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Why Do We Celebrate Earth Day?

Tuesday, March 8, 2022  by qrelihan

Earth Day Origin

      Since next month, MER is going to be celebrating Earth Day by participating in various local clean-ups I wanted to take some time to learn about the origin of Earth Day.  The first Earth Day was April 22nd, 1970, and at the time there was no Clean Air Act, no Clean Water Act, and no EPA.  Therefore, Senator Gaylord Nelson decided to push environmental protection issues onto the national agenda by encouraging Americans to participate in demonstrations on April 22nd, 1970 (EPA Earth Day 2022).  Turns out, Senator Gaylord was not the only one concerned about the deterioration of the environment because 20 million Americans joined him by holding demonstrations on April 22nd, 1970.  Gaylord’s hope that these demonstrations would help push the importance of protecting the environment onto national agenda, worked because by the time December 1970 rolled around Congress had created the EPA. 

      Since then, Earth Day events and clean-ups have continued to grow, gaining more participants each year.  In fact, Earth Day has more than 1 billion participants every year from across the globe.  So, what started out as an effort to get the environmental issues on the national agenda has become a day that people all over the world come together to protect and preserve the environment.  This includes volunteers from over 5,000 environmental groups and 193 countries (Earth Day 2022).  Some of the environmental problems that were front and center in the 1970s are no longer front and center because of what the first day was able to accomplish.  However, Earth Day is still powerful when it comes to bringing new and persisting environmental problems to the national agenda. 

      By volunteering our time to clean up our local communities and surrounding environments we are continuing to show how important protecting and preserving the environment is to us a company.  However, unlike Gaylord we have decided to give our employees the opportunity to participate in local clean-up events for the entire month of April rather than just April 22nd.  There will be more information to follow once we get closer to the month of April and Earth Day as to what type of events our different locations will be participating in as well as local events that need volunteers.

 

If you want to learn more about Earth Day or find events near you follow the link below:

https://www.earthday.org/earth-day-2022/

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New Year's Resolutions to Become More Environmentally Sustainable

Monday, January 10, 2022  by qrelihan

   Many of you are about a week into your New Year’s Resolutions, but if you are not, I have a few suggestions of small changes you can make this year that will make a big difference for the environment. Most of these resolution ideas will be familiar to you, and some you may have tried in the past but to provide some additional motivation I have also included the environmental impact you can have if you implement these changes.

Switch from plastic water bottles to reusable water bottles

Why?

-According to Beyond Plastics (2022) an individual can keep an average of 156 plastic water bottles per year

-This also reduces the amount of water and energy needed to produce plastic water bottles

Pick one of the following single-use items to swap out for a reusable one

-Utensils & straws

-Plastic bags

-Paper towels

-Make-up removing wipes

-By making one of these changes a significant amount of waste will be kept out of landfills

-For example, according to Stanford Magazine (2010) if the average American uses 5 sheets of paper towels each day, then about 6 million pounds of paper towels end up in landfills per day

   The easiest way to stick to a New Year’s Resolution is to start by making small changes that fit your current routine rather than creating a new one. Therefore, the two suggestions that I made above do not require you to change what you are doing but rather just changing how you do it.  My hope is that swapping one single use item for a reusable item will become easier and you will be able to make more changes over time.

 

If you are looking for more creative ways to become more environmentally friendly, visit this link: How to Recycle and Reuse Your Trash for a Cleaner Environment

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Giving Back & Going Green For The Holiday Season

Monday, December 6, 2021  by qrelihan

   The Holiday Season is upon us once again and this year more of us can visit with family & friends that we couldn’t gather with due to the pandemic last year.  Therefore, more presents, wrapping paper, bows, cardboard boxes, Christmas trees, food and drinks are being purchased than last year.  As they should most individuals focus on the decorating, gift-giving, and spending times with loved ones during this time of year, and the environment falls to the bottom of their list of concerns.  I too am guilty of putting the well-being of the environment on the back burner during this time of year as I love the activities that go along with the holiday season as well.  In fact, I even understand the desire to continue holiday traditions the way that they are and not make adjustments to celebrate ‘greener’ holidays. Therefore, I have compiled a list of things that you can do to make your holiday season slightly more eco-friendly.  However, it is important to note that the holiday season is a very small percentage of the year, and you should focus on efforts that make a larger impact that extends beyond a few months out of the year.

