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How Companies Celebrate Earth Month

April 23, 2024
A look at what safety professionals are doing to raise awareness about the environment while also improving employee engagement and boosting morale.

Anna Hernandez-Fullen was worried about her employees. It was the spring of 2020, and COVID-19 lockdowns were in full effect.

She could see the fear, frustration and concern on her employees’ faces. Hernandez-Fullen wanted to do something to boost morale while also following recommendations to keep employees safe, so she organized what would become the 1st annual Earth Day Employee Expo.

Hernandez-Fullen, COSM, is senior environmental health and safety manager at Nautique Boat Company, an American boat manufacturer that produces boats for waterskiing, wakeboarding and wakesurfing based in Orlando, Florida.

She didn’t know what to expect that first year, but employees’ reaction metaphorically blew it out of the water.

“People came out left and right, not only our employees but also their families and local agencies and companies. They were like, ‘Wait, wait, wait! Can I be in that? Can I come?’” recalls Hernandez-Fullen. “I didn’t do it with the intent to make it this elaborate event. I did it because we’re a boat company and our employees were stressed out and unhappy. Our role is to make a phenomenal product that happens to be on a natural resource.

“How do I, as the EHS professional bring, all of those variables together to help our employees get their minds off of something scary and get their minds onto something positive that they can make a difference in, something tangible they can touch? The byproduct has been [incredible]. People look forward to it every single year.”

Thankfully, COVID-19 has receded, but Nautique’s Earth Day Expo just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

“We invite agencies and our vendors to provide education and understanding of what they’re doing to collaboratively create a more sustainable environment,” Hernandez-Fullen says. “For example, we’ve asked our hazardous disposal facility to come set up a table and educte our team on what they do. They don’t just burn up our hazardous waste. They do bioblends where they make biofuels or they reverse osmosis some of our chemistries to remove solvents to recycle them.”

This year, Hernandez-Fullen partnered with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, St. Johns River Water Management District, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Orange County Environmental Protection Division, Orlando Utilities Commission, the city of Orlando Keep Orlando Beautiful and the University of Florida IFAS Extension. MSC, Fastenal, 3M, Grainger, Tradebe USA and AIM Supply were also at the expo. And Ingenity, an electric boat company, brought an electric boat to educate Nautique employees sustainable alternatives to petroleum.

“All of those organizations at the expo donate their time and brought free giveaways to our 500 employees, Hernandez-Fullen says. “For example, MSC brought cooling scarfs. 3M donated some ecofriendly tape to my engineers to see if they could use it in their products.”

In addition to Monday’s expo, Nautique's president once again planted a tree on the property that was donated by a local nursery. There was also an Earth Day art exhibit for employees and their family members. This year’s theme was planet versus plastic. One artist created a diorama using recycled plastic pieces from around the facility: resin, straws, plastic forks and knives. Employees voted for their favorites and prizes were awarded for first, second and third places. Milwaukee Tool donated a tree pruner valued at $300.

The Saturday prior, Hernandez-Fullen organized a nature cleanup with St. Johns River Water Management at the Seminole Ranch Conservation Area. They collected more than 790 pounds of trash. Employees who attended any Earth Day event were given an Earth Day themed Nautique T-shirt and seed packet.

Nautique is just one of many companies hosting events in honor of Earth Day.

EHS Today surveyed its audience to learn what other companies had planned. A majority of respondents, 63%, said they planned special activities or initiatives for Earth Day 2024.

Some of those activities included:

  • cleaning up roads or adopting a stretch of highway near the facility;
  • cleaning up illegal dumping at a nearby river;
  • cleaning up the beach;
  • cleaning up the grounds, including parking lots, yards and ditches;
  • planting trees and flowers somewhere on the facility;
  • gifting tree saplings and wildflower seed packets to employees;
  • hosting a recycling campaign;
  • hosting a free seminar on plastics;
  • hosting a green fair;
  • hosting an electronics recycling event and allowing employees to bring in household electronics; and
  • hosting a confidential personal document shredding and recycling event.

Some of those activities come with a free T-shirt or lunch for participating employees, too.

Not surprisingly, a majority of respondents (53%) who are hosting an Earth Day event this year have also done environment-themed events in the past.

Earth Day is a fine time to raise awareness, but it's far from the only day of the year to be a good steward of the environment.

A majority of respondents said that sustainability and conservation efforts are important (38%) or very important (23%) to their company.

A slightly smaller majority of respondents said environmental, social and governance (ESG) is important (28%) or very important (30%) to their company.

Clearly, there’s room for improvement. To that end, 45% of respondents said their company is starting new conservation, sustainability or ESG initiatives this year. (Another 37% said there company wasn't starting any environmentally-minded initatives this year while 18% were unsure.)

Some examples of these new initiatives include:

  • replacing gasoline and diesel powered vehicles with electric vehicles;
  • measuring—and reducing—their carbon footprint;
  • holding more meetings over Zoom instead of in person;
  • increasing recycling on at the jobsite;
  • reducing waste;
  • composting food scraps instead of trashing;
  • reducing water usage or consumption;
  • reducing carbon dioxide emissions;
  • swapping out single use plastics for more sustainable choices, including utensils and containers in the break room or cafeteria; and
  • designing new sails for their shipping fleet to use wind power along with engines to power ships.

If you’re interested in hosting Earth Day events in the future, Hernandez-Fullen says the key to success is to plan ahead and to speak with the financial department now. Then, she recommends you reach out to other organizations, both for profits and nonprofits, to try and stretch your dollars further.


Hernandez-Fullen started planning  this year’s Earth Day Expo on January 6. When she reached out to vendors and organizations, she had no trouble getting donations. “It was the beginning of the year, and there was still that money the budget,” she says. “Planning is key to success.”

She also encourages fellow safety professionals to stop focusing on “putting out fires rather planning not to have them” in the first place. That mindset limits their opportunities to improve employee morale and well-being.

“I think a lot of people in our industry are overwhelmed right,” Hernandez-Fullen says. “Their focus is on how do I keep my recordables down, how do I keep someone from getting hurt. It changes the optics from what their role really should be: collaborative efforts on environmental, health and safety.

“When they start focusing on the proactive, ironically enough, people become engaged. Family members start to listen to what employees bring home and family members want to be engaged, even though they don’t work for the company. Then the family members go to their local school or groups [and it creates this domino effect.] The biggest takeaway that I learned is to stop worrying about things you have no control of and focus on things you do have control of—and make a difference.”


Learn more:

Test Your Earth Day Knowledge

The History of Earth Day and the Rise of the Modern Environmental Movement

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