Monday, April 20, 2009

Make Everyday Earth Day

April 22nd, 1970 was the first time Earth Day was celebrated. Rallies were organized coast-to-coast and waves of students from thousands of colleges and universities participated in mass protest of unfriendly environmental practices. Even primary and secondary schools participated -- approximately ten thousand, according to the EPA.

Alongside non-profits and activists, everyday people shared the vision of saving the earth and its wildlife. As knowledge heightened around the issues of oil spills, polluting factories, raw sewage, toxic dumps and environmental destruction; hope blossomed.

Our first Earth Day mobilized 20 million Americans. “It worked because of the spontaneous, enthusiastic response at the grassroots. Nothing like it had ever happened before. While our organizing on college campuses was very well done, the thousands of events in our schools and our communities were self-generated at the local level… They simply organized themselves. That was the remarkable thing that became Earth Day.” (Senator Gaylor Nelson, Founder of the first Earth Day)

Today, approximately 500 million people will take part. Largely, we have the internet to thank. Hundreds of millions of people can be called to action with little to no cost. Many of the newborn social entrepreneurs will be our children.

According to a recent survey, 68% of the teen respondents indicated their families were not as green as they could be. Of the respondents, 46% indicated that global warming is the most important environmental issue to them.

Consider Alec Loorz, who at age 12 founded Kids vs Global Warming with the purpose of educating kids about global warming and empowering them to take action. Now 14 years old, he is the youngest person trained to present Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth slide show in the United States.

Likewise, brands, in recognition of this “New Era of Responsibility” have developed new socially-conscious initiatives such as cause-marketing campaigns, higher engagements of corporate social responsibility and for-profit philanthropy models. A few examples come to mind:

  • Last month, Whole Foods Market partnered with Teens Turning Green to launch a nationwide contest entitled “Project Green Prom.” Designed to encourage teens around the country to make earth-friendly decisions and purchases around prom season, this campaign kicked off with an online video contest for high school juniors and seniors to propose how they might green their prom.
  • launched an Earth Day Campaign that encourages primary school children (K-5) to utilize specially-designed greetings printed on 100% recycled cardstock.
  • MasterCard mirrors the millennial generation’s heightened levels of awareness in their new “Lessons” ad campaign (shown below).

    Earth Day is an opportunity for children to learn to cultivate their love and appreciate their world. How might parents challenge their kids?

    • Plant a garden! You can request a packet of Campbell’s tomato seeds (with proof of purchase of condensed soup) and 100 seeds will be donated to communities and schools across the United States.
    • Hidden Valley® also has a website encouraging kids to “Love Your Veggies” with games and gardening tips. If you cannot plant a garden you can still plant a virtual flower through Electrolux’s virtual flower garden campaign and $1 will be donated to Global Green USA’s initiatives for healthy green schools.
    • Take the Nature Conservancy’s challenge to put down the mouse and get out of the house! You and your family can “spring outside” by taking a hike, flying a kite, taking a walk in the park, planting a tree, etc.
    • You can also pre-purchase tickets to the opening week of Disneynature’s “earth” (opening on Earth Day) and Disney will plant a tree in your honor.
    • Turn over a new leaf” and support national parks by shopping! Macy’s and the National Park Foundation are partnering to raise awareness and funds to support our national parks. By making a $5 donation, you receive a shopping pass for Saturday, April 25th. On Earth Day, the first 150 kids at each Macy’s store will receive a copy of “Kid Power”, an activity book that teaches kids about how they can help the environment. The book can also be downloaded online.

    Consider the planet when making purchases throughout the year. A number of forward-thinking companies offer innovative products that address environmental issues:

    • ChicoBag is a reusable bag made from 7 plastic bottles
    • EcoUsable recently introduced the world’s first stainless steel filtered water bottle
    • AQUAMANTRA will be launching the world’s first 100% biodegradable and recyclable bottle in June
    • The Living Christmas Company rents live Christmas trees and picks them up after the holidays

    Let’s try to make every day Earth Day!

    Friday, April 3, 2009

    April showers inspiration to do good

    “We have not inherited the Earth from our fathers, we are borrowing it from our children.” This quote by Lester Brown serves as a gentle reminder of how important it is that we involve our children in the relationship between quality of life and quality of the environment.

    A recent survey found that Americans could do more to help Mother Earth. “While America currently recycles 34% of its garbage,” the survey found, “75 percent of what we throw away could be recycled.”

    The month of April has the potential to highlight inspiration for kids:

    • April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day, highlighting that 1 out of 150 people is diagnosed with autism;
    • April 7th is World Health Day 2009, focusing on making hospitals safe in emergencies;
    • April 18th YMCAs across the country will be celebrating Healthy Kids® Day;
    • April 22nd is Earth Day.

    Here are some ideas of what you can do with your family:

    • Volunteer at your local medical facility or health-related nonprofit: Whether visiting patients or participating in a formal volunteer program, children and their families can be helped during difficult times. Ronald McDonald House Charities details 30 ways to volunteer during the month of April.
    • Involve your classmates & teachers: Ask if lesson plans related to health can be incorporated into your school day. Site content from the United Nations, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Scholastic are good places to start.
    • Plan a contest: From recycling treasure hunts to building a life-sized sculpture out of recycled materials, there are a variety of fun & rewarding awareness campaigns that can be leveraged. Envirolink offers a variety of kid-friendly ideas.
    • Attend an event: There are planned events across the country to raise awareness for Earth Day.
    • Design a nature challenge: Nature Challenge for Kids has a series of challenges that help create an understanding of our relationship to the environment.
    • Learn about the relationship between your school and environmental / health issues: The Green Squad offers an online challenge, which can be leveraged for most ages.
    • Healthy Begins Here Video Contest: Did you know there are at least 63 toxic chemicals within a house? These “hot spots” of toxicity and pollution don’t have to exist. What would you do to get rid of them?

    Younger Siblings:

    • Teaching games: Kids Planet allows the kids to be defenders of wildlife while they travel through the web of life learning about animals and habitat.
    • Crafts: Kaboose offers a variety of kid-friendly activities in honor of earth day.

    Parents & Teachers:

    • Activities: EcoKids offers a fleet of lesson plans and printable handouts / activity sheets. Though specifically tailored to the Ontario Elementary Science & Technology curriculum, it is a great resource for all.
    • 50 things a family can do to stop global warming: Require a little effort/investment, but can help you save money.

    “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they will never sit in” is not a new saying, rather it is a Greek Proverb. Something as simple as planting a tree can have a major collective impact on our planet. What will you and your kids do this month?