Silent treatment

I worked for Aflac for 6 years, and in that time, my teammates started calling me Captain Planet. I made a bet with a coworker one time with high stakes for me: If I lost, I would have to use a Styrofoam cup every day, and throw each one away. The trash can, mind you, is right next to the recycle bin.

Sad Brad, unwilling enemy of the Earth, actually being forced to throw away a week's worth of styrofoam.
Sad Brad, unwilling enemy of the Earth, crying as he’s forced to chunk a week’s worth of cups in the trash. Doesn’t a Miami Dolphins fan suffer enough?

What we were betting on is pointless insider crap, and I can’t remember what my coworker staked. Because I lost. And I can only assume that she actually hated me, as Styrofoam is a carcinogen that never ever never biodegrades and is MADE WITH OIL.

Point is, it was a sad week.

By and large, while I worked in marketing at Aflac, I didn’t say too much on The Dew Abides about all the cool things the company did to make good environmental decisions. Partly, I didn’t want to feel like a shill (yet I was in marketing. I know, right?). Partly, these were internal things that people outside the company couldn’t participate in. And partly, even though the company tried to do the right thing, sometimes it still fell short. Take those recycle bins next to the trash: Boneheaded employees would still throw their recyclables in the trash can, or throw half-full cups into the recycle bin, where they’d gestate for a week.

But the company tries, and mightily so. When they refurbished the building where I worked, they got it LEED certified, complete with (gah!) waterless urinals. The print shop on site chewed up a large chunk of its parking lot installing a behemoth of a paper recycling and compacting device.

The other way they always made me proud was how they handled Earth Hour – which is Saturday.

Every year the company has non-essential power go down for the hour. They even send a maintenance worker through the cube aisles throwing off plug-in task lights at folks’ desks, since those are on a different circuit.

Is that a pain in the tail-feathers? Oh, I’m sure.

Cynics would say that Aflac’s conservation efforts don’t come because of some ethical stance, but because they make business sense. The company reports that in the past 7 years, it’s reduced energy consumption by more than 38 percent per square foot – saving the company nearly $6.5 million.

Really I don’t care about the motive in this case, so long as the end means less coal burned and fewer turbines turned. But if the company’s motive wasn’t altruistic, why would the maintenance guy walk cube to cube among 4,000 desks and flip switches off, even when no one’s around to see – or to not see in this case – it happen?

Because the company believes in the symbolic gesture that is Earth Hour.

It’s an hour to be deliberately unplugged, off the grid and in the dark. Jenn and I have done it several years running and actually had a blast reading passages to each other by candlelight. But if that’s too schmaltzy for you, Vin Diesel, just take an evening walk, or lie down and clear your head of noise for an hour. And be thankful you don’t have 4,000 cubes to check to make sure the switches are off.

Earth Hour is 8:30-9:30 on Saturday. Enjoy it.

Aflac tower at night

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