More than ever, Earth Day needs to be about the next generation

Make the green economy happen daily in your community

GROWING UP, Earth Day was always about opportunity  a chance to come together to celebrate our environment and recommit, through small deeds and community events, to taking better care of our planet. This year, as we face dire warnings from scientists and researchers that climate change poses a real threat to our world, Earth Day is more important than ever. But I don’t want to lose sight of the opportunistic mindset that protecting our planet presents. When we prioritize the environment, it is coupled with a cleaner, greener future, which means a strong economy and jobs too. 

Just a few weeks ago, my wife Caroline and I welcomed our daughter into this world. This is an incredibly exciting time for us, but it also forces us to think more critically about the future. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that global warming will exacerbate food shortages, wildfires and other catastrophes as soon as 2040. What this world will look like when she is my age? What will it look like when she has children of her own?  While this outlook may seem gloomy, I remain optimistic about our ability to chart a better course for her generation, because we have the solutions to transition to a clean economy at our fingertips. We just need to act on them. 

For seven years, I have been the president of Project Repat – a company that upcycles t-shirts into high quality, affordable quilts. We actively reduce waste by taking shirts that would have otherwise ended up in landfills, and transform them into t-shirt quilts that customers are excited to buy. We have created more than 100 textile jobs right here in the United States, and already upcycled more than 3 million t-shirts. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. There are over a billion t-shirts printed in the US every year! Most of them are made overseas by low-wage workers, and it takes seventy gallons of water to just produce one shirt.  

Taking time to clean up the river, reduce food waste, and discuss expanding the plastic bag ban statewide this week is important, but let’s also use this moment to advocate for a shift to renewable business practices and advancing clean energy. 

Massachusetts’ clean energy sector has shown us that a commitment to reducing the state’s carbon footprint can also mean creating over 100,000 jobs, and contributing $13 billion in economic growth. We have had some successes that include being a part of the first of its kind regional cap and trade structure to reduce emissions in the electric sector, ranking as the most energy efficient state for the eighth year in a row, and most recently procuring the largest offshore wind farm in the United States. But the large-scale change we need will only happen if we build on this momentum and make bold investments in innovation, clean technologies, and policies that benefit our environment. 

Meet the Author
As a parent holding my newborn, I feel now more than ever that we have a generational obligation to leave a better world for those who come after us. I hope that on this Earth Day we will commit to addressing the greatest challenge of our time, and act now to provide our children with a healthy planet and prosperous future. 

Nathan Rothstein is president of Project Repat.