Each year, around Earth Day, we all put a little more effort into saving our planet. Recycling, reducing and reusing more. For years and year-round, I took small, personal steps to help combat the detrimental effects we were having on our planet and our ecosystem, but I knew it wasn’t enough. I wanted to act on a larger scale, and as a Business Analyst on our Customer Experience team, I knew I could – because at Cisco we’re encouraged to combine our passions. For me, that was sustainability and giving back.
With the support of incredible Cisco colleagues and Citizen Schools, a nonprofit that expands learning opportunities for middle-school students in low-income communities, I was able to begin educating the next generation of leaders on our carbon footprint and environmental sustainability. It felt amazing to give something of myself to a larger cause, and to see my impact!
Over the course of a few months, in an entirely new virtual learning setting, I saw students who were normally shy or hands-off transform into effective problem-solvers. They recognized the immensity of the situation and vowed to take their own small steps to help – like using less single-use plastics and conserving more electricity at home.
It was now no longer ‘just me’ taking these steps, but I had effectively passed that passion on to a younger generation – and we bonded over our efforts. And when the students recognized that they could only do so much themselves, they shared what they learned with others – even asking for responsibility from corporations and governments. One of my proudest moments was sharing the work that Cisco is doing to decrease our carbon footprint and set an example for companies around the world, like signing the Capital Equipment Pledge, in which Cisco committed to 100% product return, and achieving 83% of Cisco’s global electricity coming from renewable resources.
A big focus of our curriculum was on Product Carbon Footprint and the Life Cycle Assessment which analyzes the environmental impact of a product or service. For our students, solutions to decrease their individual impact included shopping local and reusing items as much as possible. However, holding companies responsible to decrease their impact is just as important, and we discussed how Cisco is moving from a linear economy, where products are used and then thrown away, to a circular economy that makes better use of limited natural resources.
This inspired hope in these young students that both individuals and corporations are being held responsible to help our planet thrive.
We also focused on sustainable eating as a solution to decreasing our carbon footprint. Students were surprised to learn how much carbon is emitted from eating meat, so we added a “Meatless Monday” challenge each week, which increased our fruit and vegetable intake and saved greenhouse gases that were equivalent to driving 1,160 miles. We encouraged students to build their own gardens in their backyard or community, like Cisco’s Green Team Network does for employees on our San Jose campus (and other sites around the world have done as well).
While we have a long way to go in the efforts of sustainability and better positioning our planet’s health, we can start today by taking small steps to reduce our carbon footprint and raise awareness on the issue to those who will inherit the Earth after us. I’m happy to work for a company that values sustainability and actively works to combat climate change.
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