Nike made the famous ‘swish’ the iconic symbol to represent the popular slogan: “Just Do It”. In the same way, the Choctaw Nation has made a turtle the symbol of what should be America’s most ubiquitous rallying slogan: “It’s the Right Thing to Do”.
In a recent interview with three Choctaw Nation representatives, the story behind the slogan was revealed as it pertains to the Go Green initiative started about two years ago. Chief Pyle and Assistant Chief Gary Batton challenged Tracy Horst and a small team to explore what recycling and energy conservation actions could be done to make a difference. The Go Green team came back with a strategic plan and launched the effort with a slogan contest. The official winning slogan: “Sustaining our People, our Traditions, our Earth” with a turtle (or Luksi in Choctaw) as the official campaign mascot.
Meeting quarterly, the Go Green leaders have a three-phase approach. Phase one: get their employees engaged in the recycling process. To date more than 80 of the Tribe’s 200 properties are already participating in Go Green programs (Information on some of these programs can be found at: http://s3.amazonaws.com/choctaw-msldigital/assets/465/bishinik201005_original.pdf.) Two, direct Tribal members to get involved through Wednesday community center projects and, finally, get the area communities to support the plan actively.
The mission focuses on energy conservation and recycling. Recycling alone will convince even the greatest skeptics that anyone can make a stunning impact in his or her area. Americans use more than 80 billion aluminum soda cans a year; these will still be cans in 500 years if left in a landfill. When recycled, a single soda can saves enough energy to run a TV for three hours. The average household throws away 13,000 separate pieces of paper each year. Yet every ton of paper recycled yields a 64% energy savings, a 58% water savings, and 60 pounds less air pollution. As for glass, the energy to light a 100-watt light bulb for four hours or a small fluorescent bulb for 20 hours can be generated from recycling one glass bottle. (Source: http://www.recycling-revolution.com/recycling-facts.html.)
Why have the Choctaw’s recycling programs yielded such substantive success? The Choctaw Nation has addressed the issue more like a high-performing corporation does to achieve a strategic objective rather than addressing it as a lofty, wished-for charity project. Under further scrutiny, their success appears to be driven by leaders who made the commitment to initiate the mission, by advocates committed to educating others concerning the mission, and by employees and community members who participate in the fulfillment of the mission. Tracy Horst, along with the Tribes’ Go Green team, champions the cause using a variety of methods. Email alerts and newsletter articles to inform, the Choctaw Nation’s Youth Advisory Board groups to teach, employee groups to share energy saving practices, and the community to contribute their recycled goods to the Choctaw’s 30,000 square foot recycling facility.
Doug Wood, Energy Manager for the Choctaw, notes that every corporate and Tribal leader can easily apply practices that cost nothing. These include, among others, setting water heaters at 120 degrees. Wood points out, “Any hotter and we end up wasting more (cold) water to prevent scalding our skin.”
Additionally, controlling all building thermostats at a lower temperature in winter and higher in summer along with reducing the number of lights in each office is a simple practical savings. Consider the fact that a typical small conference room, which may have as many as 100 lights, can effectively operate with only 30 lights.
The Choctaw Nation is making a substantive difference for our great planet by applying the fundamental steps American businesses have used for years to fulfill corporate performance goals: initiate, educate and participate. It stands to reason that our nation’s company leaders (Tribal and non-Tribal) should be able to do the same. Why? Without a second to pause, Horst triumphantly proclaims, “Because it’s the right thing to do.”