A Billion Acts of Green
Social media has been, and is still becoming, an increasingly important and common part of modern society in terms of communication. The term social media has been defined as “the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into an interactive dialogue.” Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein add in their definition that social media that “allow[s] the creation and exchange of user-generated content.”As the use of different types of social media grows, many businesses and organizations have utilized its power of accessibility and option of having practically instant information deliverance. Especially with the increase in use of technologies such as smart phones and laptops, never has it been so easy to connect and exchange thoughts, ideas, and opinions across the globe. Environmentalism is one issue that has taken social media by storm. Through various forms of social media such as its interactive website, twitter, facebook, and youtube, the message of “going green” has been globally dispersed: informing people and gaining support.
The process of how environmentalism has been spread among society through the social media platform is seen through Earth Day Network’s campaigned entitled“ A Billion Acts of Green.” The Earth Day Network is a non-profit organization that leads the world in Earth Day events and actions. This environmental service campaign is the largest of its kind, honoring Earth Day through establishing commitments by people, organizations, businesses, and even governments. The main goal of A Billion Acts of Green lies within it’s own name: to have one billion simple actions done by individuals and larger organizations initiatives that will contribute to reducing carbon emissions, supporting sustainability, and overall protecting the environment. With already millions of actions registered, the campaign continues to spread and inspire people all across the globe. It encourages all users and followers to contribute to the race of having a billion acts of green registered prior to the Earth Summit in Rio in 2012[3].
The Earth Day Network globally coordinates Earth Day every year. Since it’s creation in 1970, Earth Day is a day that was created in order to motivate and encourage appreciation and awareness for Earth’s natural environment. With strong scientific data demonstrating human influence on environmental degradation, educating the masses to be aware of their own potential to reduce their impact. This campaign focuses and emphasizes on individualism as well as collectiveness in the sense that every act adds up and matters: every act, no matter how big or small, counts. Since 1990, Earth Day and its concept have been celebrated internationally in more than 175 countries through organized events in about 141 nations. The United Nations even appointed April 22 as International Mother Earth Day as recently as 2009. To date, it is a day in which people are reminded to alter human activity with regards to the environment and to provoke policy changes that would further implement the importance of sustainability.
Sustainability, for our society as inhabitants of this Earth, is defined as the ability to continue living on this Earth with responsible use of our natural resources. The meaning of sustainability is meeting the standard needs of people today without compromising the ability of the future to meet the same needs. This message is what Earth Day Network strives to distribute. Since the first celebration, the message has spread and now includes 22,000 partners in 192 different countries assembling to continue this movement. Today, through networking and use of media, Earth Day is considered one of the largest civic observance and boasts that over one billion people participate in activities related to Earth Day. Such attention brought environmental issues to the international stage. Its campaign is deemed as successful despite those who deny climate change, rich corporations, and the general mass of the disinterested public. To have gained such popularity in a relatively short amount of time can be credited to the Earth Day Network’s use of the World Wide Web and social media.
Use of the media to spread awareness of Earth Day has been utilized since the beginning. On Earth Day in New York City in 1970, Central Park was made available to the estimated one million persons crowd. At the time, New York was the home of the nation’s major media sources such as NBC, ABC, CBS, Newsweek, Time and the New York Times, which worked favorably in Earth Day’s favor. The movement was given the most excellent coverage possible, proving how far-reaching this idea has been exhibited. There was an estimated 20 million participants all across the United States on that day. The popularity and strength of this initial movement laid the foundations for the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 as well as other forms of major environmental legislation still in effect today such as the Clean Air Act. Four decades later, the momentum to perpetuate the same concept of living better with close regard to the state of our environment is coming from the utilization of widespread social media.
As this push for green started at the grass-roots level, which means that people who were extremely passionate about this particular topic activated it, social media presents itself as the exemplary medium to continue its rapidly growing popularity. The main medium in which the Earth Day Network employs is a website that is the source for information, encouragement, suggestions, photos, blog entries, and opportunities for members to express, debate, and discuss different environmental issues and concerns. The page even has an interactive quiz called ‘Ecological Footprint Quiz” that gives the user an idea of how they personally impact the environment. Such a program helps give individuals a better idea of how their contributing to environmental degradation through ways they may not have expected, such as the consequences of not buying food locally. It raises awareness and promotes the idea of that by committing to making a slight change in one’s own lifestyle, those small acts add up. The impact of this tool can be far-reaching. In my personal experience, after taking the quiz, my results yielded that if everyone lived in the same manner in which I did (which I thought was relatively conservative) four planets would be needed to provide a sufficient amount of resources. I am constantly more aware of how much I am consuming in terms of resources.
Through Internet applications such as Twitter, the Earth Day Network has been able to educate its followers. Twitter is free, to join and use, and allows any person, organization, or business to express facts, thoughts, and even location. Those that “follow” them can see by anyone or these published entries. This means a user chooses to receive whatever stream of entries another user publishes. Since joining Twitter, Earth Day Network has been steadily gaining followers. Currently, Earth Day Network has 12,192 followers and has 1,094 tweets.
