Litter piling up in a river

Sustaining A Force For Good [Earth Day Challenge]

As a certified B Corp approaching our 10th year of Using Business as a Force for Good, we strive to make a positive impact on people and the planet while growing our business in everything we do. So naturally, Earth Day is one of our favorite days to celebrate! This year we are embarking on a series of challenges to push ourselves to become even better “B Keepers” while celebrating Earth Day every day.

B Corp Mountain

We rang in 2019 with our first challenge, a Plastic Prohibition Pledge, to reduce our single-use plastic consumption. Equipped with new Klean Kanteen tumblers (shoutout to our fellow B Corp friends!), and a shiny new office bottle filling station, we launched into a month-long mission to use less and hydrate more. For some the challenge wasn’t much of a challenge at all, while for others old habits were harder to break.

Solar Power is Hot, Energy Efficiency is Cool custom Klean Kanteen black tumbler
Kelley and Bonnie excited about the new water bottle filling station
Boromir saying "One Does Not Simply Stop Using Single-Use Plastic"

Although the official challenge was only for a month, we learned a lot about how single-use plastic is integrated into our everyday life. Our hope is that our team will continue to think twice about how they consume, and just say no to throwaway plastic. Since the challenge ended, we’ve helped eliminate the waste from a total of 2364 plastic bottles by using our bottle filling station!

As building scientists and solar analysts, our team took this experiment seriously and kept good field notes. A common takeaway was that it is easy to switch from single-use plastic to aluminum, but then we were all left wondering how much of an impact we were making. Here are some more reflections from a few of our team members on their experiences:

I did fine.  I didn’t even realize my first failure.  Debi called me out and I wasn’t even aware I was using a plastic bottle, so who knows how often that happened.   But, I only chose to use 1 plastic bottle, similar to others, just really wanted that green tea.  Some habits changed, I switched to aluminum cans when getting gas station drinks and brought out my old nalgene.  It wasn’t very hard, honestly, just took a little bit more effort to find the can/glass variant of whatever I wanted or needed.  If plastic is the devil, what are can goods?  An observation was that I wasn’t reducing a lot of waste, just switched my waste from plastic to cans/glass.  Would be curious to know the environmental impact there.  Another observation was how much plastic I used outside of bottles; packaging being the biggest in our household.

Daniel C.  —  Builder Services Team

This challenge went fairly well for me, but I did grab a bottled water once, while in a restaurant, and I immediately realized I left my travel bottle in the car. I try to be conscious of my consumption habits regularly, and this challenge encouraged me to focus on not only water bottles but all other one-time use plastics that I put in the trash. The challenge helped me to take a step back and look at my habits with a fresh set of eyes. I also thought about other one-time use items that are regularly used and discarded by us as consumers. Through second hand information from someone else that did the research, I’ve learned that glass requires more energy to recycle than aluminum, but I’m not sure about plastic. I did ponder which type of one-time waste has the most significant negative impact, and it seems it’s often the case that in solving one problem, we create another. With a little research, we could discover various negative impacts of other one-time use materials, and I think this was a great exercise to help us all be more conscious of our regular consumption habits.

Ulysses C. — Builder Services Team

I honestly forgot I was taking part in this challenge… Needless to say, I clung to my big steel barrel ( which I am sipping out of while typing this email), and did not use a single plastic bottle…for drinking. However, I did use one bottle of hot sauce that was in a plastic bottle; alas. Echoing Daniel, I find that most of my beverage waste is in the form of glass or aluminum. Perhaps I should try to focus on reducing the overall consumption of materials as well.

Jacob H. — Multifamily Services Team

 I was surprised at the challenge of this challenge — I thought I hardly ever used plastic bottles but networking events and even our celebration lunch yesterday got me! I also found myself turning down plastic water bottles offered to me (and taking the hit of going thirsty as a lesson to myself). I also realized I need to make a better effort to really make my fancy SEM canteen a habit. I have also been mixing sparkling water and OJ lately, and dang it if those larger Pierre are only provided in plastic bottles. Hmmmmm, maybe we can get a bulk deal on those soda streams?

Jamie H. — Builder Services Team

Our Next "B Keeper" Challenge

As the trees begin to bloom and the golden glow of NC’s pollen dust settles, we’re ready to initiate our next challenge! We’ll take any excuse to get outside and bask in the beauty of our favorite star, especially if it involves making the world a better place. So for our next improvement action, we’d like to challenge our teams, SHINE Tribe, and YOU to a good ol’ fashioned #TrashTag.

What is #TrashTag? It’s when awesome people seek solutions to impact the greater good by never settling with a “have to” attitude that turns to “get to” all while enjoying the journey. If you can’t read between the lines of our core values, in layman’s terms, #TrashTag is a social media movement that is mobilizing the masses to get outside and clean up public spaces for warm, fuzzy, positive feels (and maybe a few virtual brownie points too) that come from doing good for others and helping to keep our planet healthy.

Taking part in #TrashTag is simple. Find a public space that needs a bit of TLC and share your glorious before and after pictures on your favorite social platform once you’ve bagged what doesn’t belong. Just remember trash can be dirty, so wear proper protective gear.

Trash clean up sparking joy for Marie Kondo

We love seeing these positive actions litter our social media feeds and hope #TrashTag isn’t curbed anytime soon. Tag us in your next #TrashTag post and we’ll send you one of our awesome recycled cotton reusable ecoBag lunch sacks from our B Corp friends, ChicoBag!

Happy Earth Day and Shine On! 🌍🌳🌻🌞

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Primary Solar Form 2019 - Placeholders