In a time where life is starting to return to normal and hope is beginning to be a little easier to accept, Earth Day this year is welcoming more reflective and appreciative conversation than usual. After a year of quarantining and not enjoying the planet as much as everyone is used to, society can slowly love our environment and natural wonders with a new perspective.

Since the first Earth Day in 1970, April 22 has become a day to stress the importance of sustainability and care for the planet, and the glass industry is following suit.

Pennsylvania-based Solar Innovations works to ensure sustainable practices and is taking an extra step to celebrate Earth Day this year.

“We’ve been preparing for Earth Day for the past year with the expansion of our solar panel array to help power our facility completely with solar power,” says the company’s marketing coordinator, Benjamin Foreman. “We strive every day to recycle everything possible, limit our waste, promote sustainable practices among our team, and prioritize the health of our environment in general where possible.”

Foreman adds that today, some members of their team are even working in their greenhouse to cultivate some organic vegetables. “Because our facility is so close to nature, it’s wonderful to be able to spend so much of our time preserving the land and working with the organizations we have worked with over the past 23 years to further assist in this goal.”

Rob Struble, brand and communications manager with Vitro Architectural Glass, says for his company, sustainability is a way of thinking “throughout the year, as part of our culture. Sustainability is one of our driving pillars as a corporation. It drives our day-to-day operations, our product development, our research and development. Even in marketing, where in recent weeks, we’ve joined Mindful Materials and joined the DOE’s Building Envelope Campaign, as well as support their Better Plants initiative and Energy Star plant certification.”

In addition to producing energy-efficient, sustainable product, Vitro’s production is also energy-conscious, as its Fresno, Calif., plant has earned the Environmental Protection Agency’s Agency (EPA) Energy Star® certification for superior energy efficiency. The Fresno plant, which operates an oxygen-fuel-powered glass furnace, earned the certification by registering an energy performance score ranked in the 75th percentile or higher among other float glass manufacturing plants in the United States.

Guardian Glass is also focused on energy efficiency and environmental awareness, not just in its products, but also how they are made. The company’s float glass plant in DeWitt, Iowa, has earned the U.S. EPA Energy Star certification, signifying that the industrial plant performs in the top 25% of similar facilities nationwide for energy efficiency and meets strict energy efficiency performance levels set by the EPA, according to the company. The company says it worked to improve its energy performance by managing energy strategically across the entire organization and by making cost-effective improvements to its plant.

Sustainability and environmental awareness are also important for Ace Glass in Little Rock, Ark., where it operates in a solar-powered facility.

“To me, Earth Day is about appreciation,” says executive vice president, Marcus Singleton. “Appreciating all the resources on the planet that so often get taken for granted and appreciating that we have a role in keeping the Earth clean and beneficial.”

One effort for the company was the start-up of a non-profit, ACE Glass Recycling.

“ACE Glass Recycling not only strives to keep glass out of landfills but also promotes the education and importance of recycling as many products as possible,” says Singleton. “This Earth Day, with the American Subcontractors Association and local sponsors, we are helping with a general contractor appreciation event with 600+ attendees that will be 100% waste-free–from not only recycling glass and aluminum but also recycling plastic and food waste. Every little bit helps, and we want to do our part by encouraging others to ‘Keep Arkansas Natural.'”

Chip Wilson, YKK AP’s environmental group manager, says that since the company’s founder, Tadahiro Yoshida, wrote the first environmental charter in 1994, his company has been governed to adhere to those ecological practices and initiatives.

“We’ve continued to grow in our sustainability practices, whether it is considering the process for how we manufacture a product or developing a product designed to reduce energy usage,” Wilson says. “To us, Earth Day is an everyday endeavor of living and achieving corporate values of higher principle by honoring our planet.”

“There are so many ways our industry can help the environment. By making environmental sustainability a core value for your company, it can infuse every aspect of your business with changes to positively impact the communities in which you work as well as the world,” he says.

Bernard Lax, CEO of Pulp Studio, adds, “Our daily commitment to recycling our water, glass waste, paper and plastic products, along with the use of solar-generated power means that our commitment is not just one day a year… It is our lifestyle!”

While countries are starting to open back up and recover from the pandemic, traveling becomes more accessible and life slowly returns to how it once was; let’s view every day as Earth Day. And enjoy the natural wonders with a newfound appreciation.

There have also been many federal and state legislative efforts focused on energy efficiency and environmental awareness. One of the most recent, is North Carolina House Bill 245, Efficient Government Buildings & Savings Act. Proposed by Representative John Szoka (Rep), the bill concerns State buildings managed by the Department of Administration (DOA) and State institutions of higher learning. The bill proposes such measures as creating a 40% energy conservation requirement for those State buildings by 2028; eliminating the requirement for the DOA to conduct energy audits every five years; and increasing energy efficiency standards for major facility construction projects and renovations by those State agencies, among other proposed items. The bill also proposes allowing State agencies and institutions of higher learning to include additional improvements and upgrades to provide healthy indoor environments, increase resilience, conserve water resources, and apply to building sustainability rating or certification systems.