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Phoenix Forward

New program asks employees to reduce their carbon footprint

New program asks employees to reduce their carbon footprint

When Seth Mones — vice president of Apollo's sustainability programs — got together with his colleagues to discuss what the company should do to celebrate Earth Day, the conversation always went the same way. "We were, like, 'Well, actually Earth Day shouldn't be just one day — it should be every day,'" Mones recalls.

That's when the sustainability team for the parent company of University of Phoenix had an "energy-efficient-light-bulb moment," Mones says. They got the idea to create Earth YearSM, a program that inspires people to take environmental actions every day, instead of on only one particular day in April.

"We want to instill and reinforce a special way of thinking about Earth Day — that it's every day of the week, every day of the year," says Mones, who was a cabinet member for former Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona and also counsel to the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Started in February 2012, Earth Year is a voluntary program offered to thousands of Apollo employees nationwide. Its aim is to inspire people to take simple everyday actions at home, at work and in their community — such as opting for reusable water bottles or insulating their homes — that will lower their carbon footprint and help them save money on utility bills.

Accessed at the Earth Year website, the program encourages people to make a pledge: They will take specific earth-friendly actions — the site offers many suggestions — and continue taking those actions all year. Using a carbon calculator, the website tracks the reduction in each participant's carbon footprint. The site even sends out email reminders to reinforce the new green-minded behavior.

"We are hoping that our employees become inspired to do things big and small that are important for the planet," Mones says. He also hopes the program will improve employees' quality of and even save them money at home by giving them straightforward ways to take actions that help the environment.

"Earth Year is in the spirit, not only of environmental activism, but also of who we are as a university, which is about educating people and giving them tools to do great things for the planet," Mones says. The website also engages participants in lessons that focus on a new topic each month, such as energy-efficient lighting.

"Since the Earth Year program launched in February over 1,300 employees have joined the website, and are learning ways to lower their carbon footprint and even save money at home," Mones says. They are tracking their environmental actions — such as recycling, weather-stripping, carpooling and more.

Combined, these actions already number in the thousands and will prevent more than 2 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions over the coming year. As more employees join, this number will continue to grow.

"We see the Earth Year program as a long-term effort," Mones says, "which would continue year after year, because there is no day that isn't a good day to do something positive for the planet."