“Why should I care about future generations? What have they ever done for me?” American comedian Julius “Groucho” Marx once joked. Fortunately, there is Earth Day. It offers an opportunity to reflect on that very question. Today marks the 45th anniversary of the conception of the modern environmental movement. And by celebrating Earth Day in companies, schools and households, we can raise awareness and explore why we might want to care about future generations.
Earth Day at the IDB Group allows us to share among ourselves and our stakeholders how our actions are consistent with what we expect of our clients and projects. It is a chance to encourage staff to become more aware of their choices and have a greater sense of personal responsibility, making a difference every day in our actions and work.
Awareness-raising activities that we are organizing and others can too include the following:
- Place a moratorium on bottled water sales. By not selling water, we raise awareness about the environmental impact of bottled water. And we remind employees that we have the tools to substitute away from such a purchase. Thanks to newly installed filtered water fountains and reusable water bottles, employees can access clean water without consuming a plastic bottle and without spending any money. Unclear about the environmental impact of bottled water? This video provides a concise explanation: The Story of Bottled Water.
- Go vegetarian. At the IDB Group, our cafeteria will offer vegan and vegetarian menu items to highlight the connection between what we eat and social and environmental issues. Meat has a significant environmental footprint. IDB Group private sector environmental expert Katalin Solymosi recently contemplated how we can feed 9 billion people and save the planet by reducing meat consumption. A Financial Times article highlighted that a typical cow releases 250-300 liters of methane a day. That is equivalent to the daily energy needed to power a car or refrigerator. And one ton of methane has an effect on global warming 20 times greater than that of carbon dioxide. Consumers don’t need to give up meat completely, yet a reduction in consumption goes a long way sustaining planet earth.
- Label food. Did you know almonds use more water than spinach? In addition to more vegetarian options, our cafeteria will label food with a description of the menu item, its carbon and water footprints and its origin. The goal is to create consciousness about how the food we consume has a full life cycle from how it is grown, transported, processed and prepared – consuming energy and water at each step. Go beyond this by reading food labels every day, inquiring with your grocer or asking restaurants to understand more about food sourcing and preparation.
- Learn about corporate sustainability. Businesses and other entities are increasingly organizing “green teams” and sustainability efforts in-house. On Earth Day, we will learn more about what our sustainability program does. For example, many are unsure of Washington, DC’s single stream recycling. The presentation will answer questions about how to recycle in our cafeteria, conference rooms and offices. Each city usually has its own mode for recycling, so contact your Department of Public Works’ to learn what is applicable to you.
- Get children involved. Whether it be a local school, daycare or your own family, let’s not forget who the future really is. Here, the onsite daycare will engage children in an educational, artistic exercise in which they use the recyclable bottles, cardboard and paper produced by the Bank to construct a globe. The goal is to demonstrate to children how much waste is produced. Even though recycling is a good alternative, reducing consumption is even better.
So while more obviously needs to be done to take action against the urgency of climate change, the activities realized at the IDB Group today are steps in the right direction. They offer a blueprint for other organizations interested to engage and raise awareness as well.
As the Native American proverb goes, “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” And that’s why we need to care about future generations. Please share what actions you or your employer are taking to celebrate Earth Day!
Adapted from a previous post published in April 2014.