recycling their textiles, hosting a clothing swap or exchange, or donating gently-used items to charitable organizations (like GoodWill, ThredUp, etc.). View our blog post for more information on the Environmental Crisis Caused by Textile Waste and tips for taking action against this pervasive issue.
In 2017, 11.2 million tons of textile waste ended up in landfills according to data from the Environmental Protection Agency. Read our blog post to learn more about the environmental crisis caused by textile waste, and how your business can take action: https://t.co/r76m7XpUCk pic.twitter.com/B8ZZkVJaNt— RoadRunner Recycling (@RoadRunnerWM) October 20, 2020
Start a composting program
Every year, the EPA estimates that the United States wastes approximately 31 percent (133 billion pounds) of the overall food supply. Composting organic waste is one of the most sustainable ways to save valuable resources, divert more waste from landfill, and reduce waste costs. Whether you manage a restaurant, a university with many cafeterias, or an office space looking to reduce waste from landfill, your organization can significantly benefit from composting while contributing to your sustainability goals and a healthier environment. If you’re interested in learning how RoadRunner can help launch a custom composting program for your business, learn more about our services here.
Composting is a great way to turn organic material into healthy, nutrient-rich soil. Ready to get started? RoadRunner will ensure you are set up with a custom program built to make composting a successful venture at your business. Learn more: https://t.co/52Ma4C2KBy pic.twitter.com/AM9sVX3yJD— RoadRunner Recycling (@RoadRunnerWM) October 22, 2020
When it comes to human activities, travel, primarily by airplane, is, sadly, one of the top emission generators and causes of climate change. In 2017, transportation accounted for 29 percent of total greenhouse gases emitted into the environment. Individuals who understand the negative environmental impacts that travel creates should try to minimize their impact by carpooling, taking public transportation, or riding a bike. When possible, businesses should also limit air travel and find alternative forms of transportation. Luckily, video conferencing technology has made connecting with customers and coworkers across the globe a lot easier!
Incorporate the “5R” methodology
When dealing with waste materials, individuals should take four actions, if possible, before recycling:
And, of course, recyclingLearning to incorporate the “5Rs” strategy is the most effective way to minimize waste. Following the steps listed above, and educating yourself further on what they mean (see our blog here), can help significantly reduce the amount of waste sent to the landfill.
Leverage social media to talk about sustainability
Communicating your sustainability goals, efforts, achievements, and plans on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn can go a long way in inspiring your audience to get involved. By searching for the keyword “Sustainability Day” you can see how many people or companies are celebrating and get involved in the conversation—whether it’s by sharing a “green” tip, explaining your organization’s commitments to reducing its carbon footprint, highlighting a customer’s initiative, and more!
This #SustainabilityDay 🌱 we’re taking notes from Woodward Throwbacks: a Black-owned small business that creates furniture from wood they salvage across Detroit, for customers across the country → https://t.co/psYHsMKsE6 #GrowWithGoogle— Google (@Google) October 28, 2020
Organize an event
Sustainability Day provides an excellent opportunity to spread awareness and recruit new leaders to support your personal, educational, or professional “green” goals. As a result, many organizations and schools will host socially-distanced clothing drives, teach-ins, plastic-free pledges, educational training, park cleanups, and more this year. No matter what day it is, there are always countless opportunities to host an event throughout the year to recognize and promote sustainability through activities and action. Discover how to host a zero-waste event.
We hope in the above overview you took away some key tips to help celebrate Sustainability Day this week, month, and beyond. As you can imagine, there are infinite possibilities to help reduce your environmental impact, some bonus ideas include: taking shorter showers, unplugging devices or turning off a power strip when not in use, turning off lights in vacant rooms, growing your own food, using a reusable shopping bag, opting out of junk mail, going paperless, and so much more! As a matter of fact, there are many things you can do to live sustainably every day and we hope you take the time to test these ideas out to slowly build more environmentally-friendly habits.
We would love for you to share some of your ideas in the comments below. If you would like to improve sustainability at your business while also cutting costs on your waste & recycling services, one of our dedicated recycling experts can set you up with a free waste and recycling consultation. Schedule a meeting with us today!