Facts & Statistics about the Holiday Season and its impact on the environment:

  • In the US wrapping paper and gift bags make up about 4 million tons of waste
  • The US throws away 25% more waste from November -January
  • In the month of December, Americans throw away about 270,000 tons of food waste
  • 35-40 million Christmas trees are cut down each year

Ways to celebrate ‘greener’ holidays:

  • Reduce your energy use by using LED holiday lights and bulbs
  • Put holiday lights & decorations on a timer so that they are not on all night or during the day
  • Recycle wrapping paper rather than throwing it in the trash
  • Can only be recycled if it is not shiny or covered in glitter
  • Save gift boxes and bags for reuse next yearWhen online shopping opt for ground shipping whenever you can – as ground shipping options use less fuel than air shipping
  • Look for holiday tree composting drop-off locations in your community
  • Reduce paper waste when hosting holiday gatherings by using reusable glassware and utensils
  • Send e-cards to family & friends instead of paper card 

Ways to be ‘greener’ that goes beyond the holiday season:

  • Use public transportation & carpool whenever possible
  • Turn off lights when you are no longer in a room
  • Unplug devices when they are done charging or no longer being used
  • Shop local
  • Maintain the HVAC systems in your house, to be sure they are running efficiently
  • Take shorter showers
  • Separate your trash and recycling
  • Bring a reusable water bottle to work
  • Avoid paper and plastic plates & utensils whenever possible

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An Eco-Friendly Thanksgiving

Monday, November 22, 2021  by qrelihan

Celebrating An Eco-Friendly Thanksgiving:

  1. Shop local and organic
  2. Plan and prepare the right amount of food for guests, as to minimize waste
  3. If travel is unavoidable, plan to travel during off-peak hours to reduce emissions from traffic
  4. Encourage family & friends to bring Tupperware for leftovers
  5. Avoid using paper plates & plasticware
  6. Skip the artificial and disposable decorations, as they only contribute to waste
  7. Recycle glass or plastic bottles
  8. Compost food waste
  9. Organize dishes in dishwasher to get the most out of every load
  10. Incorporate more plant-based food and less meat
  11. Avoid making typically unpopular side dishes that will likely go to waste
  12. While the food is in the oven…
    1. Turn off the TV & lights
    2. Lower the temperature in the house (as the heat from the oven will contribute to the temperature in the house)

 

Why celebrate a green Thanksgiving?

   First, celebrating a green Thanksgiving does not require drastic measures, in fact by just doing one of the 12 things from the list above, you are contributing to an eco-friendly holiday.  Most people already take environmentally sustainable actions on Thanksgiving by planning to avoid traffic and breaking out their finest dining sets.  Since Thanksgiving started as a celebration of gratitude for the food and life that the land had given the colonists and Native Americans, it is important to do what we can to preserve that environment. Therefore, I encourage you to pick at least one item from the list above to do and be sure to add the environment to the things that you are thankful for this year.

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How to Spot Greenwashing

Monday, November 15, 2021  by qrelihan

   You may have heard the phrase greenwashing before but never knew what it meant or how it affected you.  In simple terms greenwashing is when a company talks the talk about being environmentally sustainable, but they do not walk the walk.  In fact, it is a marketing strategy used to make it appear as though a company is taking action when in reality, they have no work to support their commitment.  This is because more companies are recognizing that current and potential employees are holding companies to a higher standard when it comes to their commitment to the environment.   

   However, spotting and stopping greenwashing ultimately comes down to customers, because they can either make or lose the company money.  If environmental sustainability is important to you as a consumer than, holding companies accountable for their claims and commitments is critical to ending greenwashing.  I know I am guilty as a consumer and customer of not being aware of a company’s false claims until after purchasing their product.  However, I am trying to educate myself so that I can do better in the future, and I want to share with you what I have learned so far.

   It is important to know the different ways that greenwashing can show up.  There are five categories that greenwashing campaigns can fall under such as: use of environmental images, misleading labels, hidden trade-offs, irrelevant claims and stating since there are worse options out there, their choice is environmentally friendly. This may seem like a lot to think about when you are shopping for a good or a service, but I have some definitions & examples that I think may help. 

5 Categories:

  1. Use of environmental images: Greenwashing can be as simple as creating a label decorated with a forest, lake, or mountain landscape. This use of imagery distracts from what is in the product and what it is made out of.
  2. Misleading Labels: When a label says “100% organic or made from 100% recycled materials” check the ingredients or investigate it further, because oftentimes there is no way of the company supporting this claim
  3. Hidden Trade-Offs: This method requires more research on the part of the consumer, since it is difficult to know what is going on behind the scenes of a manufacturing operation.  An example of this could be a car company claiming that they have net zero manufacturing operations, when they are buying carbon credits from an electric car company and not making any additional effort to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions.  
  4. Irrelevant Claims: This is when a company makes their product or service appear environmentally sustainable by associating it with irrelevant facts.  For example, a company can slap on the ‘not tested on animals label’, when that particular product never had a history of being tested on animals. 
  5. The Lesser of Two Evils: This is when a company makes their good or service appear eco-friendly by comparing it to a competitor that has a product even more damaging to the environment.  It will sound too good to be true or like a contradiction, take for example organic cigarettes, they are still cigarettes but because they are organic, they are marketed as good for the environment. However, cigarette buts organic or not are still one of the biggest contributors to littering in the United States.

 

   The biggest takeaway from my research is to do your own investigating and if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is. It is important that both consumers and industries hold businesses accountable for their sustainability claims & commitments. Therefore, this month I challenge you to pick one product or service that you use frequently and see if they just talk the talk or if they also walk the walk.

 

 

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