You've probably heard the refrain "Make Earth Day every day" a thousand times, but the 40 year-old holiday has at least one important use: innovative brand initiatives. After sorting through the muck of press releases touting companies' commitment to sustainability, there are a number of gems left behind. Here are some of my favorites.
- Disneynature, a new film label from the Walt Disney Company, is promoting its new film Earth by planting a tree for everyone who sees the movie between today and April 28. 500,000 trees are scheduled to be planted already as a result of advanced ticket sales. An environmentally-themed movie being promoted with real, live tree plantings? Sounds like a win for Disneynature and regular nature, too.
- AT&T presents its annual Champions of the Environment Award today , highlighting the environmental achievements of ten employees and work teams. Last year's awards went to a team that added 105 alt-fuel vehicles to the company's fleet, an employee who brews biodiesel, and a team that installed a low-flow toilet project that saves the company 13 million gallons of water and $52,000 each year.
- Global Electric Motorcars (GEM)  has partnered with the Green Youth Movement (GYM) to break ground on a sustainable garden at the Archer School of Girls in Los Angeles, California. GEM and GYM's event marks the beginning of the countrywide Sustainable Garden Project, which will bring student-run gardens to junior high and high schools. GEM is providing cars for the Archer garden's transportation needs as a way to highlight its commitment to sustainability.
- Virgin America is donating $1 for every passenger flying today to environmental restoration efforts at California State Parks. It's a project that hits close to home--the California-based company is known  for its leadership in airline sustainability.
- Thomson Reuters  and NASDAQ OMX are dedicating their Times Square signage  this week to energy-saving facts along with a pro-bono advertisement for Con Edison Solutions' WIND Power Program. With an estimated 1.5 million people passing through Times Square each day, the signs are bound to attract people interested in powering their homes with wind energy.
- UPDATE: We found a sixth innovative green initiative after Earth Day ended--YouSendIt's Earth Day Challenge. As part of the challange, YouSendIt customers are pledging to reduce the number of pages printed, CDs/DVDs burned, and shipments via traditional mail. An online calculator lets users see the cut in carbon emissions, number of trees saved, amount of fresh water preserved, and number of energy BTUs conserved from their pledges.
Have you come across other innovative Earth Day programs? Let us know in the comments.
Related: A Tongue-in-Cheek Guide for Green Gadget Buyers