Jon Smieja, PhD | VP of Circularity at GreenBiz Group.
For many of us working in sustainability, Earth Day can be frustrating. First off, Earth Day is every day for us. I know that’s cliché, but that’s the reality of our jobs when you consider all the threats our world is facing and the weight of all the interrelated systems that are crumbling around us. Like many other sustainability initiatives, a day for the Earth can seem like far too little, far too late.
In addition to the reasonable level of dread and despair we live with, we often spend precious time and resources in the lead up to Earth Day planning events for our companies, often only to see low participation rates. There are park clean ups, tree sapling giveaways and green team tables. All these activities often “speak to the choir” and don’t bring in too many new faces. In other words, it can be a struggle to engage a broader audience.
Not the inspiring message you usually read on Earth Day? Keep reading, there are brighter messages ahead.
This Earth Day I challenge all of us to address the day with authenticity, no matter where we work or what role we have. Let’s start by acknowledging all the existential risks we face from climate change to biodiversity loss, oceans full of plastic waste to oceans full of melted ice, and everything in between. Once we acknowledge it, let’s be realistic about the hard work it is going to take to fix the mess our species has created. I, for one, view Earth Day through a realist’s lens. Yes, it is a time to celebrate all the great work we do, but maybe more importantly, it is a time for us to reflect on all the hard work yet to be done.
To end on a high note, we asked some of our favorite sustainability trailblazers to share their own thoughts on what this holiday means to them. Enjoy reading their thoughts, and happy Earth Day!
“I am grateful that Earth Day gives us all an opportunity to pause and consider our place in the future of our world. As climate change accelerates it is more important than ever to elevate Earth Day as a way to for action and accountability. GreenBlue welcomes any opportunity to highlight the threat of climate change and Earth Day has become a perfect time to check in with members on goals and progress.”
– Paul Nowak, Executive Director @GreenBlue
“Earth Day is a chance to not only reflect on our progress but to catalyze solutioneers with a renewed focus powered by ambitious goals. It’s a chance to declare that we are stronger as a community by sharing our resources. We find out that we are not alone on this journey. The activities around this day are meant to inspire, encourage, and equip us for the challenges ahead. ”
– Priscilla Johnson, Chief Innovation Officer @Upstream Solutions
“We don’t love our moms only on Mother’s Day, and the same with Mother Earth on Earth Day, but it’s similarly a reminder of a life-giving force we often take for granted. That’s the point of stopping to celebrate our planet, with all its wondrous beauty and grave threats, a reminder that what gives us life and sustains us is worth both celebrating and protecting at all costs.”
– Joel Makower, Chairman and Co-Founder @GreenBiz Group
“I look at Earth Day as a time to celebrate all the beauty and splendor of the world we live in today, and it is also a time to think about how our actions impact the planet. As a corporate citizen, we feel it is our responsibility to ensure we have sustainable operations that minimize the impact on the surrounding communities and the planet, at large, through efforts to reduce GHG emissions and water usage, minimizing waste from our facilities, designing packaging that is more sustainable, educating our employees, and being engaged with our local communities. Personally, I believe it will take all of us making individual decisions and commitments to doing the right thing for the environment, not just on Earth Day but every day, to sustain our beautiful planet.”
– Elizabeth Rhue, VP of Global Environmental, Sustainability, & Technical Services @Sonoco
“Living more sustainably starts with awareness of the problems that exist, and the possible solutions to address them. That’s precisely why Earth Day is so important—it brings the conversation into the mainstream. Luckily, that awareness and inspiration spreads far beyond Earth Day, which is essential to help reinforce sustainable behaviors like remembering to use items designed for reuse or recycling, and to compost food scraps—even the messy and stinky ones.”