Earth Day All Month: Social Equity

By Sustainability 
In: Sustainability

Editor’s Note: This April we commemorated Earth Day each week by discussing practical ways you can make sustainable choices. Check out our tips, and give us some of yours, to help maintain a healthy Earth while saving some of your hard earned dollars. This is the final installment in that series.

People often think of sustainability as just being environmentally responsible. There’s a broader view of sustainability that we use to guide our program: driving shared environmental, social and economic value. The social aspect of sustainability incorporates acting in a way that benefits our own employees and on a broader scale doing things that have a benefit for the community at large.

Internally, we have a number of programs to help provide a healthy and safe workplace for our employees while also giving employees a chance to grow and contribute:

• Created company‐wide employee development programs including: personal professional development courses, English Second Language (ESL) classes and Spanish language training for employees seeking to improve communication skills

• Equitable wages program where employee salaries are evaluated regularly and the compensation package is designed to be highly competitive within the industry and provide adequate living wages.

• Employee Sustainability Workshops train employees about issues, including why conserving water and energy is important and how to do it at home while saving money.
Externally, we strive to contribute to society at large and the communities we all share together.

• We support over 40 local and national philanthropic and non‐profit organizations; many of our employees give their time to serve on boards of these organizations.

• A corporate matching program for employees who give to disaster relief.

• We operate in an open-source fashion, sharing experiences (positive and negative), data, technology and best management practices to accelerate sustainability adoption.

• Our VP of Sustainability is a featured as keynote speaker at industry and non‐industry national conferences and has been appointed to technical advisory groups for industry and government regulatory agencies

• We partner with companies, universities, NGOs and government agencies to develop new sustainable technologies.

• Partnering with schools to host bilingual energy and water efficiency workshops.

Here are a few ways you can work on the social aspect of sustainability from our friends at Practically Green. Their website lets you determine your environmental performance and figure out ways to increase your green score while using social media to make it fun.

Volunteer at an Environmental Non-Profit Organization
To give back you can always donate money, but if you’re particularly good at something an environmental nonprofit might benefit from, why not volunteer your time? Depending on how many hours you feel comfortable donating, you might offer yourself as an advisor or a board member, or just get involved for a specific short-term project like organizing a fundraising event or helping with a website redesign. Check out Great Nonprofits to find organizations near you.

Provide 10 Hours of Service Toward A Sustainability Initiative 
There are many wonderful sustainable organizations that could use an extra set of hands. Giving ten hours of service to a sustainability initiative of your choice is a lovely green gesture and is likely to be a learning experience as well. You might wind up wanting to do more than ten.

Pick a project that interests you and ask if you can help put. This could mean working in an urban garden, joining a plant-a-tree program, or getting your hands dirty doing trash pickup at a local beach. Or, if you prefer an indoor setting, pitch in with an education/outreach group. Enter your zip code to find projects near you with Volunteer Match, Together Green and nation-wide activities from the Sierra Club.

Join Your School’s Green Team
If your school has a Green Team, join in. If there isn’t one, several organizations offer suggestions and resources to help interested people found one. What the team is or does depends largely on the school and its community. It’s usually a few eco-interested parents who create an offshoot of the PTA. Sometimes a school has its own administration-sanctioned Green Team.

Activities generally address better school food, plant based industrial cleaners and hand soaps, recycling, safe art supplies, environmental health issues regarding the physical plant (including renovations and materials), and sustainable education. Information on existing programs or starting new ones can be found at the National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools USA, the Green Schools Initiative and the Green Schools Alliance.