How to give back to the planet on Earth Day and every day
When the very first Earth Day was held on April 22, 1970, it took place primarily on college campuses and in grade schools across the United States. Approximately 20 million Americans participated in that inaugural event, making it the most successful environmental demonstration at that point in history. Today, the nature-themed holiday has blossomed into a global celebration that reaches upwards of a billion people around the world. As the 48th annual Earth Day approaches, here are some simple activities and practical suggestions to help you and your family better manage your own environmental impact throughout the entire year.
1. Getting around town
Instead of jumping in your car for short trips, hop on your bicycle instead. By cycling around your neighborhood instead of driving, you'll cut down on harmful greenhouse gas emissions while enjoying some fun and beneficial exercise. It's a win-win situation.
When it comes to your car, fuel efficiency is the name of the game. Depending on the condition of your vehicle, several government programs around the country provide financial incentives to help you upgrade to a newer, cleaner, more energy-efficient car. For example, in California, the popular Replace Your Ride program offers substantial rebates to drivers who are ready to trade in their high-polluting vehicle for an electric or hybrid model.
2. Make your home energy efficient
In keeping with the phrase “think globally, act locally," the fastest way to make a significant contribution to the environment starts at home. Begin by switching to highly efficient LED light bulbs throughout your house or apartment. Not only will they help you conserve energy, they'll cut down your utility bills as well.
Adjusting the various heating and cooling units in your home by just a few degrees can also have a dramatic impact on both the environment and your budget. From your dishwasher to your thermostat to your refrigerator and electric dryer, a barely-noticeable temperature adjustment makes a significant difference in the long run.
3. Naturally delicious
Although they might cost a little bit more, switching to organic vegetables has a direct impact on the planet's health. Since factory farms introduce harmful pesticides and toxins into our environment, purchasing local organic produce instead is a tasty way to support sustainability and clean living. Or better yet, start a backyard vegetable garden and grow dinner yourself.
Speaking of your yard, replacing a thirsty lawn with one that's more drought-resistant is a great way to conserve water and cut down on high utility bills as well. If that's too big of a project, then repairing leaky, broken sprinklers is an easy way to make a quick environmental difference.
4. Less is more
Let's face it: from food to clothing to common household products, most of us buy and consume far more than we actually need. This explains why a recent movement to scale back on unnecessary purchases has produced dramatic environmental results. Buying fewer disposable items cuts down on the avalanche of waste that ends up in landfills around the country, so choose products that use less packaging and help lighten the load.
If you're looking for a practical tip to make an environmental difference, recycling is an excellent way to cut back on the amount of trash each of us produces annually. For example, reusable water bottles and reusable shopping bags are a perfect way to help reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in landfills. Similarly, by donating clothing to charities rather than throwing it away you'll solve two problems with one easy action.
5. Group effort
Environmentally conscious volunteering is an excellent way to have fun while helping to save the planet, so sign your family up for a weekend volunteer program in your hometown. Not only will you make a difference where it's needed most, you'll teach your children the value of community service.
If you're new to environmental volunteering, The Nature Conservancy is a great place to learn all about it. Founded in 1951, this nonprofit organization is dedicated to protecting our planet's natural resources by providing structured programs that match volunteers of all ages with projects that foster a sustainable world. From cleaning polluted rivers in Kansas to maintaining hiking trails in Maine to seed harvesting in Indiana, The Nature Conservancy has a volunteer opportunity that's right for you.
6. Paper trail
To help save trees, switch to online banking and reduce the massive amount of paper that's wasted annually. Skipping the receipt that you get at the ATM is another easy way to cut down on your paper consumption. Though some of these changes may seem small, when considered on a global scale they can produce impressive environmental results.
When shopping for paper products to use at home, look for labels that indicate they've been previously recycled. Many companies now proudly advertise that their products contain 80-100% recycled paper, which makes choosing sustainable brands much easier.
7. Explore your world
Visiting one of our country's 60 national parks is a wonderful way to support the environment while experiencing nature's awe-inspiring beauty firsthand. Since the small cost of every park admission ticket contributes funds that provide much-needed services to help with conservation efforts, why not plan a trip to one of them today? For information about the many ways that the National Park Service protects the environment, visit the National Parks Conservation Association website.
Right now, around the world, brave members of America's armed forces are on duty, defending our freedom and upholding our values.
When not laser-focused on the mission at hand, they're looking forward to the day when their service to our nation is fulfilled and they can reunite with their families.
They are also imagining how they can use their hard-earned skills to build an exciting, rewarding and important career when they return home.
I want them to look no further than United Airlines.
That's why we are focused on recruiting, developing and championing veterans across our company, demonstrating to our returning women and men in uniform that United is the best possible place for them to put their training, knowledge, discipline and character to the noblest use.
They've developed their knowledge and skills in some of the worst of times. We hope they will use those skills to keep United performing at our best, all of the time.
That's why we are accelerating our efforts to onboard the best and the brightest, and substantially increasing our overall recruitment numbers each year.
We recently launched a new sponsorship program to support onboarding veterans into United and a new care package program to support deployed employees. It's one more reason why United continues to rank high - and rise higher - as a top workplace for veterans. In fact, we jumped 21 spots this year on Indeed.com's list of the top U.S workplaces for veterans. This is a testament to our increased recruiting efforts, as well as our efforts to create a culture where veterans feel valued and supported.
We use the special reach and resources of our global operations to partner with outstanding organizations. This is our way of stepping up and going the extra mile for all those who've stepped forward to answer our nation's call.
We do this year-round, and the month of November is no exception; however, it is exceptional, especially as we mark Veterans Day.