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Each entry by the Earth Day Network, also called a ‘tweet’, has a concise topic or subject expressed in less than 140 characters. Most of the time, there is a link that a follower can click on, taking them to an informative article about what the tweet mentioned. There is also an option for followers of the Earth Day Network to reply to a particular tweet or to mention them using the @ symbol so that the Earth Day Network will see the tweet, even if they are not following the user that mentioned them. In order to have a certain tweet viewed by those who may wish to, the hash tag (#) symbol is used. This denotes a general topic that the tweet falls under and allows that particular tweet to be public among with other tweets that share the same topic. For example, one of Earth Day Network’s tweets:
This tweet would have shown up among other tweets that included the same hash tags, in this case, plant, earthday, and billionsactsofgreen. Through such groups, other users are able to read tweets created by others and decide to follow them if they have aligning interests. The followers of Earth Day Network’s twitter (@earthdaynetwork) range from teenagers, to eco-friendly businesses, bloggers, other non-profit organizations, and even D.C. Congressional representative! Looking at this range of followers, it can be inferred that using twitter as a platform, people of all backgrounds are able to connect, share ideas, and learn from each other. Without this medium, it would not have been as easy for these people and organizations from all over the world to be linked in some way that furthers their environmental interests.
Scrolling through past tweets, there is proof of more solid support that has been gained through this use of social media. Proof of monetary support was shown by the following tweet:
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The twitter ran by an energy sector called Siemens, a company that is a lead supplier in a variety of products in energy technology. Here is an example of how social media is being utilized to offer incentives and benefit two different parties at once. In order for Siemens to gain more followers to receive their stream of tweets, they have offered an incentive to the Earth Day Network. Siemens recognized the potential of publicity and attention the Earth Day Network twitter would get and in order to get their own name out there, they encouraged the Earth Day Network to promote Siemens. In exchange, Siemens offered to donate $1,000 in support of their cause, which was a success.
With Twitter’s smart phone application, users are basically able to tweet from anywhere, any time, and as often as they would like through their phone. There is also a feature that allows pictures to be attached to tweets. One follower of the Earth Day Network tweeted at them with a picture of a cab driver displaying “A Billion Acts of Green” button. This proves how user-friendly, widespread, as well as effective the green message is. Such a tweet echoes the accessibility and informality that twitter entails. This allows a more open, comfortable forum for those who have the slightest interest in environmentalism with those who have made it a focal point in their own lives.
Another social media outlet that the Earth Day Network is utilizing to get the word out is through the social networking service website Facebook. Chief executive and president of Earth Day Network Kathleen Rogers legitimizes their use for Facebook saying “Facebook defines togetherness and has the unique ability to take a positive message and propel it across cultural, national, and religious divides. That’s what Earth Day is all about too.” Currently, the Earth Day Network’s page has over 86,412 fans and counting. What this means is that same number of people have ‘Billion Acts of Green’ displayed on their profile as an interest. Other Facebook users can view their interests, giving the campaign more visibility within the network. Those who have it listed in their profiles are encouraged to invite other users to use the application. Although it may seem like a very small act, this technique can be viewed as a ripple effect. As soon as I had ‘Liked’ the organization’s page, I had an acquaintance from South Africa ‘Like’ that I had displayed on my page. By harnessing the power of connections via Facebook, Earth Day Network and Facebook collaborated to create an application that will record the number actions done by Facebook users in order to help achieve the one billion-act count target.
Jonathon Heiliger, vice president of Technical operations at Facebook, explained, “Facebook’s partnership with Earth Day Network to create and promote the BIlion Acts of Green app is an exciting to harness the Facebook platform’s power and reach on behalf of the environment.” The main website also emphasizes the idea of being able to “connect with fellow environmental activists in your hometown and around the globe.” This is an attractive feature to those who thirst knowledge and creativity in terms of environmentalism. There is a multitude of photos from other countries of people being active and committing “acts of green.” Links to YouTube videos featuring famous people promoting the campaign are accessible from the main page. A few of the videos that have been created and put on YouTube have several thousand views. It can also be a source for inspiration, hope, and motivation to continue to mobilize toward a healthier environment.
By analyzing the use of social media by the Earth Day Network, it is evident that it has been an effective medium in spreading the environmental message. Due to the nature of social media being easily accessible and open, the Earth Day Network has been able to capture and inform a wide range in audience. This system offers a type of transparency to major issues. It can also be seen as an opportunity for those who may feel isolated and helpless to feel connected and strong. The ripple effect made possible by various types of social media cannot be accurately measured and recorded; word of mouth can go a long way.
While researching and exploring this campaign I can attest that it has definitely changed my mindset about my way of life in relation to the environment. I have learned that everything comes from our Earth and at some point in time, go back to the Earth, whether through trash or recycling. I am mindful of what I use in order to have less waste. I have told my roommates that washing clothes in cold-water can save energy and so does unplugging appliances not in use. By implementing these small acts, we saw that we saved money on our electricity bill. This was proof that we were making a difference and it was fiscally beneficial to us! This campaign is just one of many promoting environmentally friendly lifestyles. It really communicates the perspective that everyone on the Earth, no matter his or her background, impacts the environment and has the potential to do so in a positive way.