7 Reasons Every Worksite Should Offer An Environmental Wellness Program
7 Reasons Every Worksite Should Offer An Environmental Wellness Program
What is Environmental Wellness?
Let’s be honest: not all your employees may care about the environment. For various reasons, some don’t give much thought to taking care of the planet now or thinking about those who will come after us. There is good news for these employees because protecting the planet also saves money and everyone loves saving money!
Before we get started, let’s get on the same page. What exactly is environmental wellness? The National Institute for Health has a narrow definition. They say that environmental wellness is all about creating clean, safe, and healthy surroundings. In other words, their version of environmental wellness is focused on avoiding injuries, infections, or chemical exposures. That aspect is important, but it’s not what this article is about.
We love a much broader definition of environmental wellness focused on taking action that is respectful of our natural surroundings. This type of environmental wellness encourages us to live in harmony with the Earth by taking action to protect it. Environmental wellness simply encourages us to be good stewards of the planet.
You may have heard the terms going green, planet friendly, sustainable living, eco-friendly living, environmental sustainability, and others. All of these terms include the idea that in order for us and our descendants to enjoy a healthy, high-quality life, we need to keep our natural environment clean and healthy.
Employers who offer worksite wellness programs help employees adopt and maintain healthy behaviors. These programs encourage employees to make lifestyle choices that lead to better health and being good stewards of their own health. Environmental wellness is no different, except the choices are not focused internally on individual health but rather externally on the health of the planet.
7 Reasons Every Worksite Should Offer An Environmental Wellness Program
1. Our Environment Has a Big Impact on Our Health and Well-being
The U.S. Government, the Chinese Government, the World Health Organization, and nearly all major medical associations warn us about the risks of living in an unhealthy environment. Poor air quality and unhealthy water at a local level has a direct impact on health. People who breathe poor quality air have a dramatically higher risk of heart attacks and heart disease, asthma, and bronchitis. Children are more likely to die prematurely and infants are more likely to experience premature births. Second hand smoke and other sources of indoor air pollution can be as much as 5 times worse than outdoor air.
The CDC warns us that changes to our global environment can increase our risks of infectious diseases, floods, fires, and wild temperature swings. WellSteps is based in the Rocky Mountains where there is a lot of burning fossil fuels. Burning fossil fuels pollutes our air which is not healthy and causes all kinds of problems. Below is a picture of a typical winter day in Salt Lake City. Many of our employees live and work in this polluted air. No one should have to live under these conditions. It’s hard to imagine living in an environment like this while enjoying a high level of wellness.
Wellness professionals are trained to focus on the major determinants of health to help employees live long and healthy lives. We have done a fairly good job helping people recognize the impact of their behaviors and even their social choices when it comes to their own wellness. But we can do a better job helping people adopt good environmental practices.
2. An Emphasis on Earth-Friendly Practices is Good for Business
I was hired by British Petroleum (BP) to help with their wellness programs. At their corporate office in Houston, it was impressive to see the roof of their parking structure covered with an array of solar panels. Not only did BP have huge solar farms, but they also had wind farms and other sources of renewable energy.
All this from a company that extracts and refines fuels like gas and diesel. Today, BP has an aggressive global renewable energy portfolio. Rather than fight against clean energy efforts, they embraced a future fueled by renewables because it was a good business decision.
BP and thousands of other companies both small and large, have established sustainable, environmentally friendly practices as part of their core business strategies. Here are some resources on ways that corporations and other businesses can apply better environmental strategies and policies.
These worksites are all betting that long-term sustainability and social responsibility are winning strategies. WellSteps is one of these companies. All of the power used by WellSteps comes from wind or solar sources. We believe in being socially responsible and in preserving the environment.
When possible, we also prefer to do business with other companies that share our commitment to clean environmental practices. For example, the blog you are reading right now has been transmitted to you from a computer server located in the Amazon AWS cloud service. We chose to house all our technology with Amazon AWS, because among other reasons, AWS is completely powered by renewable energy.
