How local businesses can team up with planet Earth



Jessica Taft

With Earth Day right around the corner, many businesses across New York City and the rest of the country are putting their eco-friendly thinking caps on to incentivize sustainability.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be a major obstacle to practicing sustainable behaviors, forcing businesses to be more creative in their Earth Day initiatives than ever before.

To reduce contact transmission of COVID-19, some stores have banned reusable bags and restaurants have started serving food exclusively on plastic. With that, the bell ringing to congratulate sustainable consumers for bringing reusable grocery bags has ended, primarily due to the notion that “reusable” translates to “infected.”

That said, there is still room for improvement. For instance, local businesses that specialize in crafting and hardware can hold Earth Day-themed contests, asking customers to create artwork and crafts out of recycled materials.

By advertising prizes such as gift cards or discounts to winners and contestants, the participating businesses would effectively boost their shopping traffic while simultaneously helping to reduce waste.

Furthermore, fast-fashion retailers have been criticized over the years for their negative contribution to the environment. Denim alone is a major threat to the health of the planet.

To preface, each element that goes into creating a standard pair of jeans comes with sustainability issues. Specifically, the first step: cotton cultivation.

“It takes around 1,800 gallons of water to grow enough cotton to produce just one pair of regular ol’ blue jeans,” according to TreeHugger, which is a sustainability website.

The second step of dying the jeans is another negative contributor. Although denim was originally made with indigo-dyed warp yarn and undyed weft hard, a dye naturally derived from plant sources, most modern-day jeans are dyed with synthetic indigo, which pollutes water.

Finally, the use of metal accessories such as buttons, zippers and rivets to make the jeans functional and aesthetically pleasing results in a very difficult recycling process.

With the denim industry alone being such a sore on environmental efficiency, retailers can offer promotional codes to customers that, when used, relay a portion of the proceeds to environmental sustainability agents.

Furthermore, the restaurant industry has recently been plundered by COVID-19. Although many restaurants are struggling to make ends meet, they too can participate in eco-friendly business practices without having to break the bank.

For instance, many take-out restaurants give customers an abundance of sauces and spice packets — packets that frequently end up in the trash because they were either not wanted, not needed in the quantity in which they were supplied or a combination of both.

With that, restaurants can stop handing out goods without a request for them. Even though it might feel like they aren’t being as generous, their generosity will be transferred to the environment as less unopened plastic ketchup or soy sauce packets will find themselves in landfills.

While for-profit businesses exist to profit and many local businesses do not have the financial freedom to perform grand-scale philanthropic efforts, creativity knows no limits.

With a motivator as strong as saving the planet and reducing our global footprint, Earth Day can be greeted as an opportunity to increase awareness about our environmental impact while simultaneously incentivizing sustainability and eco-friendly consumer practices.