A few weeks ago, we told you all about the plans the NRPA Green Team put together for celebrating Earth Day and Earth Week here at NRPA HQ. Our week wrapped up this past Friday and I think I can speak for the whole staff; it is amazing how much good you can do in just a little bit of time.
Many NRPA staff members participated in green activities– from zero-waste lunch to volunteering at a nature preserve to carpooling and more. It was refreshing to spend time with colleagues doing something good for the earth and this wasn’t just a feeling – it was tangible too. Besides the real sense of camaraderie we felt as we dug in the ground, cleaned up trash, planted trees, car pooled together and reduced our waste, we found that these small activities really added up in much bigger ways.
Here’s a snapshot of the results we had from our Earth Week.
Monday: Zero-Waste Lunch
Before we had our zero waste lunch, the Green Team surveyed staff on their trash behavior. We found that on the day of our zero-waste lunch we were able to cut our non-recyclable trash by nearly 75 percent. Just putting a little bit of thought into the packaging of your lunch can make a big improvement.
Tuesday: Volunteer Day at Banshee Reeks Nature Preserve
With 22 staff in tow, and a few hours of work, we completed more than 10 different projects that helped the Nature Preserve and its staff. This included:
- Cleaning up the native garden
- Weeding a pollinator garden
- Transplanting native plants to a garden
- Almost 2 miles of trail maintenance
- Weeding and preparing the Community Garden
- Loading and moving almost 100 Junipers to prepare for mulching
- Painting the tool maintenance pen; installed fencing and prepared gate
- Cleaning and sharpening garden tools as well as color coded them
NRPA staff help prepare a community garden for the season during Earth Week
Wednesday: Carpool Day
A few staff members pared up and enjoyed the company of their colleagues on their rides to and from work. They also saved on gas, car mileage and helped cut their carbon footprint. We found that even just a few carpools saved big – we estimate that 80 miles roundtrip were not driven on this day by staff. That’s quite a savings!
Thursday: Tree Planting and Trail Cleanup Day
The NRPA headquarters is situated on gorgeous park land (naturally!) that includes a serene pond and walking trail behind our building. At any time you can find staff walking the trail to get a quick recharge, teams holding “walking” meetings or staff members gathering for lunch in the beautiful setting. Our surrounding community also comes by to take walks, watch birds or fish from time to time. We love our trail and the pond and do a lot to keep it tidy, but occasionally others aren’t so kind. During Earth Week, we took to the trail and cleaned things up. In just two hours we pulled a full dumpster’s worth of trash from the trail, planted 22 native trees and bushes and installed 3 new bird boxes.
Friday: Guest Speaker and Zero-Waste Group Lunch
We had a great time taking actionable steps around conservation all week and on Friday, we capped it off by finding out how we can continue to be green all year long. Gem Bingol from Piedmont Environmental Council spoke to staff about creating healthy landscapes and the importance of native plants in our local ecosystem. Not only that, she gave some great examples of how park and recreation professionals can create healthy local landscapes too with ideas such as creating pollinator-friendly spaces, including more native plant species in your landscapes, and engaging your local community in events like native plantings, volunteer days and tree plantings.
Now, think about the last time you may have had a meeting with lunch provided. Now think about the amount of trash that goes with those types of meetings – food boxes, disposable plates, napkins and flatware, drink cans/cups. Seems impossible to cut the trash down doesn’t it? Well, our Green Team had great success pulling off a zero-waste lunch for the entire staff – they provided a healthy lunch served in reusable or recyclable containers and also used flatware, plates and reusable cups instead of the disposable kind.
In all, the NRPA staff had a great time doing good for the Earth. We are looking forward to finding more ways to participate in conservation activities all year long, and will definitely be celebrating #NRPAEarthWeek again in 2015!
What activities did you do to celebrate Earth Week? Have you tried any of the above activities at your agency? How do you track the success of your green activities you do all year long?
Lauren Hoffmann is NRPA's Director of Marketing and Communications.