Most people don’t know this, but Amazon has built enormous wind and solar farms to power all the servers they host. Companies like Amazon and others are going green for at least these four reasons:
- They care about the environment
- They like the tax incentives and savings that can come from transitioning to renewable forms of energy
- They save power costs by designing more energy efficient manufacturing processes
- They save money by reducing waste, including less use of paper, packaging, and electricity
3. Kindness to the Planet and Kindness to Others Run Together
Many philosophers have promoted what is known as the golden rule. Those of you who are familiar with a Christian ethic may recognize these words of Jesus in Matthew 7:12, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” What this basically means is “Be nice, not mean!” This way of living isn’t always easy to follow, but it improves everything when people and entire communities are able to live this way.
You can extend kindness to animals and even the planet. Mahatma Gandhi put it this way, “What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.”
When employees learn and practice environmental wellness they are learning kindness toward our planet. They learn to appreciate our resources and they learn to keep our water, air, and land clean.
Kindness is contagious. Showing kindness for co-workers, children, spouses, and pets also leads to kindness for our natural world. All of the benefits of wellness can be enjoyed more fully when we regularly give and receive kindness.
Kind employees provide better customer support. Kind employees make better, more productive team members. Kind employees have a positive impact on overall employee morale. Kind employees conserve energy, don’t pollute, and work to keep the planet clean. Everyone likes working with individuals who are kind.
4. Your Grandchildren Will Thank You
If there is an environmental catastrophe, there likely won’t be any impact on those over 50 because we’ll all be dead! But whatever environmental actions we take or don’t take today will undoubtedly impact things for our children and their children. Remember, all it takes are simple actions anyone can do today. And those actions will likely be cheaper and less wasteful! These simple actions will have the end result of reducing our impact on the environment and as a result, create a better world for all of those who will follow us.
A good environmental wellness program will help employees and their families make the connections between their behavioral choices, the health of the planet, and the people who will come after us. And again, we can do all of this very simply. Being environmentally responsible is just being healthy and, more importantly, being kind to those who will come after us.
5. Environmental Wellness is Good for Local Businesses in Your Community
Most fruit that we consume in winter months is grown on the opposite side of the equator and flown to a store near you. It takes a lot of energy to make this happen. Environmental wellness programs can educate employees about the benefits and the cost-savings that can come from purchasing foods that are locally grown.
Some refer to this as community supported agriculture, or local farmers markets. They are nearly always available during summer months. You can use this website to find local Farmers markets in your area. If there is currently no agricultural group in your community you can start one.
When you purchase foods that are grown and sourced locally, you are supporting your local producers and local businesses. You help keep your local economy strong and the food you consume doesn’t require nearly as much transportation expenses and fuel.
Everybody wins. The local economy wins because you are eating healthy produce that is locally grown, your health wins, and the environment wins.
6. Employees Who Conserve Save Money
Conserving resources helps the planet and your wallet. When your employees conserve, you give them a chance to think globally and act locally. Conserving water, electricity, paper, plastics, and gasoline means we spend less.
For example, compared to incandescent light bulbs, LED lights provide the same light quality at about 1/10th the electricity. That is a savings of 90%. Here is online calculator to help you see exactly how much you could save by switching your lights to LED lights. LED lights will save you money at your worksite and your employees can save money in their homes as well. If you want some low-hanging fruit, switch to LED lights.
Rather than use disposable plastic bags, your employees can use reusable grocery bags. Below are the WellSteps bags my family uses. A typical family will use, on average, 10 bags per trip to the grocery store. It’s estimated that each family that uses reusable bag takes 1500 plastic bags out of the environment every year. Here is more crazy data about our use of plastic bags.
It’s important to conserve water, especially if you live in a dry area. Whether it’s watering your yard or using water in your home, the less you use, the more money you save.
Depending on where you live you can also save money by recycling. Certain states actually give you money back when you turn in plastic and glass bottles. Other states have implemented comprehensive recycling programs. Here is a comprehensive list of all the cash deposit laws in every state. Recycling is a great way to conserve limited resources and reuse what we have rather than throwing it in the trash.
The cost of solar energy has dropped dramatically, especially with tax incentives from state and federal organizations. Both WellSteps founders lead the way for our employees by making our homes solar powered. Many of our employees have followed suit.
The savings generated are great but I’m especially proud of the fact that every electron used in the Aldana home comes from renewable resources.
