For the past week or so, a herd of goats has been cleaning the countryside along a road I travel. It is fascinating to watch them performing “sustainable vegetation management” as they munch away on weeds, thistle, grass, ragweed, poison ivy, honeysuckle and more. The “Goats on the Go” business moves their herd to different locations throughout town as an eco-friendly way to clear growth. I love this idea!
Goats have really come into their own lately. What used to be seen as a lowly farm animal is now used for brush-clearing as well as goat yoga classes where the animals help people to de-stress while they stretch. The products from goats – milk and cheese – are in-demand food items, and their coats yield cashmere fiber that can be spun into yarn for knitting. They are so much more than the head-butting animals in the petting zoo trying to nudge their way into your food supply!
Is there an equivalent “goat” in your organization – something that has been underutilized for years but can provide value when applied in new ways? The voracious appetite of the animal has proved to be a lucrative business model instead of a liability. Their desire to climb all over everything has endeared them to a new market of yoga participants. Consider the downside of your resources and reframe them in a way that converts it into an asset.
If COVID taught us nothing else, its lesson clearly demonstrated how interconnected the world is. Despite attempts to limit immigration or close off supply chains, there no longer is an “us” and “them.” We are all inhabitants of the same Earth.
So, today, as we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, it’s an appropriate moment to consider our actions and how they impact global climate issues. You may already be taking small steps to lessen your personal impact, but if you’re inspired to do more, you can take the Earth Day 22-day Challenge.
We primarily tend to think of environmental issues on a personal level, but when is the last time you added the topic to a staff meeting agenda? Have you reviewed your organization’s practices lately to see where there is energy waste, unnecessary packaging, single-item purchasing, or unnecessary travel? (You can find other tips here and here.) Your initiatives can provide financial as well as environmental benefits for your organization and create an avenue for you to play a leadership role outside your defined job.
On this Earth Day, commit to raising your environmental consciousness in your organization as well as at home, starting with taking one sustainable action. What new practice can you begin today that will improve our interconnected community tomorrow?
I am (was?!) a frequent garage sale and flea market shopper and am always amazed at the number of items that were staples in my family home – things we ultimately gave away without a second thought – that now fetch premium prices. I have purchased items myself that I had previously owned and then pay to own them again. Does something become desirable just because it is old?
There is an invisible line out there and when something crosses it, old somehow becomes an asset. Things that are vintage, antique, or “velveteen” seem to have a resurgence in popularity, and if the item is an heirloom it can even become a more valuable addition to your home. Items that once seemed ragged – like this 1908 auction poster from a family sale – can have a new life by being framed a century later.
This spring refresh your home by resurrecting items from the past instead of purchasing items that are new. Display some of your childhood possessions instead of leaving them in boxes. Dig heirlooms out of the attic or garage. You’ll get memories and décor in the present – and who knows — maybe accumulate some value for resale in the future as well.
You can incentivize people to do certain behaviors on one end of the process by showing them the ultimate benefit that results. This happens in fundraising, where the agency shows donors the impact their gift will have or in-home décor with the use of before and after photos. But recently, I’ve seen it more prominently with recycled products, presumably to encourage people to actually toss those plastics in the proper bin.
Petco has a whole line of recycled dog toys and accessories, all prominently labeled as “I started as a plastic bottle.” Walmart employees are wearing vests that say “6 bottles recycled to make this vest.” And then I found shoelaces that proclaimed they were previously beverage containers.
Post-consumer content has always been there, but it seems to be featured more visibly than before. If your organization is doing its part environmentally, maybe you can enhance your message and explicitly show that your publications, furniture or even apparel are from recycled material. You can be good for the planet and simultaneously generate goodwill!
Many emails come with a notice in the signature that includes “Don’t print this email.” or “Please consider the environment before printing this email.”
Thus, it was a surprise when I read the email from my printer who takes the opposite view:
Notice! It’s OK to print this email. Paper is a biodegradable, renewable, sustainable product made from trees. Growing and harvesting trees provide jobs for millions of Americans. Working forests are good for the environment and provide clean air & water, wildlife habitat, and carbon storage. Thanks to improved forest management, we have more trees in America today than we had 100 years ago.
It’s a perspective that you don’t hear very often but one that caused me to pause.
Your point of view is shaped by the information that you have and how it intersects with you personally, so for a printer, printing is good, even if it is an email. The signature is very on-brand, even if it is environmentally controversial.
To print or not to print — Don’t overlook the role that your emails play in conveying your values and message.
