Swishing…Or “How We Dressed Up Earth Day at EPA”

By Heather Barnhart

My father’s birthday is the beginning of May, and every year I struggle to think up the perfect – and new! – gift idea. Earth Day’s approach fills me with this same nagging need to come up with something innovative. We’re social creatures and our attitudes, opinions, and values on issues and situations develop into norms, which are behaviors evolved from the collective. The movement from opinion and value to norm is basis for developing an environmental ethic. And the wonderful thing about Earth Day is that it’s supposed to be fun – fun and celebratory, fun and SOCIAL.

How do I take something that happens every year and make it special and unique and maybe just a bit exciting? We decided to encourage employees to reuse/recycle by holding a swap, which we called a swish to be more posh like our friends across the pond.  Swishing is a fun, accessible, and free way to promote reuse because everyone has, needs, and buys THINGS. Our individual choices have environmental impacts and the amount, number and types of things we buy, reuse, and/or recycle impacts the environment. At the event employees could also learn about trash, waste disposal, and take a personal Ecological Footprint quiz to learn about their own impacts on the environment.

If you want to swish, it just takes planning and the dedication of some volunteers. Here in NYC, we take our status as one of the world’s fashion capitals seriously and focused on men’s and women’s accessories (along with our partners from the IRS and the FAA). Employees donated nearly 300 items towards the event and what wasn’t taken was donated to a local charity. Our fellow feds at U.S. Army Core of Engineers at Fort Hamilton extended their swishing to include household goods and electronics and also received more than 250 contributions from employees!

Even if you don’t swish, there are also some amazing resources in New York and New Jersey for reuse and recycling. Find out where you can donate, sell, and fix things in the NYC area at the NYC Exchange and where you can buy recycled in New Jersey on the NJ Department of Environmental Protection’s website.

Most of all remember that EARTH DAY IS EVERY DAY!