Earth Day 2016: The Importance of Tomorrow

April 22, 2016

earthEarth Day is upon us once again! Companies are celebrating by launching new and exciting campaigns; kids in school will honor this day by planting a tree, or beginning a new composting program; parents will teach their young ones why it’s so important to protect and conserve the Earth—an Earth that is often take for granted.

As we celebrate this important day, I challenge communicators to reframe how we observe the holiday and, in turn, how we counsel our clients: think about what tomorrow holds, both literally and philosophically. The reason I emphasize a focus on tomorrow is that even though Earth Day is perhaps the most crowded pitching day for environmental programs, our clients’ philanthropic and environmental work is no less important the other 364 days of the year.

The stakes have never been higher for companies and organizations to be efficient with our natural resources: In December, the UN set aggressive goals during the recent COP21 climate conference in Paris, aligning to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius globally. Studies show that anything more than this small margin could trigger extreme climate change events and natural disasters. What’s more, the Sustainable Development Goals have given us a global path forward: The UN has identified 17 goals ranging from social justice issues to ensuring our world’s oceans remain a healthy and biodiverse habitat.

The focus on sustainability, from NGOs to individual consumers, should begin with an acknowledgement that everyday is Earth Day. And whether sustainability is part of your day-to-day job or not, it should be a part of your day-to-day life. With that in mind, here are a few things to consider when celebrating Earth Day—not just today, but for all the tomorrows that follow (click to tweet)…

1. Every voice matters. If trees are your thing, join a local conservation group. If you are passionate about the world’s oceans, check out a fantastic preservation foundation. Take one step, publish one Facebook post, commit to one community, volunteer at one event or educate yourself on an environmental cause.

2. Companies care, and they are backing up their words with investment. Beyond just recycling, we have some serious resource challenges, including food waste. A French grocery store chain addressed this challenge head-on with an award-winning campaign called “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables.” They accepted “ugly” fruits and vegetables that were otherwise not accepted at supermarkets because they are visually unappealing. Now they have a new problem: they are selling out of these fruits and vegetables faster than they can keep them on the shelves.

3. Our work isn’t finished. Rainforests are diminishing, certain animal species are at-risk, our global supply of water is being threatened, and social inequality is still a very real issue for most of the developing world, and many parts of the developed world. Many NGOs and businesses in the public and private sector are working tirelessly to help alleviate these challenges, but we have miles to go before we can rest.

No change happens overnight and, as communicators, all hands should be on deck to help solve the urgent global issues that face us. Definitely do something to celebrate Earth Day today but, more importantly, do something tomorrow.

Katie Michel is an Account Supervisor for Ketchum’s Sustainability + Social Impact practice. An energetic and detail-oriented project leader, she has deep institutional sustainability and corporate social responsibility knowledge, having spent the last 8+ years managing and executing high-profile sustainability communications strategies. Follow Katie on Twitter, @krmichel.