Think about the amount of ink that is wasted on printing that is never read or used. The fine print of contracts. The lines on the back side of notebook pages. Legal notices in newspaper classifieds. The reverse side of page-a-day calendars. Instruction sheets and owner’s manuals. Ingredient lists. Prescription information with potential side effects. The list could go on and on.
Printing requires time to prepare, ink to implement it and it adds to the weight and cost of products. If you’re serious about organizational cost-cutting and environmental stewardship, one place to start is to print only that which is necessary.
Many cities are required to print their legal notices in the paper; instead, be like towns in Connecticut that changed their ordinance to allow notices to be published online. Minimize your email signature so it doesn’t require several lines every time someone prints your messages. Revisit your forms to consolidate them and eliminate the need for clients to repeat their name and address multiple times.
Pay attention for a few days of all the unread printing that surrounds you – and then commit to producing just a bit less of it yourself.
Have you noticed the change in packaging that Amazon and other retailers have adopted? Instead of boxes coming stuffed full of Styrofoam peanuts or bags of air, many boxes now are delivered with just the product inside or smaller packaging is used.
I noticed this when I had two packages on opposite ends of the spectrum. One contained three items, all squished around a piece of cardboard to cover them. I literally could put my hand inside the package without opening it. Great for the environment, but bad for the third item in the wrap that was squished upon arrival. Another box contained one bottle of cologne – and could have contained about 20 more of them in the same container. I am amazed that it arrived in one piece after loosely shifting around the box with no protection.
As more and more business is conducted through online shopping, I applaud retailers for trying to minimize the environmental impact of the delivery of all these goods. And I suggest that they have not yet found the right answer to what is too much packaging and what is too little.
May your organization adopt similar practices of environmental consciousness and experimentation – continually trying new things that help you be better, but not yet where you need to be.
There is no One. Big. Thing. that can solve the climate issues that we are facing but many people doing many things is a good first step. Toward this end, outdoor outfitter REI is encouraging people to participate in a weekly Opt to Act challenge to incorporate more environmentally-friendly practices into their routine. “On their own, none of these 52 actions are going to save the world,” reads the REI website, “But each week offers a chance to incorporate more eco-friendly behavior into your everyday life. And if we all start being better, together, we can do a lot of good.”
The outfitter has prepared a checklist suggesting actions people can take each week. Most require only modest effort, such as using public transportation to one event this week, set your thermometer one degree lower this week, count the number of single-use plastic items you use this week or go meatless one day this week. I think it illustrates that helping the environment can become part of your habits and doesn’t have to involve a major sacrifice or lifestyle change.
Access the checklist here and Opt to Act responsibly in 2020.
While out walking, I found a bird’s nest that was inexplicably laying in the middle of a parking lot. Since there was no nearby tree from which it may have fallen, I carried it home.
As I marveled at the sturdy construction, it occurred to me that this nest was made with no equipment or tools; nothing was purchased or new; there was no prefabrication or blueprint – and yet, I walked with the nest for a mile and never once did a piece of it fall off.
The nest can be a model for organizations. It’s the essence of creativity: taking what already exists and making something new out of it. It’s a lesson in ingenuity – utilizing mud and sticks and straw that by themselves have little value but pasted together form a functional container to safely warm eggs and ultimately house baby birds. And it’s an environmental wonder, doing all this through 100% repurposing of materials.
How can you emulate nest-making? Before you make your next purchase, act as if you don’t have the option to buy new. Apply some bird-like ingenuity and fashion what you already into your solution.
Looking for a unique gift idea for this holiday? How about toilet paper? Seriously!
An environmentally sustainable company, cheekily named Who Gives a Crap, markets toilet paper in “Gift Editions” especially for holiday giving. The paper is made “without trees” in an environmentally-friendly process that uses no inks, dyes or scents – and for the holidays it is wrapped in colorful paper as an incentive to save a forest as part of your gift-giving. Even better than that, the company donates 50% of its profits to help build toilets for the millions of people living without them.
Few would see toilet paper as a viable gift option, but with the way Who Gives a Crap has packaged it, the “Holiday Gift Edition” (48 rolls/$55 shipped) could be a very desirable gift for the environmentally-conscious person on your list.
The Gift Edition could also serve as a model for how to tailor your offering to the audience you are trying to serve. How can you re-package what you provide to incentivize additional purchasing? If they can make toilet paper a viable option, surely you can sprinkle some holiday magic on your services.