Earth Day is celebrated annually around the globe on April 22, 2016, and about a fifth of Canadians participate in various events, pledges and activities each year.
Businesses across the country want to do their part to participate and bring sustainability in business, but struggle with finding the right way to engage employees in a meaningful way, with enough time to properly plan an event.
But, with a month or so to go, here are some great ideas to engage your employees and make a difference, whether you’re planting trees, hosting an event or reducing food waste.
Ask Your Employees
No one will know what your staff wants to do better than them, so make sure you ask them! Take a couple minutes during your next staff meeting to see if anyone has an idea of what to do. You could also send an email, set up a contest or get department managers to find out what employees think about Earth Day. Showing them you care will inspire them to engage and participate. Once you have all their ideas, you’ll be able to find out which ones will be suit your organization’s budget and time constraints. Once you’ve narrowed down the list, let staff vote on their favourite. Making the event grassroots will help to foster engagement.
Make Sure it’s Fun
This is chance to work as a team and do something out of the ordinary. So the “bosses” need to have fun too. Choose a dress up theme, or wear goofy hats, plan an activity or a talk that is sure to make people laugh. Engagement happens when people are happy and feeling satisfied that they are making a positive difference in their lives and on the planet.
Support a Local Environmental Organization
If you’ve been thinking your business should sponsor a whale, a stream or a bench in a provincial park, maybe now’s the time. Find out what your budget is and make sure you include this budget every year to maintain the sponsorship.
Clean up Your Community
Nothing is more fun than gearing up and heading outside to make a difference. If you’ve got the budget to give everyone some paid volunteer hours, why not sign up for the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (which you can actually do any time of year). You get to pick the location, (anywhere land connects to water) and you just send in a record of what you found and who participated. For more information on setting up your own clean up, click here.
Simply be Present in Nature
You don’t have to join an event or do an activity to enjoy nature. Plan a team picnic or take a group walk, just make sure you get outside. You’ll be amazed at how relaxed and happy this small act will make people feel.
Get Active – Get Everyone on a Bike
What is more fun than a group bike ride? Even if it will be impossible for every staff member to ride their bike to work on Earth Day (although you can heavily encourage it), get them to bring it with them on the bus, in their car, or have a friend or local bike rental company bring bikes over for the day. Imagine your entire organization cycling blissfully around your community with matching t-shirts on and your company banner waving in the wind…How could this impact how your employees see you and how your community sees you?
This could even turn into a monthly event like other Critical Mass rides around the globe. And don’t forget to make everyone aware of important safety features like knowing the cycling route, proper protective gear and the rules of the road in advance.
Plant a Tree (or one thousand)
There are several tree planting events during Earth Day around the country, but this one in Downtown Vancouver is a free community event helping plant 1000 native trees in a local park. Last year in Ontario, the provincial government supported planting 50 Million trees for Earth Day! Maybe you could plant some trees at your business location, a local park or join up with a habitat restoration project? Getting your hands dirty always makes people feel like they instantly made difference.
Join an Earth Day Event (or List Your Own)
Earth Day Canada had an event search where you can find an event to join, or, once you’ve set up your event, you can list it on the website for people to find. This calendar isn’t just specific to Earth Day, but also shows year round events that promote sustainable ways to live and work.
When you’re wrapping your Earth Day celebrations up, take a few minutes to show your employees how thankful you are. Show gratitude not just because they participated in Earth Day, but because they are an integral part of your team. Be very genuine and heartfelt and make sure this happens before you lose everyone’s attention. Showing gratitude is often overlooked, but employees are 1.3 times more likely to stay with the company and 67% more engaged if their supervisors show gratitude towards them.
Whatever you decide to do, make sure you clearly communicate what your employees can expect (will this be paid volunteer time, what should they wear or bring, etc.). Engagement starts at the top, but grows by nurturing and supporting the team as a whole. Be an amazing leader and engage your employees in a fun and memorable event that will help the earth as well as your organization.
Written by Lindsay Eason