Or the Sesame Street cartoon where Frank the fish calls Carl on the phone to tell him not to leave the water running while brushing his teeth or the lake will run dry?
As a kid, whether I was preventing forest fires, not being a dirty bird, or practicing water conservation so we “don’t run out,” these catchy commercials, along with being fortunate to grow up in a small, clean, lakeside town in Michigan where my dad, an advocate for the State Parks, would take us camping and on hikes, teaching us all about nature, instilled the foundation of my early childhood for taking care of the Earth and being passionate to do my part to help the environment.
We’ve Come a Long Way
Earth Day falls on April 22 each year and started in 1970, so this marks the 52nd year. It is globally recognized in 190 countries and celebrated by over an estimated 1 billion people.
The US has come a long way from the 60s when factories were free to dump toxic waste and pollute the air. The impact of the very first Earth Day actually prompted the Nixon Administration to establish the Environmental Protection Agency, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and Endangered Species Act in addition to many other vital laws to start an environmental movement to correct the damages humans had done.
The Covid-19 Pandemic Was Eye-Opening
It was pretty eye-opening during Covid lockdowns to see the improved air quality and reduction in water pollution and air pollution. In Florida, where I now call home, beach closures led to a 39 percent increase in nesting success for loggerhead turtles. Many people started to choose to walk or bike to get where they needed to go because they had extra time or just because they had nothing to do and nowhere to go. The byproduct was not only more exercise (although the binging of Netflix and comfort food more than canceled out my daily walk calories burned), but it resulted in connecting again with nature. People began to explore and enjoy their backyards and parks and go on more camping trips. I explored a beautiful lake in the mountains of Virginia and learned about the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, or as it translates, “forest bathing.”
Of course, the downsides to Covid were horrific, and it isn’t sustainable for people not to work, drive, fly, and produce goods for consumption. Thankfully, people and businesses are back going again – but we saw a big difference in the environmental effects over these past couple of years. It has made people pivot and ask themselves – can we operate better, use less energy, and be smarter about our impact as humans? And the answer is – definitely!
Positive Changes Are Taking Place
Slowly but surely, we’re seeing positive changes taking place in the hospitality world. The use of styrofoam containers for to-go orders is becoming a thing of the past. Reusable bags and paper bags are replacing plastic. The dated plastic straws that end up sitting in landfills are starting to be replaced with “greener” options – some made from pasta, veggies, or sugarcane that are 100% biodegradable (and don’t get mushy like paper straws). I love it when I visit my clients’ restaurants and see the positive steps they’re taking. Even if it may cost a little more in the short-run, it goes a long way with clientele and in helping to save our planet.
Sustainability Doesn’t Mean Giving Up Quality
When I was in hospitality operations, I had the privilege of working at a LEED Platinum Certified hotel. From building to operating the business, the property was significantly better for the environment, left a much smaller footprint, and no luxury was sacrificed! The guests honestly couldn’t tell the slightest difference because of the quality and thoughtfulness in the design and products, and the people that worked there were incredibly proud to be part of it.
How You Can Make a Difference
Sure, there might be an opportunity to live on Mars someday in the future with Elon Musk, but I’ve seen the pics, and it doesn’t come remotely close to the beauty and grandeur that Mother Nature has here on planet Earth. I think I’ll stay here.
This year’s theme for Earth Day is “Invest In Our Planet,” and I think it is a perfect message to companies, the government, and people to continue to raise awareness about the environmental issues our planet faces. Here are some ways you can invest in a more sustainable future:
- Organize clean-ups
- Lead recycling efforts
- Visit a National Park
- Have meatless Mondays
- Avoid plastic bottles, use reusable water bottles
- Take shorter showers
- Help with tree-planting efforts, or even just plant one tree
- Reuse and recycle
- Check out earthday.org to participate in Earth Day activities near you
And for gosh sake, turn off the water when you are brushing your teeth and give a hoot!