April 22, 2010, marks the 40th Earth Day celebrated in the United States. This year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is asking people to join in protecting the planet by choosing at least five actions to which they can commit.

Beverage companies are no strangers to environmental protection actions that can make an impact. In Industry Issues this month on page 10, the magazine covers The Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta; PepsiCo, Purchase, N.Y.; and Anheuser-Busch InBev, St. Louis, announcements about initiatives to combat water scarcity and reduce their companies’ environmental impacts.

In addition, late last month, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo made announcements about the new ways they are supporting energy reduction and recycling. On March 27 at 8:30 p.m. local time, Coca-Cola darkened many of its signs as well as offices and bottling facilities across the globe in support of the World Wildlife Fund’s Earth Hour. Earth Hour is an event during which millions of people turn out their lights for one hour in support of action on climate change. The company also conducted awareness-raising events with its “Switch Off” campaign encouraging Coca-Cola employees along with their families and friends to participate in Earth Hour activities.

This year marks the fourth Earth Hour event, which attracted more than 80 million participants in the United States last year, and nearly a billion people around the world, as lights dimmed on such global icons as the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Sydney’s Opera House, and New York’s Empire State Building. Coca-Cola darkened signs in Times Square in New York, Piccadilly Circus in London, San Pedro Sula in Honduras and Kings Cross in Sydney. In Atlanta, the company’s headquarters, the World of Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola Enterprises and Coca-Cola North America went dark; Earth Hour messages were displayed on lobby monitors; and employees were encouraged to wear black the Friday prior to the event as additional promotion.

“Forging real progress toward a cleaner future will require behavioral changes from consumers and business,” said Muhtar Kent, Coca-Cola’s chairman and chief executive officer, in a statement. “Earth Hour is an important, symbolic event that demonstrates that even small steps, when taken on a global scale, can make a difference in addressing climate change.”

PepsiCo announced its intent to promote higher rates of beverage container recycling in the United States as one of a series of goals and commitments spanning business performance, nutrition, environmental sustainability and the well-being of employees. Specifically, PepsiCo said it intends to create partnerships that promote the increase of U.S. beverage container recycling rates to 50 percent by 2018.

While Earth Day is just one day in April, I’m sure the entire year will be full of initiatives beverage companies commit to for protecting the environment.

Related Links:
For more beverage company announcements, read the Beverage Industry Newsletter.
March 2010 Plant Focus: Sierra Nevada’s sustainability initiatives
Nov. 2009 Coca-Cola Enterprises sets its sights on sustainability