April 22, 2020, marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, but many utilities have gone silent on the topic due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But you don’t have to choose between the fight against the virus and the climate crisis, and utilities have the platform to create change for both. Now is the time to make or increase environmental commitments, promote the value of energy efficiency, and offer energy upgrades to businesses while their doors are closed.

Despite widespread social-distancing and shelter-in-place orders, Earth Day 2020 will go on virtually. Utilities and nonutilities alike have found the following creative ways to bring their Earth Day celebrations into customers’ homes:

  • Providing online educational activities
  • Participating in or hosting virtual Earth Day events
  • Communicating about environmental initiatives
  • Sharing energy-efficiency or sustainability tips

We encourage you to join in, and hope the following examples will inspire your utility’s virtual Earth Day 2020 celebration.

Earth Day educational activities

Schools may have closed, but learning hasn’t stopped. Parents have assumed the role of teachers and could use your help keeping their little ones engaged. Take this as an opportunity to revisit your educational materials and make them online-friendly (figure 1).

Figure 1: Earth Day 2020 virtual educational activities

Organizations are helping families get into the Earth Day spirit by highlighting educational resources and activities.

Dominion Energy shared family-friendly sustainability and conservation activities in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

SMUD encouraged parents to submit their children’s Earth Day art by offering a chance to win an Amazon gift card.

Clark Public Utilities created a four-week-long virtual Earth Day challenge.

Although this year’s Earth Day Fest has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re still excited to celebrate Earth Day! Join us for the Virtual Earth Day Challenge for four whole weeks of environmental education, entertainment and hands-on activities. This challenge is a series of four weekly newsletters sent to your inbox. If you’re interested in participating, sign up for the newsletters here:Although this year’s Earth Day Fest has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re still excited to celebrate Earth Day! Join us for the Virtual Earth Day Challenge for four whole weeks of environmental education, entertainment and hands-on activities. This challenge is a series of four weekly newsletters sent to your inbox. If you’re interested in participating, sign up for the newsletters here

NASA got in on the virtual Earth Day fun by providing a myriad of online resources to get kids excited about celebrating at home.

#EarthDayAtHome with NASA. On April 22, 1970, the world marked the first Earth Day. As we physically separate ourselves by necessity, we can still collectively appreciate the wondrous beauty of our planet. To help get you started, NASA has collected  numerous activities to help you observe Earth Day at Home. Click here to learn more, #EarthDayAtHome

The US Environmental Protection Agency shared environmental information and online educational resources to help families celebrate Earth Day 2020 virtually.

This year, April 22nd marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, a day celebrated by millions of people across the world. Since the first Earth Day in 1970, the United States has made tremendous progress improving air quality, cleaning up contaminated lands, and protecting our water resources. As part of that progress, EPA is working hard to ensure all Americans have a clean, healthy environment and a more prosperous future. EPA remains committed to protecting human health and the environment as we continue to adjust to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic. While many of us are staying safe at home this Earth Day, we wanted to share some of our environmental information and educational resources for remote learning. Please feel free to share these resources with others. Have a happy and safe Earth Day!

Earth Day virtual events

Just because you can’t gather in person doesn’t mean you should cancel your Earth Day 2020 events. The following utilities and nonutilities worked quickly to bring their Earth Day 2020 events online, no pants required (figure 2).

Figure 2: Online events to celebrate Earth Day 2020

In-person events are going virtual as utilities and other organizations look to engage with people online.

City of Palo Alto turned its previously scheduled 2020 Sustainability and Climate Action Plan Community Engagement Workshop into an eight-part on-demand webinar.

Omaha Public Power District’ (OPPD’s) CEO Tim Burke went on the live Earth Day Omaha virtual event to talk about OPPD’s plans for renewable energy.

Earthday.org is celebrating with 24 hours of global conversations, calls to action, performances, video teach-ins, and more.

Poster for the Earth Day 50 global digital event

The Alliance Center, a Denver-based nonprofit, moved its weeklong Earth Day 2020 celebration online and includes themed documentary suggestions, sustainability tips, climate-friendly recipes, and more.

Celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day with a week of remote activities and online resources! In partnership with Earth Day Network and a coalition of organizations, we have adapted our Earth Week 2020 events to include content and actions you can utilize or partake in from the comfort of your home. Share how you're celebrating Earth Week with #DenverEarthWeek on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Earthdaylive2020.org will be livestreaming activists, performers, thought leaders, and artists in celebration of Earth Day 2020.

Strike, divest, and vote for our future. From April 22, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, to April 24, activists, performers, thought leaders, and artists will come together for an empowering, inspiring, and communal three day livestream mobilization. The fights against the coronavirus and the climate crisis go hand-in-hand, and as we work to flatten the curve of this pandemic, we must strive toward the longer term goal of building a society rooted in sustainability and justice.

Earth Day environmental initiatives

Earth Day 2020 is a great excuse to talk about (or rethink) your environmental commitments. Approach this topic with empathy and make your customers the hero of your sustainability story (figure 3).

Figure 3: Pacific Power’s Earth Day 2020 environmental initiatives

Pacific Power acknowledged that Earth Day will look a little different this year, but that it still wanted to celebrate by sharing its sustainability efforts. The utility directed customers to its website, where it shared 12 specific ways it’s taking care of the earth.

Energy-efficiency and sustainability tips

With people spending more time at home, there’s never been a better time to share energy-efficiency and sustainability tips. Your customers are likely bracing for higher bills. Help them feel more incontrol by sharing simple ways to save energy and money (figure 4).

Figure 4: Earth Day 2020 energy-efficiency and sustainability tips

Earth Day is all about taking action, but options are limited with stay-at-home orders. Organizations suggest ways for people to help the planet from the comfort of their home.

PNM has been sharing sustainability-related tips and stories each day for the 50 days leading up to Earth Day. The utility got a gold star for making these tips helpful, timely, and funny during this uncertain time.

The Earth Day Network created an Earth Day Challenge that encourages people to implement a different sustainability tip each day for 22 days leading up to Earth Day 2020.

National Geographic shared simple ways kids can help the environment for Earth Day 2020.

Celebrate Earth Day with these tips for helping our environment.

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Contributing Authors

Associate Analyst, Customer Engagement Solutions

Anna Nixon writes Ask E Source responses and reports about how utilities can improve their marketing. Prior to joining E Source, she...