April 22, 2019 marks the 49th anniversary of the Earth Day movement. What was originally billed as a non-partisan movement, it quickly took on a partisan spin, broadly supported in the beginning by the nation’s youth and the anti-Nixon left. The first Earth Day was, however, a watershed moment in American politics and culture.

And the Earth Day movement continues to this day.

The year was 1970 and the nation was divided on many fronts. The war in Vietnam raged on and the fight over civil rights was still front and center. It seemed in every corner of national politics there was divisiveness like never before. Today’s political climate makes 1970 seem tame by comparison, but in those days people took their passions to the streets. No Facebook. No Twitter.

The Earth Day movement put a face on the direction the country was going in the drive to reduce pollution and the impact humans were having on the planet. Before 1970 was over, the Environmental Protection Agency was established by an executive order signed by President Richard Nixon.

April 22, 2020 will mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. I expect that day will be given a great deal of media attention, beginning this year. It may be a good time to ratchet up your company’s message as it relates to how your operational practices and the products you offer contribute to a cleaner and healthier planet.

The industry has made great strides in how it produces, distributes, and installs roofing systems and is justified in making this fact into a selling point. Compared with 1970, today’s typical low-slope roofing system provides geometrically more building insulation. The typical low-slope roof weighs hundreds of pounds per square less, greatly reducing the amount of pollution from trucking.

For steep-sloped roofs, the industry offers many more options than in 1970. Asphalt-based roofing production pollutes far less, and the finished product lasts considerably longer and is more sustainable. Many metal roofing options available today did not exist in 1970 and the coatings are far superior. Slate and tile remain a sustainable choice but are much more predominant in today’s market.

Opportunities for roofing contractors to recycle spent materials grow constantly. Many retrofit roofing systems do not require tear-off, keeping spent materials out of landfills for many years.

April brings more than just Earth Day to the roofing industry. The National Roofing Contractors Association is sponsoring Roofing Day in D.C. on April 3-4. Last year the event brought out over 400 stakeholders from the roofing industry to make pre-arranged calls on their legislators on Capitol Hill. An even larger group is expected this year. 

If you are curious about roofing in other countries, there are several industry events taking place outside our borders in April. RoofTech 2019 is the Canadian Roofing Exposition and Roof India will explore the roofing industry in that country of over a billion people. You will have to wait until May to attend the China Roofing and Waterproofing Expo in Shanghai. The online version of this column at www.roofingcontractor.com has links to these and other April events.

For many roofing contractors the most important event occurring in April is the break in the weather that will energize production and get them back to work. Best wishes for a great roofing season!

Bonus question: What was the other agency started by an act signed by President Nixon in 1970?