First celebrated on April 22, 1970, in support of environmental protection, Earth Day is now a worldwide day of activism. The first Earth Day was primarily a U.S. event to raise awareness about irresponsible corporate practices. Growing bigger than originally envisioned, the first event resulted in 20 million people demonstrating in cities across the country.
While the first Earth Day is still regarded as the largest single-day protest in history, the 50th anniversary in 2020 enjoyed 100 million participants worldwide. From national governments to grade school children, the world came together to celebrate Earth Day virtually during the COVID pandemic making commitments on environmental issues, worshiping at virtual prayer services, and attending live-streamed events.
Theme for Earth Day 2021
Following consultations with the Earth Day network of 192 countries, this year’s theme is “Restore our Earth.” This means that we don’t just need to lessen the impacts of climate change, but also restore our ecosystems, rebuild soils, and rid the world of plastic garbage. The theme also represents hope and acknowledgment of our interconnectedness and reliance on natural systems to maintain human health.
Benefits of Participating in Earth Day Events for Remote and Hybrid Businesses
Many leaders of the 2020 events were spearheaded by businesses both large and small. While rallying participation in Earth Day activities is both a noble and highly practical cause, it also provides other benefits to remote and hybrid companies. Perhaps the most important in today’s climate is the potential for improvements in employee engagement and emotional intelligence — both of which are key in keeping remote workers productive and satisfied.
While the relationship between Earth Day activities and employee engagement is straightforward, the connection to emotional intelligence is more oblique. Two of the main precepts of emotional intelligence are social awareness and social responsibility. Social responsibility is the ability to be a constructive and contributing member of a group. While Earth Day encompasses the entire planet as a social group, this trait can be transferred to smaller social groups including work teams.
As businesses grapple with permanent changes to remote or hybrid business models, one way to keep employees productive is to provide them with opportunities to contribute to the common good. Read on for some interesting and unique ideas on how your company can engage in virtual Earth Day 2021 celebrations.
Organize or Attend Virtual Events
One of the simplest ways for businesses to celebrate earth day virtually is to hold an online employee event. Treepoints co-founders Anthony Collias & Jacob Wedderburn-Day are taking this approach to celebrate Earth Day this year.
“We’ll be screening David Attenborough’s A Life on Our Planet. Following the screening, we will be hosting an open discussion for all our employees online. We’ll also be planting a tree on behalf of every employee who attends, with our tree planting partner Eden Reforestation Projects.”
If you lack the time or resources to plan your own event, encourage your employees to attend events already planned.
National Climate Summits
To coincide with the Biden Administration’s Global Leaders Climate Summit on April 22, 2021, several organizations have planned complimentary live stream events. Led by EarthDay.org, the additional events take place on April 20, 21, and 22, and will bring together activists, scientists, and policymakers from around the country to discuss issues relevant to the “Restore our Earth” theme. For more information, click here.
Earth Day Initiative Events
Earth Day Initiative is a non-profit organization that promotes environmental awareness and problem-solving by partnering with schools, community organizations, businesses, and governments. The organization is hosting two events this year, a live online event and a virtual reality festival with the feel of a 1990s video game where avatars can visit exhibits online. For more information, click here.
Another popular way that companies are choosing to celebrate Earth Day virtually is by fundraising and making targeted donations to mark their commitment to helping the environment.
“To celebrate Earth Day in 2021, we’re organizing a fundraising activity that includes all of our team members. We pick an eco-friendly charity every year and we run a contest with different teams on who can raise more money for them. This year, we’re donating to Earthjustice and I hope we manage to break last year’s record.”Carsten Schaefer, Founder and CEO of Trust
“By making symbolic animal adoptions, we contribute meaningfully to helping with animal conservation. Our team enjoyed close-up access to a wide variety of local or exotic animals and a chance to learn about animal habits and habitats. Some of the organizations we have found are the World Animal Foundation, Nikela Organization, and Defenders of Wildlife. As a team, this helps us connect and explore something new for everyone while having the social responsibility of caring and giving back to environmentalist and animal caretakers.”Joan Alavedra, Co-founder of Onsite.fun
Get started researching appropriate fundraising opportunities by exploring the options below:
- The Canopy Project: Started in 2010 as an EarthDay.org project, The Canopy Project is a reforestation project. To show your support, you can donate $1 for each tree you want planted. Click here to learn more.
- Oceana: If you appreciate your annual beach vacation, you might want to make your Earth Day donation to a charity dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans. If so, Oceana is a good choice. Click here to donate.
- The Conservation Fund: Want to focus your efforts on the American landscape? Then a donation to The Conservancy Fund is just perfect charity. Click here for details and to learn about the many projects taking place in every state.
