Monday, April 20, 2009

The Business of Earth Day

Earth Day is a great example of grassroots environmentalism turning the wheels of the free market. Businesses are joining people around the world who are coming together for workshops, rallies, cleanups, tree plantings and other events focused on the environment.

In 1962, Senator Gaylord Nelson decided he wanted to raise the profile of the environment in American politics. Six years later, amidst the war protests of 1969, Senator Nelson came up with the idea of holding a national protest in defense of the environment. The first Earth Day event was held on April 22, 1970 and was a massive success with over 20 million people taking part across the US. That day marked the beginning of the green movement in America. Twenty years later, on Earth Day 1990, 200 million people in 141 countries took part. In 2007, an estimated 1 billion people celebrated Earth Day around the world.

As reported in a recent article, "solving our environmental problems is going to require both top-down and bottom-up solutions. Now more than ever, we've all got to roll up our sleeves and get to work, in whatever way each of us can, because we're all in this together, and it's going to take everyone of us—from housewives to politicians to CEOs—getting with the program."

With the participation of approximately one billion people for the recent Earth Hour event and amidst climate change hearings in Washington, Earth Day 2009 promises to be bigger than ever.

Businesses are responding in varying degrees. Consumers can shop at Banana Republic, where 1% of sales from April 22 through April 27 benefit the Trust for Public Land. Some companies have launched comprehensive lineups of Earth Day activities and promotions. The Disney Store North America's approach is designed to educate families about their impacts, encourage recycling and replant an endangered rainforest through The Nature Conservancy’s Plant a Billion Trees Campaign. These initiatives build on The Walt Disney Company’s recently announced long-term environmental goals to reduce emissions, waste, electricity and fuel use, as well as the company’s impact on water and ecosystems.

Several broadcasting networks, including Fox Broadcasting, NBC and Nickelodeon, have announced green-themed TV program scheduling in honor of Earth Day. Verizon Business employees in Dallas, Boston and Tulsa are volunteering in local projects in support of Earth Day. Newsweek subscribers were able to fashion the cover of the April 14 issue into an envelope to send plastic bags to Target in return for a reusable tote bag. And Clorox's Brita brand's integration with NBC's "The Biggest Loser" has resulted in the elimination of plastic water bottles from the show's campus.

This month, Wal-Mart is running seven national 30-second spots, bearing the tagline "Budget-friendly prices. Earth-friendly products," Wal-Mart Ads also tout recycled materials. Macy’s Turn Over a New Leaf campaign is designed to support, educate and inspire eco-friendly practices in everyday life, and will include special promotions and merchandise. Last year’s event raised more than $2.9 million for the National Park Foundation. Toys 'R' Us' launch the "enviro-friendly playthings,"

With a host of Earth-day activities, benefits and workshops Anthropologie is drawing attention to the simple steps we can all take to help our planet, placing special importance on the survival of the honey bees and sustainable agriculture. Office Depot customers can take advantage of free electronics recycling with the purchase of any Zip Express service. Cartridge World has launched a “Recycle it @ Cartridge World” campaign that encourages consumers to recycle printer cartridges and cell phones at participating stores.

EarthGrains bread will make a $100,000 contribution to a leading international conservation group, The Nature Conservancy, to support the protection of the world’s lands and waters. Full Circle Architects hosts a free "Building Green Can Save Green" event. Reynolds Consumer Products is offering a free roll of its new recycled aluminum wrap.

For the second year in a row, New York’s airline JetBlue Airways invited hundreds of New Yorkers to do “One Thing That’s Green” by participating in a community tree planting day to support the MillionTreesNYC movement. Last week employees at Anheuser-Busch used public transportation, car pooled, biked or walked to work; recycled, planted trees and participated in community clean-up and restoration events. Many of the company's 12 U.S. breweries have combined "Green Week" activities with the company's annual "Bring Our Kids to Work Day" event to educate employees and their children about actions they can take to benefit the environment.

Outside of Philadelphia, Kenilworth business partners will be cleaning up a local wooded area and stream. And Fairmont Hotels have introduced the "Lexus Hybrid Living Suites." From local efforts to high end initiatives, businesses are aggressively capitalizing on Earth Day, even Barbie now has a green-accessories collection just in time for Earth Day.

More companies are using the day to highlight Green products, roll out eco-friendly initiatives and disseminate Green information. Earth Day has moved well beyond the largely student-led groups of the early days and is now a day for business.

Next: Part 2, Earth Day Business Resources / Part 3, Silencing Earth Day Critics


Shirah said...

Just in time for Earth Day,another great resource for those businesses that are looking for a sustainable business model is the Institute for Global Sustainability website. This website is hosted by the University of Vermont. They offer several summer courses focusing on sustainable business for those that may be interested.

For example, the Sustainable Business: Practices in Support of People, Profits and Principles (July 6 — 10, & July 24, 2009) is a five-day intensive summer program that offers the opportunity to learn and apply new principles of designing, organizing and managing a business based on sustainability.

Learn more about this and other courses at

Stacy Williams said...

As Earth day approaches a lot of us are looking for ways to live greener. Here’s a great opportunity to help the environment for free! Just enter JetBlue’s “One Thing That’s Green” sweepstakes today and you could win a Vespa Scooter, an Amana appliance makeover and other great eco-prizes.

Good luck!
Stacy from the JetBlue OTTG team