Authored by Angie Martin with input from LHB participants, notably Jody Elam-Foote, Terza Kurki, Lydia Major, and Jyotsna Sivaguru, June 25, 2020
In keeping with the theory that an Earth Day mindset should be an every day mindset, we’re looking back at LHB’s participation in the Earth Day Ecochallenge this past April. This was LHB’s third time participating in an Ecochallenge and was our most successful team effort yet! The Ecochallenges are month long events designed to inspire and motivate participants to practice small, everyday actions with an eye towards their larger environmental and social goals. LHB previously participated in the 2018 Drawdown Ecochallenge, coming in 86th place out of 767 teams and the 2019 Plastic Free Ecochallenge, coming in 49th place out of 776 teams. This time, we beat all previous records with our team of 43 employees coming in 34th place out of 818 teams!!
Among the reasons for signing up this year, LHB participants noted wanting to develop new, good habits, wanting to support the environment, and as Jyotsna Sivaguru said, “It was nice to have smaller, measurable goals during these times.” All Ecochallenges begin with selecting daily or one-time challenges such as, “Use Public Transit,” “Reduce Animal Products,” “Support Pollinators,” or “Volunteer in my Community.” Participants log in daily to record their efforts, earning points for each check-in, challenge completed, and comment added. This Ecochallenge was the first to include social distancing measures due to the pandemic, adding reminders to adhere to CDC guidelines while performing certain actions and including new challenges like socially distant check-ins with friends and family via phone or video conference.
A significant benefit of this challenge is the way it reveals your current patterns, making you think twice about your everyday routines: the number of times you use your car, the days you chose convenience over composting, how often you have your meals include meat. The daily check-ins hold you accountable and also provide a sense of satisfaction when you earn points for yourself and your team. Another bonus is discovering new tips and facts, like finding out that 27,000 trees were cut down daily to make toilet paper in 2010 or this tip from Jody Elam-Foote on making berries last longer:
- “Mix 1-part vinegar (either apple cider or white) with 10-parts water in a bowl. ‘Swirl the berries’ in the diluted vinegar mixture, drain, and rinse before putting them into the fridge. This will help raspberries last a week (or more), and strawberries may survive for two weeks before going bad.”
INSPIRED TO CONTINUE
The motivation to keep up with these new habits lasts long after the challenge is over. Participants were inspired to continue with many actions including:
- Avoiding single use plastics.
- Making yards pollinator friendly.
- Eating more plant-based meals.
- Avoiding food waste. Jyotsna said, “Food waste bothers me, both as an equity issue and as a sustainability issue. I am always looking for ways to improve our use of the food we buy, both in terms of using all parts of the produce we buy, or to plan and buy what we need or can freeze for later use. The money spent on wasted food could be used instead to buy food for someone in need.”
- Making carbon offsets a habit and limiting air travel.
- Avoiding foods that are driving deforestation. Jody said, “I was amazed at the number of foods and products that contain palm oil. Time to reprogram my thinking when shopping. It’s going to be hard to give up my beloved M&Ms!”
- Exploring options within the office including making composting options available, making sure our Lunch and Learns are as sustainable as possible, and reducing single-use items.
- Switching to bar soap as a way to reduce plastic.
- Conserving water by taking shorter showers and minimally rinsing dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.
Jyotsna summed up the challenge nicely by saying, “It was a good way to remind myself that small, everyday actions can collectively make a difference. I had to learn to be happy with smaller steps that we took as a family, rather than going all-out, which can be overwhelming and throw us off course.” Lydia Major added “Quarantine life is way more green than normal life and I hope to keep some of these habits!” And Terza Kurki put it well: “An Ecochallenge should not be just a one-month challenge. We should be doing our part in every action we perform or partake on a daily basis. Always being mindful of how each action taken will affect the environment and those around you. What environmental footprint are you leaving behind?”
For our next Ecochallenge, Sara Phillips suggested we “highlight who at LHB is gaining the most points during the challenge for some friendly competition.” And in that spirit, the Top 5 LHB participants this year were: Michael Wickersheimer, Laura Heck, Stacee Demmer, Nicolle VanWie, and coming in first place with a very impressive 1,274 points — Jody Elam-Foote!
Above is an image of the collective impact of all participants in the Earth Day Ecochallenge from across the world. For original image and material and additional information about the collective impact click here.