Connecting to Earth Day and Beyond

Earth Day was launched over 40 years ago and was designed to bring attention to one of this generation’s greatest challenges. Today Earth Day remains an important event for many schools and universities, but much work must be done to turn the one day celebratory opportunity into long lasting and meaningful improvements.

One of the most important strategies necessary to turn Earth Day activities into ongoing success is helping students, staff, parents and other stakeholders understand how it directly impacts them as broad, global issues such as resource depletion or melting icebergs can have little immediate or personal impact. The following are four strategies to keep in mind when trying to make a personal connection.

Weather and Local Connections: Local weather such as droughts and floods or geographical conditions such as sensitive watersheds and water bodies can directly affect people’s lives and can be tied to improvements made by the Green Cleaning program. For example, if the campus is in an area suffering from severe drought discuss Green Cleaning strategies that conserve water such as the use of microfiber cleaning tools, carpet extraction equipment that filter, recycle and reuse water; floor stripping processes that use mechanical abrasion pads rather than chemical strippers reducing total water use; laundry and ware washing equipment that are faster or use fewer cycles; and other water saving practices.

Air Pollution: Air pollution is a big problem in many urban areas and frequently in the news. Make the connection to Green Cleaning in terms of using chemicals that are low in VOCs (volatile organic compounds), reducing or eliminating solvent-based cleaners, air fresheners or products high in fragrances by replacing them with greener alternatives.

If the cause of local air pollution is attributed to vehicular traffic, focus communications on how Green Cleaning initiatives reduce transportation impacts through better purchasing practices such as buying highly concentrated Green Cleaning chemicals and other products in bulk to reduce product delivery frequencies, which reduce transportation impacts.

If the local air pollution problem is caused by particulate matter, make the connection to the use of high efficiency vacuums and vacuum cleaner bags that do a superior job capturing the smallest particles that can be inhaled and hard health. Or the use of microfiber cleaning and mopping tools that are superior capturing particles compared to more traditional paper products, sponges or cotton mops.

Local Economy: Make the connection to the local economy and properly articulate messages to reduce the possibility of offending the community. For example, if the campus is located in an area dependent upon forestry promote the benefits of toilet tissues and paper hand towels derived from sustainably managed forests, as opposed to focusing on the use of recycled fiber which the foresters might perceive as a threat to their business.

If the local economy is based on oil and gas exploration or chemical manufacturing avoid suggesting that traditional chemicals are “bad” or harming people’s health or the environment. Rather, promote the positive benefits and importance of the greener, safer and healthier chemical cleaning products being used especially if they have been certified by the likes of EcoLogo, EPA’s Design for the Environment Program or Green Seal which have been fully tested to minimize negative impacts on students, staff and the environment.

Politics: Making the personal connection to Green Cleaning has to be sensitive to local politics. In some parts of the country the use of the term “green” is a negative and can create barriers for people to hear the message. So if the school or university is located in such an area, speak in terms of being responsible, protecting student and staff health, and it is always a good idea to focus on any financial benefits from using more concentrated chemicals, improving efficiencies, reducing absenteeism, lost worked time, etc. Democrat or Republican, progressive or conservative, blue or red; everyone can relate to these values.