As we pay tribute to all Americans who have served in uniform and carried our flag into battle throughout our history, let's also keep our thoughts with the women and men who are serving around the world, now. They belong to a generation of post-9/11 veterans who've taken part in the longest sustained period of conflict in our history.
Never has so much been asked by so many of so few.... for so long. These heroes represent every color and creed. They are drawn from across the country and many immigrated to our shores.
They then freely choose to serve in the most distant and dangerous regions of the world, to protect democracy in its moments of maximum danger.
Wherever they serve - however they serve - whether they put on a uniform each day, or serve in ways which may never be fully known, these Americans wake up each morning willing to offer the "last full measure of devotion" on our behalf.
Every time they do so, they provide a stunning rebuke to the kinds of voices around the world who doubt freedom and democracy's ability to defend itself.
Unfortunately, we know there are those who seem to not understand – or say they do not - what it is that inspires a free people to step forward, willing to lay down their lives so that their country and fellow citizens might live.
But, we – who are both the wards and stewards of the democracy which has been preserved and handed down to us by veterans throughout our history – do understand.
We know that inciting fear and hatred of others is a source of weakness, not strength. And such divisive rhetoric can never inspire solidarity or sacrifice like love for others and love of country can.
It is this quality of devotion that we most honor in our veterans - those who have served, do serve and will serve.
On behalf of a grateful family of 96,000, thank you for your service.
Each year around Veterans Day, Indeed, one of the world's largest job search engines, rates companies based on actual employee reviews to identify which ones offer the best opportunities and benefits for current and former U.S. military members. Our dramatic improvement in the rankings this year reflects a stronger commitment than ever before to actively recruiting, developing and nurturing veteran talent.
"We've spent a lot of time over the past 12 months looking for ways to better connect with our employees who served and attract new employees from the military ranks," said Global Catering Operations and Logistics Managing Director Ryan Melby, a U.S. Army veteran and the president of our United for Veterans business resource group.
"Our group is launching a mentorship program, for instance, where we'll assign existing employee-veterans to work with new hires who come to us from the armed forces. Having a friend and an ally like that, someone who can help you translate the skills you picked up in the military to what we do as a civilian company, is invaluable. That initiative is still in its infancy, but I'm really optimistic about what it can do for United and for our veteran population here."
Impressively, we were the only one of our industry peers to move up on the list, further evidence that we're on a good track as a company.
The question of where David Ferrari was had haunted retired U.S. Army Sergeant Major Vincent Salceto for the better part of 66 years.
Rarely did a week go by that Salceto didn't think about his old friend. Often, he relived their last moments together in a recurring nightmare. In it, it's once again 1953 and Salceto and Ferrari are patrolling a valley in what is now North Korea. Suddenly, explosions shatter the silence and flares light up the night sky.
Crouching under a barrage of bullets, Salceto, the squad's leader, drags two of his men to safety, then he sees Ferrari lying face down on the ground. He runs out to help him, but he's too late. And that's when he always wakes up.
Italian Americans from opposite coasts – Salceto from Philadelphia, Ferrari from San Francisco – the two became close, almost like brothers, after being assigned to the same unit during the Korean War. When Ferrari died, it hit Salceto hard.
"After that, I never let anyone get close to me like I did with Dave," he says. "I couldn't; I didn't want to go through that again."
When the war ended, Salceto wanted to tell Ferrari's family how brave their son and brother had been in battle. Most of all, he wanted to salute his friend at his gravesite and give him a proper farewell.
For decades, though, Salceto had no luck finding his final resting place or locating any of his relatives. Then, in June of this year, he uncovered a clue that led him to the Italian Cemetary in Colma, California, where Ferrari is buried.
Within days, Salceto, who lives in Franklinville, New Jersey, was packed and sitting aboard United Flight 731 from Philadelphia to San Francisco with his wife, Amy, and daughter, Donna Decker, on his way to Colma. For such a meaningful trip, he even wore his Army dress uniform.
That's how San Francisco-based flight attendant Noreen Baldwin spotted him as he walked down the jet bridge to get on the plane.
"I saw him and said to the other crew members, 'Oh my goodness, look at this guy,'" she says. "I knew there had to be a story."
The two struck up a conversation and Salceto told Baldwin why he was traveling. She got emotional listening to him talk and made a point of fussing over him, making sure he and his family had everything they needed.
About halfway through the flight, Baldwin had an idea. She and her fellow crew members would write messages of encouragement to Salceto and invite his fellow passengers to do the same.
"We did it discreetly," says Baldwin. "I asked the customers if they saw the man in uniform, which most had, and asked them if they wanted to write a few words for him on a cocktail napkin. A lot of people did; families did it together, parents got their kids to write something. After the first few rows, I was so choked up that I could barely talk."
When Baldwin surprised Salceto with dozens of hand-written notes, he, too, was speechless. He laid the stack on his lap and read each one. At the same time, the pilots made an announcement about the veteran over the loud speaker, after which the customers on board burst into applause.
"It seems contrived, and I hate using the word organic, but that's what it was; it just happened," Baldwin says. "Mr. Salceto was so loveable and humble, and what he was doing was so incredible, it felt like the right thing to do. And you could tell he was touched."
On June 27, Salceto finally stood before Ferrari's grave and said that long-awaited goodbye. As a trumpeter played "Taps," he unpinned a medal from his jacket and laid it reverently on the headstone.
"I had gotten a Bronze Star for my actions [the night Ferrari died] with a 'V' for valor, and that was the medal I put on Dave's grave," says Salceto, pausing to fight back tears. "I thought he was more deserving of it than I was."
For the first time in years, Salceto felt at peace. His mission was accomplished.