Earth Day – The Love/Hate Relationship

Earth Day – The Love/Hate Relationship

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 12:05pm


By John Schulz, AVP of Sustainability Operations at AT&T

I know that some people don’t like Earth Day. Not because they hate the earth — the exact opposite, actually. They love the earth so much that they feel that a single day means we don’t need to think about it the other 364 (and sometimes 365) days of the year.

I get it. This isn’t a once-in-a-while deal. Making decisions that include an assessment of environmental impacts needs to be a constant, not an annual celebration.

But I actually like Earth Day, because it reminds me to take a quick moment to reset and acknowledge that while we’ve got work to do, we’re making progress. So, with that, I want to give a shout-out to a few of the folks at AT&T who are working hard every day to improve and transform the environmental aspects of their professional and personal lives.


Just last week, we announced that John Schinter, who was hired as AT&T’s first Director of Energy in 2009, was appointed Assistant Vice President of Energy and Smart Buildings. Under John’s leadership, AT&T implemented over 14,300 energy efficiency projects, producing annualized savings of over $151 million from 2010-2012. (Shameless plug: we’ll report 2013 numbers in our Sustainability Updates in June, so check back for those updates!) John is a dynamic thinker who knows how to get things done, and I can’t wait to see what other advances the company will make with him in his new role.

Our energy work isn’t limited to John and his team, though. Our employees are also personally involved in saving energy through our employee engagement initiative called Do One Thing (DOT). Through DOT, employees across the country make positive changes in their lives that add up to a big impact. In fact, through DOTs chosen by AT&T employees — including initiatives like shutting off lights and computers when they’re not needed and charging devices responsibly — we have saved the same amount of energy as taking 807 cars off of the road for one year.


Acquire something. Use it. Dispose of it. We’re working to reduce the environmental impacts of this “cycle” — both in our operations and for our customers. For instance, our wireless device teams have developed tools such as our Eco-Rating system to inform our customers about the environmental aspects of the device they are planning to purchase. And when customers are done with the device, they can responsibly dispose of it with AT&T’s Trade-In device recycling program. Gary Duffy, our Director of Product Marketing, continues to work on creative ways to encourage consumers to recycle their devices, and we’re looking to do more in the future.

We also have employees throughout the organization who are actively engaged in recycling. For example, Patricia Thatcher, a Project Manager in AT&T network operations, leads a team DOT to recycle containers and packaging both at work and at home. Overall, this team collectively has kept 117,499 lbs. of material out of landfills.


Water is an increasingly vital and stressed resource for our communities, so we joined with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) to create a Water Efficiency Toolkit. This toolkit provides resources to help organizational leaders and facility managers jump-start their water management programs and realize potential water savings of 14-40 percent. Our facilities teams are using these tools to increase the water efficiency of cooling in our own buildings, but we are also working with EDF to share this toolkit with other companies and organizations. Our hope is that they too will see significant water savings in their own operations. For more information on this collaboration, please check out recent media coverage.

Water efficiency occurs in other, less obvious ways, too. Larry Evans, a VP/GM in the Tri-State region, leads a DOT team of 1,230 employees that encourages customers to sign up for paperless billing options and make account changes online. This team alone has saved 33,000+ gallons of water (lots of water is used in paper production). Overall, our employees have saved more than 20 million gallons of water through DOT. 

There’s more, but I’ll stop there. As you can gather, the values that triggered the idea for Earth Day are alive and kicking at AT&T. But these values aren’t limited to one day or one business unit or a few people – they are an important part of our business and our community involvement. So, whether you love or hate Earth Day, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on the reason for this day and give a word of thanks to all of those who lead by example.

CATEGORY: Environment