Dumpster diving at work? No one said Earth Day would be easy

Many of us are vaguely aware of Earth Day, celebrated annually on April 22nd, as the day that lights around the world go dim for a short while.

For an increasing number of Americans, however, an awareness of “green issues” is a part of daily habit. Millennials are leading the charge. Nielsen found that environmental sustainability is an important factor in shopping for 75% of millennials and 72% of Gen Z.

That reflects global trends. A 2014 Nielsen report stated that “Fifty-five percent of global online consumers across 60 countries say they are willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact.”

What makes it into the shopping basket, of course, soon makes it into the workplace, as companies look to appeal to employees and consumers alike. We tracked down some corporations that adopted every-day green policies and encourage employees to do the same.

One perfect pair of shoes

Tackling the notion that more isn’t always more, Jojo + Suse was founded by Joanna Raworth, who is from England, and Susan Anehagen, from Australia. They met in California and compared the differences in consumerism in the U.S. and overseas.

The two focused on a time when they’d take their shoes to the cobbler to be repaired, instead of just throwing them away. A time when “handcrafted” and “long-lasting” were built into the products we all buy.  They formed a leather goods company with an idea to reduce waste and encourage people to make more conscious, thoughtful and informed decisions about the products they buy, with the ethos of buying just one gorgeous thing instead of accumulating many nice things. The best part is that their shoes are made by local artisans from around the world, contributing to sustaining their craft and livelihoods.

Bootmaker Timberland has an ongoing commitment to protect the outdoors as part of their business goals. The company went a step further and hosted a week-long Earth Week event at their Stratham, New Hampshire headquarters.

The goal of the initiative was rubbish. No, we’re not being mean: it really was.  Timberland  encouraged employees to reduce their individual and collective environmental footprints by examining what they throw away.

The week kicked off with a voluntary “Trash Can Turn-In,” which invited employees to turn in their personal desk wastebasket for a week, which forced them to get up and walk to the nearest communal trash can to throw something out. The idea was that the effort to get up and find a garbage can would spark employees to think about what they were adding to piles of garbage. 

A company rep said that “last year 20% of employees participated in this challenge, which aims to make employees more mindful of what they throw away since they will have to leave their desks to discard items.”

Another event was the corporate “Dumpster Dive,” where employees were invited to don Tyvek suits and sift through trash bags destined for the landfill to determine how much of the contents is actual trash, and what could be recycled or composted.

There was also their annual “Greener Living Fair,” where external vendors set up booths displaying products and services that can help employees live greener lives. These vendors include local growers of organic food, earth-conscious cleaning products, environmental agencies, and clean energy suppliers.

Greened Jeans

Veestro, a healthier prepared food delivery service, is looking for ways to make its packages easier on the environment. In 2015, the company switched all its plastic food trays for fully compostable paperboard trays, which received a positive response from customers. 

The new frontier for Veestro: it’s in the process of testing a new eco-friendly insulation for shipping meals. The first candidate is recycled denim, which turns out to be a surprisingly good insulator. 

Mark Fachler, CEO and Founder of Veestro, told Ladders “we began using denim in November 2016 on shipments to CA, NV, AZ , UT and ID. We like the performance of the denim insulation.” Unfortunately, the denim adds a lot of weight to the package, so the company is testing alternatives as well.

Fachler said, “we began testing insulation made with recycled water bottles a couple of weeks ago. We still have a few more tests to perform, but it is lighter than denim.

He plans an expansion: “If we are happy with the results, we plant to first replace denim on the states mentioned above and then roll in the rest of the country sometime in Q2, once we open our distribution facility in East Coast. Additionally, Veestro is working to make all our packaging fully recyclable and compostable.”

These three companies are just an example of how customers and employees are asking companies to be more green, and it looks like a trend that will go on long past the few hours a year that people are focused on Earth Day.