Why Earth Day?

The first time we celebrated Earth Day was in 1990. Our company was located in downtown Los Angeles, and in the back of our 44,000-square-foot concrete tilt-up building was a small plot of land, backed up to an abandoned rail spur.

I had a crazy idea: let’s plant some of the exotic fruits and vegetables that we sell and make a garden! We found some like-minded people, such as TreePeople founder Andy Lipkis and some of his fruit-loving friends, and they helped us plant Frieda’s Exotic Fruit Garden.

We had Guavas, Feijoas, Pomegranates, Passion Fruit, seven or eight varieties of bananas, and more! It turned out that the light reflecting off our concrete building created a perfect microclimate in which the bananas and fruits blossomed! (Pun intended.)

So, we launched our garden on Earth Day, April 22, 1990. That year, Earth Day was celebrating its 20th anniversary. That was the same time that we launched our company-wide recycling program and purchased our first cardboard baling machine (to recycle cardboard boxes). Inside our offices, we had a blue recycling trash can for every desk and recycled printed copies through the copy machine. We also encouraged employees to carpool (remember carpool Thursdays?) and actually had some employees telecommute one day a week.

We were accustomed to being trendsetters in the exotic produce business, but we didn’t realize that we were ahead of the curve in terms of sustainability, eco-awareness, and corporate social responsibility as well.

Today, it is commonplace to hear about Earth Day. In fact, our local news website, the Los Alamitos Patch, published “10 ways to celebrate Earth Day All Day” yesterday!

In the past, business people might look down on “tree huggers” or “environmentalists.” Now some of the biggest corporations on the planet are promoting being respectful denizens.

Plastic grocery bags are banned in many cities, and recycling trash cans are the norm in many others. Recycled materials find new life as shopping bags and fashionable purses. Upcycling is also a new trend in which discarded items are repurposed, such as making bottles into light fixtures and turning tire tubes into tote bags.

All of these activities have grown out of the increasing awareness of the need for all of us to be responsible occupants of the planet.

What are you doing to celebrate or acknowledge Earth Day? I’d love to hear about it in your comments below.

Happy Earth Day (and Happy 7th Anniversary to my husband, Garry)!