Every Day is Earth Day at OWC
April 22, 2010, marks the 40th anniversary of the first Earth Day environmental awareness observation in 1970. But at OWC, we like to think of every day as Earth Day in a very real way.
As OWC staff members arrive at work each day, we begin our “Green” day by driving into the OWC parking lot, over permeable pavers, and a multi-layer substrate that help keep surface pollutants out of the groundwater.
Anyone carpooling or driving an energy efficient car gets preferred parking, close to the building. While making our way to the building entrance, we walk past the high-insulation glass windows and exterior sunshade technology that reduce cooling costs, as well as bio-swale landscaping and native plants and prairie grasses that conserve water. We can’t see the eco-friendly building materials containing a high level of recycled content, but we know they’re in there. And OWC’s underground geo-thermal heat pump system is also not visible to the naked eye, but it’s hard at work 365 days a year greatly reducing both heating and cooling costs for the building.
On the way to our workstations, we walk past a staff shower facility for anyone wishing to ride a bike to work, and “smart room” sensors that track movement and automatically shut off lights in unused areas. All interior materials, from the carpeting on the floor to the paint on the wall, and even the cleaning products used every day were selected for low toxicity and planet-friendly components. There are recycling bins set out throughout the building for paper, glass and plastic, as well as smaller paper recycling bins in every cubicle. In the two years we have been in the new building, OWC has been steadily working toward a zero waste goal. Through company-wide re-use and recycling efforts, including paper, glass, metal and plastic, our records show that OWC has reduced what it could have otherwise added to the solid waste stream by approximately 96%.
And visible through the floor to ceiling glass windows is OWC’s own on-site Vestas V39-500kW, 3-blade wind turbine that cleanly generates more than 100% of the amount of power required by OWC’s operations. The turbine earned OWC recognition as a Green Power Partner in 2009 from the US Environmental Protection Agency.
The First Earth Day, April 22, 1970
Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin at the time, worked to establish the first Earth Day as a nationwide environmental protest “to shake up the political establishment and force this issue onto the national agenda.” The event was modeled after the 60s-era political sit-ins and teach-ins, and an estimated twenty million Americans participated in the grassroots effort that shaped the future of environmental efforts in the US.
“How are we going to get the nation to wake up and pay attention to the most important challenge the human species faces on the planet?” Nelson asked. He wrote to the governors of all 50 states and the mayors of major cities, asking them to issue Earth Day Proclamations, and to college campus publications to help spread the news. His efforts worked; crowds assembled in cities all across the US. In New York, Fifth Avenue was closed to auto traffic as 100,000 people massed in Central Park. In Chicago, an estimated 40,000 people went to Earth Day festivities at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Congress recessed for the day, as House and Senate members traveled home to speak at Earth Day events.
Earth Day 2010
Forty years later, there is still a need for Earth Day, a need for everyday acts of conservation from individuals, and for corporations to step up their own recycling efforts. The Earthday Network will highlight volunteer actions by tens of thousands of global participants during April 2010 . Nelson, who passed away in 2005, spoke about the future of the environmental movement at a 25th Anniversary Earth Day event in 1995. “The opportunity for a gradual but complete break with our destructive environmental history and a new beginning is at hand … We can measure up to the challenge if we have the will to do so – that is the only question. I am optimistic that this generation will have the foresight and the will to begin the task of forging a sustainable society.”
Especially meaningful for all of us at OWC this Earth Day is the fact that the Other World Computing corporate campus was just awarded LEED Platinum Certification by the Green Building Certification Institute. Platinum is the highest achievable level of the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Program, which began in 1998. Out of more than 14,000 LEED projects engaged worldwide since the program’s inception, OWC is one of less than three hundred to achieve the Platinum standard. With this recognition, OWC also became the first privately owned light manufacturing/assembly building in Illinois to obtain LEED Platinum status.
From all of us at OWC, Happy Earth Day today and every day of the year.