7. Employees Who Spend Time Outside Are Happier and More Productive
Your environmental wellness program would not be complete if it did not encourage employees to go out into the environment. Dogs understand the joys and pleasures that come from being outside. If you’ve ever had a dog, you know what I’m talking about. Dogs love to be outside. Being outside makes them happy.
The same is true for humans. Researchers have studied the differences between people who spend time outside compared to those who don’t. People who exercise outside do it for longer periods and they burn more calories. When you get off the mat or off the indoor bike and move outside, you burn more calories. You will also spend less money when you exercise outside.
One of the biggest benefits of being outside is stress relief. There is something about the smells, colors, fresh air, or the change of environment that helps reduce stress.
People who hike or walk outdoors find that it clears the mind and helps produce creative solutions to the problems and challenges of life. You can even take a small pencil and notepad to write down some of the ideas as they come to you.
For many people, being outside makes them happy. This makes sense when you consider that for hundreds of thousands of years, humans have spent their entire days being outside. So put down your phone and go outside. Whether you like to hike, bike, walk, camp, or fish the act of being outside transforms us into better people.
WellSteps is not just a wellness company. It’s a real-world example of how forward-thinking companies can chart a sustainable, planet-friendly path towards decades of business success.Dr. Steven Aldana
How to Bring Environmental Wellness to Your Worksite
Environmental wellness at your worksite should focus on two things: helping your employees and their families make simple choices and helping your worksite do the same. There are different strategies and approaches for each.
Environmental Wellness for Employees
The easiest and most natural way to promote environmental wellness to employees is to include it in your wellness program offerings. WellSteps does this through our six week campaign called Earth Wise.
In this campaign employees and their families learn about simple strategies that they can apply at home and work to help preserve the environment. Each week participants watch a very short video on how to save money and conserve resources while at the same time taking care of our environment.
Most participants discover how easy it is to save money simply by being environmentally responsible. But, you don’t have to use the WellSteps Earth Wise campaign to get started. Here is a great list of tips and ideas that your employees can use today.
Environmental Wellness for Worksites
The best way to get started with creating an environmentally friendly worksite is to make sure you have adequate leadership support and a passionate committee. Every worksite has its unique characteristics; a good environmental wellness committee can help come up with strategies and plans and are specific to your work
Obviously these can include things like recycling, going paper free, reducing energy usage, helping employees reduce commute time or distances, and working with management to find ways to use 100% renewable energy. But it should also include environmentally friendly changes that are important in your industry and culture.
8 Things WellSteps Has Done So Far to Become Environmentally Friendly
- We needed a robust, secure and computer service provider to help run our software platform. WellSteps is maintained in the cloud at Amazon AWS. AWS is a cloud service provider powered by 100% renewable energy.
- WellSteps leaders installed solar panels and pushed for WellSteps to use 100% clean energy.
- Not all WellSteps employees can afford solar panels. So to ensure that WellSteps power comes from clean sources, we also purchase clean energy credits. Regardless of how much electricity we use as a company, 100% of it comes from renewable sources like wind or solar.
- We considered the importance of clean energy when WellSteps was born. All WellSteps employees work remotely. Not a single WellSteps employee commutes to or from workr. By not driving, we keep our harmful tailpipe emissions very close to zero.
- WellSteps uses very little paper. Nearly everything is digital.
- WellSteps makes extensive use of virtual meeting technologies. Our employee and clients meet regularly, but almost never in person. We highly encourage our WellSteps clients to use virtual meetings and conferences. Virtual meetings are less expensive and produce zero harmful emissions. Less travel means less pollution.
- We inform and educate our employees about energy saving practices and strategies to help keep our plant clean. To that end, we have even developed the “Earth Wise” behavior change campaign to help others.
- We share our clean energy successes with others (like you) in hopes that other businesses and individuals will also have the desire to make a positive, long-term impact on world.
Admittedly, we still have a ways to go. We still have clients who expect us to travel and occasionally we have to ship materials and supplies. We have created a Go Green committee and we are constantly coming up with ways to honor our employees and their families as they save money and the planet.
Realistically, the total contribution that WellSteps is making to keep our plant clean is very small, but it’s a start. As more and more worksites follow suit, we’ll be well on our way to making a future where sustainable business practices are the norm.
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