Reduce Your Environmental Footprint
One very practical way to celebrate Earth Day virtually is by encouraging employees and customers to reduce their carbon footprint. Participation can be individual or in teams, with some businesses making it a friendly competition with prizes as an incentive. Regardless of the setup, providing educational resources, guidance, and opportunities for discussion are important elements for success.
“One of the things we like to do is issue Earth Day challenges,” explains Rex Freiberger, CEO of License to Vape. “These are designed to help people reduce their personal consumption. This year, we’re challenging people to avoid using plastic for an entire week. We’re starting people off with biodegradable cups, straws, and other items that are typically bought in disposable form. We’ll be giving them resources and support as well as information on the impact of plastic waste.”
Another approach is to provide your employees with subsidies to encourage investing in ways to reduce their environmental footprint. Bryce Welker, CEO of CPA Exam Guy, is committed to implementing green initiatives at his company. For Earth Day 2021 he decided to put his money where his mouth is:
“I have offered all of my remote employees a $500 subsidy for any environmental footprint reducing initiatives they want to make in their lives. The project will begin with each team member using the World Wildlife Fund’s Ecological Footprint Calculator to give people some insight into the impacts of their consumption and spending habits. Then they can determine what to do to lower their score. It could be money to put towards a new bicycle, new energy-efficient bulbs for their homes, or money they might want to donate to reforestation or coral reef restoration projects.”
A good resource to start reducing the environmental impact of employees is the Environmental Protection Agency’s online Greener Living Guide. This guide provides practical strategies to live sustainably, throw away less, and choose greener products. In addition, there are resources for greening business and industrial processes.
If you have an artistic group of employees, another option to celebrate earth day virtually is to encourage creative expression. Ravi Parikh, CEO of RoverPass describes his company’s artistic endeavors:
“As an outdoor adventure company we take Earth Day very seriously. The project we decided on this year is to have all of our employees send a video of them enjoying trees in some way or fashion. We then create a compilation video which we share with our audience on social and on our website. In a way this is an ode to trees and something that gets our employees out and about — or even just in their kitchen showing us something a tree has provided which they are enjoying.“
Another approach to creative expression is being undertaken by Anna Jackson, Co-Founder of Atlantic Aspiration:
“We have created a contest for our employees to come up with the most creative Earth Day 2021 initiative with a minor prize, hoping to encourage sustainability, and perhaps even implement some of the initiatives in our workplace.”
A simple, ready-made opportunity for businesses to get creative is offered by Drawing on Earth and artist Mark Lewis Wagner. Director of Marketing, Bennett Smith explains:
“To participate, join our Facebook Group, get together virtually or outdoors, and collectively imagine what the future for our Earth can look like. We encourage you to use any creative medium that feels right. You can draw in the dirt, paint on canvas, dance, sing, and even knit. Document your collaboration by taking photographs, videos, or sound bites of your storytelling. Together, we are telling the story of a future we want to see.“
A common and practical method to celebrate Earth Day 2021 is to organize a tree planting. While it may not be possible to get your entire team together, there are virtual options. One is to encourage your team to take photos or video of individual employees and their families undertaking a tree planting in a local green space. Another idea was suggested by Test Prep Insight CEO, John Ross:
“For Earth Day 2021 we are doing a virtual tree planting. Rather than a group activity at a park or in the woods, I am asking each employee to plant a tree at their own house. The cool part is that they get to select the type of tree that they want to plant. Then, I purchase it for them from a local nursery. On Earth Day at 11:00 a.m. we are holding a group Zoom call to plant our trees as a team. My plan is to have everyone take their laptops outside near their house, set up the camera facing the location where the tree will be planted, and then plant the tree as a group.”
If your company can’t afford saplings for all your employees, consider encouraging them to sign up for Lowe’s Tree Giveaway. Starting April 15, families can register to pick up a free sapling on April 22 to plant in celebration of Earth Day.
Clean Up Trash
Another traditional way to celebrate Earth Day is to organize a clean-up. While large group activities are not advisable yet, businesses are finding ways to encourage smaller events and virtual participation. One example is provided by Daivat Dholakia, Director of Operations, Force by Mojio:
“This year we’re doing a virtual trash cleanup. Employees are taking an hour out of the workday to go around their neighborhoods and collect trash or recyclables. There’s a challenge to see who can fill a bag the fastest. The winner receives a credit to buy a reusable water bottle.”
To organize clean-ups at your company, a great resource is EarthDay.org’s Great Global Clean Up website. There is information on small group and individual clean-ups, as well as on “plogging” or cleaning up while jogging. You can even add your efforts to their global clean-up map!
As you can see, despite the ongoing pandemic, there are plenty of effective and easy ways to celebrate Earth Day virtually. Regardless of how your business gets involved, Earth Day is a great opportunity to help the planet while building positive relationships with your employees and the larger community. Happy Earth Day!
Do you have any tips to celebrate Earth Day virtually? Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube to share your thoughts and tips. We’d love to hear from you!
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