Today is World Environment Day (WED), just like it’s been every year since 1974. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard about it before, you’re in the majority. Right now, WED feels like the illegitimate step-child of Earth Day. There are plenty of reasons that it isn’t well known, most of which have to do with being a legitimate attempt to take a serious look at the ways in which humans are slowly killing the Earth. Still, they could use a bit more positive publicity and they aren’t helping their case any. Here are the top 5 things that the organizer and promoters of World Environment Day could learn from their big brothers over at Earth Day.
3. Email Campaign
Everybody has an email campaign. If the organizers of World Environment Day do, they certainly don’t know how to spread it. If you haven’t received a forward from your parents, your friends, co-workers, colleagues or random members of a blog that you frequent, then the emails aren’t working. It never fails, every year I get at least 20 emails about Earth Day – usually the sappy kind that get the immediate trash treatment. But even when they go straight to the trash, I am reminded that Earth Day exists. Maybe the promotions team at WED should focus on a terrible, scary, fact sheet that they could send out to concerned citizens the first week of June every year. What’s the worst that can happen? At least they’d get their name on the tip of someone’s tongue.
A good choice for the email might be one of the talking points from their quick facts page – “In the United States 30% of all food, worth US$48.3 billion (€32.5 billion), is thrown away each year. It is estimated that about half of the water used to produce this food also goes to waste, since agriculture is the largest human use of water.” (Jones, 2004 cited in Lundqvist et al., 2008) – coupled with an example of how to reuse leftovers to make a second meal instead of throwing them away. By showing the financial advantage, perhaps the point would get to their pocketbook faster than their morality.
2. Lackluster Celebrity Endorsement
Having Gisele Bündchen and Don Cheadle on your team seems like a great start – that is, until you see the completely uncompelling PSA that they created. It looks like a cheesy freshman film project. Really. It’s so bad, and has been pushed so far to the side, that as of the beginning of June 5th, it had only racked up 8,000 Youtube views. In fact, here’s what Morgan Freeman thought about it.
Ok, so that’s not actually Morgan Freeman watching the PSA, if it was, he might have stayed asleep. If they wanted to make a difference, to reach some larger audience, why not produce something that is both humorous and enlightening. Maybe get Jimmy Fallon to write a song for them.
1. Earth Day
Of course, one of the biggest reasons that WED hasn’t caught on is that it is basically a rip-off of Earth Day. While it’s not a bad thing to promote being good to the environment, looking like a copycat isn’t a good thing no matter what the cause is. If you are going to do something that someone else is already doing, you need to do it bigger and better than they are. Let’s look at how WED fails to do this.
The Name – Earth Day – quick, easy to say and understand. If you ask 100 people what Earth day is, it’s a good bet that they will save something about saving the Earth. World Environment Day – this sort of trips out of your mouth when you say it and it uses the word “environment” which isn’t exactly the clearest word in the English language. If you ask 100 people what World Environment Day means, chances are you’ll get lots of different answers that don’t really hit the mark.
The Date – Earth Day is celebrated on April 22nd every year – smack dab in the middle of the school year. That means that teachers incorporate it into their lesson plans. When this happens, kids start to talk to their parents about it. This make it a much more visible event. So much so, that the retail establishment has started to use it as a sales pitch having “Earth Day Sales.” World Environment Day happens on June 5th, at the very end of the school year. No one is talking about the environment in school at that time – they are all studying for exams or having that last fun week before summer vacation.
The Focus – Earth Day is focused on one thing every year, saving the Earth through a variety of environmentally conscious efforts. World Environment Day focuses on a single aspect of the environment every year. This year it is food waste. While this isn’t a bad way to do things, and does put a significant amount of thought and effort into an actionable change, it doesn’t allow for as many participants every year.
Earth Day is more like a cub that you can join and say that you are part of it, while World Environment Day forces you to take responsibility for your actions and actually walk the walk. This hard-line stance is part of the reason it isn’t as popular with the American crowd. It calls out their hypocrisy and asks them to take ownership of it and make an actual change instead of offering up a donation and lip service.
In any case, now that you know that World Environment Day exists, take a moment to visit their website and see what they are all about, maybe even make a resolution yourself.