Guest Blog: Earth Day, Time to Party


Ten years ago when HSC’s President and CEO Rochelle Davis met Steve Ashkin on an airplane, little did we know how much that meeting could lead to changes in how schools clean across the country. Steve has been an environmental leader for over 24 years, and shortly after that meeting, became the primary author of our Quick + Easy Guide to Green Cleaning in Schools. Also, we consider Steve a friend and supporter of HSC. Today, we are reprinting a recent article he wrote on DestinationGreen, his website for green cleaning industry leaders. It struck a chord for us because being a leader is more than just yelling the loudest. It’s about creating conversation, engaging with friends and being true to your values. Thank you Steve, and happy Earth Day!

By Steve Ashkin

When we started DestinationGreen almost 10 years ago, it was my intent to provide information and inspiration for the leaders of the Green Cleaning Movement — with the operative word being “leaders”.

So think for a moment what it means to be a leader.

When I think of leadership a lot comes to mind. Leaders exemplify/embody the “right” attitude, commitment, effort and knowledge. Leaders develop strategies and plans, and are often out-front blazing the trail to make it easier for others to follow. Importantly, leaders become leaders because others willingly follow them. So this edition of DestinationGreen is to give you some ideas for Earth Day as I would like to encourage you to do something fun, interesting and educational for those who follow you, as well as your family, friends and work colleagues.

So here’s my Earth Day idea for you — plan a party. Yes a party, as everyone loves a party. I believe there is a simple formula for a successful Earth Day party: Good People + Interesting Food & Drink + Fun Activity + Green Theme & Music = Memorable and Successful Event.

Food: ask your guests to bring a dish. For Earth Day there are a lot of things to consider especially since food has such an enormous impact on our environment. Please know that there is no right or wrong approach because the intent is for you (as the leader) to stimulate discussion.

Consider asking your guests to bring a dish made of locally grown or produced meats, dairy, grains, fruits and vegetables; and yes even locally produced juices, sodas, beer and wine. Encourage your guests to try something new and suggest options including dishes that are vegetarian, vegan, organic, antibiotic-free, hormone-free, cruelty-free and others intentionally designed to stimulate their thinking about where our food comes from, how it is grown/produced and what we need to think about as global population continues to increase.

Some additional thoughts along these lines are to ask your guests to be prepared to tell a little story about their dish and what made it “green”. Also encourage them to bring their dish in a reusable container and to bring reusable plates and silverware if you are not providing them. And of course, be prepared to clean-up with your Green Cleaning products and to explain why these products are better for health and the environment.

Frankly in our busy and hectic lives, we sometimes forget that our food doesn’t come from the grocery store or restaurant, and what we buy can affect the entire food chain and our health.

Activity: In addition to some great food, consider something fun and educational. For example, consider showing a short video. One of my favorites is on YouTube from my friend Jason Clay who runs World Wildlife Fund’s food program. He has a terrific 20 minute program on global food consumption that is extremely well done and will lead to some great discussions even with friends who think that “green” is a communist plot or global conspiracy.

Other programs on YouTube include ones from Ray Anderson the founder of Interface and among the earliest CEOs to embrace green building and sustainability, Annie Leonard’s Story of Stuff or Story of Change. Each are less than 20 minutes so most guests can actually sit through it and you can find others that are only 2 to 5 minutes. In addition, if you have a subscription to Netflix, they have lots of full-length documentaries relating to the environment. And of course, your local library will likely have some videos you can borrow.

If you want more of a hands-on activity; consider a group project (remember how much fun we had doing these in elementary school). A couple of projects could be to build little window boxes to grow herbs. Consider going by the local Goodwill store to see if they have any “interesting” flower pots or window boxes. These can be fun, silly, whimsical, sports related, etc., and it both reuses materials and supports people with disabilities.

For those of you who prefer a more hands-on approach and literally getting your hands dirty, consider building a compost pile. And yes, you can even do this if you live in an urban setting by purchasing a composting kit which you can find online.

Attire: Think about a theme for your party and this being Earth Day, the attire can be something “green”. You can break-out your old tie-dyed, flowered, Hawaiian shirt or hemp shirt (everyone needs at least one hemp shirt). Consider telling your guests to stop off at the Goodwill or other second-hand store to find something fun if they don’t already have one. And let them know that there will be prizes for the best “green” outfit.

Entertainment: I live in a college town and it is amazing how easy and inexpensive it is to have local performers to entertain at a party. Frankly, many of these kids are thrilled to have the chance to perform. You might see what you can come up with by contacting your college if it has a music school or the music department at the local high school.

If you want to do a sound track of your own, I searched the internet for “music with an environmental theme” and found lots of stuff from the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Public Enemy, Red Hot Chili Peppers; plus lots of other music that you are likely familiar with regardless of your taste in music. Check this link to Wikipedia.

Thank you for your leadership. Have fun, take a lot of pictures and share them with me on Facebook.