On an overcast April day, in the middle of Earth Week, Sagers and Huntington Bank teamed up for a Bank-sponsored collection event at one of Huntington's "green" operations facilities. One of several collections spearheaded by Sage across several of Huntington’s corporate offices, this event in particular was a flagship opportunity for Huntington to showcase their “new leaf” on sustainability.
In an effort to move sustainability to the front of their initiatives, the Columbus-based financial institution has been stepping up their environmental game. It started with repurposing a defunct grocery store to be one of their main corporate offices, incorporating most of the original structure in their new digs—and powering it with a tidy sum of photovoltaic panels. But Huntington’s new Director of Sustainability, Rebecca Karason, felt the community needed to actually see the strides the bank was making.
The Solar Trees that now pepper the parking lot are providing power—and shade—for the facility, of course. But—principally—they were installed to be a visual reminder that Huntington is serious about sustainability. As a sustainable electronics company, we love how they’ve put sustainability into action and celebrated it in the hopes that others will be spurred on to act.
Setting examples of sustainable innovation hasn’t stopped with solar trees, either. Huntington also agreed to collaborate with us on this city-wide Earth Day collection event. Along with Sage, AEP and Columbia Gas were present to hand out informational packets and savings vouchers for making conscientious energy choices. And it’s this kind of collaboration that we feel makes an Earth Day event truly valuable.
But sentiment won’t help the planet
Too often, collection events become a chance for the rest of us to offload electronics with a clean conscience, and not much more than that. But, anything you can do to make an event more educational or impactful beyond the day itself, is energy well spent. We were overjoyed that Huntington, AEP, and Columbia Gas supported the concept of a collection event being beyond just dropping stuff off.
And the evidence shows.
Kevin, an employee at Huntington who participated in the event, sees Earth Day as a time “for everyone in society to think about this planet we live on and to pay attention to environmental needs.” When Kevin heard about this collection, he jumped at a chance to be a part of it. For him, Earth Day “has become more important as the years go on.” Where, as he says, it may have “been about planting a tree, the context has since broadened.”
And that’s the critical point that this year’s Earth Day events highlighted: the world is a much different place than it was when the first Earth Day was observed. Thankfully, a lot of what those first years did has become common thinking now: recycling, using less energy, conserving water—all outcroppings of the seminal years of Earth Day are not to be discounted. It's just that there are new challenges that the old model no longer addresses.
What’s the future of Earth Day?
Kevin plants trees and native plants, recycles according to the city’s code, and has switched to reusable glass bottles for his drinking water. But that happens all throughout the year—as it does with many conscientious members of society. This event, however, was the first time he’d participated in a collection event. So, what can current Earth Days do to affect the future of sustainability? IT asset recycling may not be the answer, exactly.
Too often, recycling happens prematurely. For instance, Michelle (another Huntington employee at the event) donated a number of items—one of which she admitted to having never used. That device was a perfectly new—still in its box—printer. It’s easy to see how, in collecting something like this without a discerning approach, someone could have “recycled” that printer along with everything else. Instead, we will certify Michelle's printer and donate it to an organization that will put it to good use.
The upgrade treadmill, e-waste, and Earth Day
Electronic waste has become the newest set of concerns for environmental responsibility. And the swelling wave of cell phones alone should make the average consumer second-guess their next purchase. However, many businesses have to upgrade their devices to stay current and effective in the marketplace. In the shadow of this potential ecological issue, Earth Day can perhaps help categorize this dilemma.
By looking at recycling as the absolute last resort, we bring the essence of the original Earth Day into focus for today's issues; addressing environmental needs of e-waste and poor IT Asset Management. The hope is that, like Huntington, more businesses (and individuals) will see the value of viewing environmental responsibility in today’s terms rather than through antiquated Earth Day ideals.