Lake Erie at sunset

Earth Day 2023: GCP’s first Manager of Sustainability Initiatives on why every day should be Earth Day

There is “green in green” for businesses

Earth Day is April 22.  But sustainability is something that should be a year-round concern.

According to a recent IPCC report, if we do not change our ways now, we will have a very different future landscape. We need to talk about sustainability all year, not just on Earth Day. Future generations deserve to experience our natural world in the same way we have had the privilege of enjoying it.  

Our green city on the blue lake works hard every day to move in a sustainable direction. Our businesses are working with our civic partners to clean the air we breathe and the water we drink. As a region, we are All In for a greener city and future. We are already partaking in many great, sustainable initiatives in the Greater Cleveland area, but we can always strive to do better.

Sustainability is important for business

Sustainability is not viewed as just a “nice to have” for businesses anymore. It is truly a business imperative. In the past three weeks, I have met with over 40 organizations. From these discussions, as well as discussions I have had with others in the past, there were several common themes. First, there is “green in green.” If companies are truly only worried about meeting their bottom line, then implementing sustainability throughout the organization will only help, not hurt. Sustainability involves doing more with less. Implementing sustainable practices also helps with the company culture. I have heard time and time again that one of the most commonly asked questions during the interview process with potential candidates at our local companies is “what are your policies on sustainability.” Especially in the younger generations, people want to know that they will be treated well where they work (the S in ESG) and that the company will treat the planet with respect (the E in ESG). Consumers have also made it very clear – they want sustainable products and solutions.

Cleveland companies are sustainability leaders

There are so many examples of local businesses doing fantastic things, big and small! One great example I experienced recently was visiting our local composting organization, Rust Belt Riders. They work with other local organizations to compost all kinds of food waste, redirecting loads of rubbish from landfills to farms. I have also visited several large organizations recently that are pushing toward a more sustainable business structure. Area companies working hard to develop sustainable products, which will not only reduce their own footprints, but also their customers. Many of their new products and solutions promote a circular economy. For example, increasing use of recycled materials, and making those products recyclable.

Cleveland: Comeback City

We used to be known for our river catching on fire. The “mistake by the lake.” But now? Cleveland has made a huge comeback. The Cuyahoga River winds through the beautiful Cuyahoga Valley National Park – how lucky are we to have a National Park so close to the city? One of our local organizations, the Conservancy for CVNP, is doing great work, funding fantastic initiatives in the park and beyond. If we go upstream, we see people kayaking and fishing. Kids playing in the water at our spectacular beaches on the lake. There are many sustainability success stories that Cleveland has to offer, but I believe our river proves that point to the utmost extent.

A ”climate refuge”

There is a heavy focus on water in our region. Sometimes, we take the bountiful resource of water that Lake Erie provides us for granted. When we do, we start to lose grip on how good we have it. Other parts of the country and world are facing severe drought and flooding, fires, earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters — destruction that we couldn’t even begin to comprehend here. As a potential “climate refuge” we really have it good. So, we need to continue to work every day to ensure our water stays clean and bountiful and our air and land are pollution free.

Emily Keller is the Manager of Sustainability Initiatives at the Greater Cleveland Partnership, where she spreads her passion for sustainability across the region. Emily continuously utilizes her science brain along with her experience in corporate sustainability to push the Greater Cleveland area in a sustainable direction – working toward a green city on a blue lake. Outside of work, Emily is an avid volunteer, loves to be outside as much as possible and has a passion for travel – and of course, a love for plants. Emily graduated from the University of Mount Union with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, minoring in business administration and sustainability. Her number one priority at GCP is to help move the region in a more sustainable direction.


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