This year, Earth Day was bigger than ever, which prompted some hand-wringing over whether too many people were jumping on the green bandwagon. Wait a minute: Earth Day, too big? Didn’t we want everyone on this bandwagon?

Sustainability is a challenge we all face; our response to it could well define the 21st century. If we are going to succeed, it will take more than a “business as usual” approach. In fact, we believe the whole definition of “business as usual” needs to be upended. Business can no longer afford to ignore environmental warnings; environmentalists can no longer demonize business. Sustainability has made us understand, in a way we never would have before, that we all share a common fate. We need to face the reality that — like it or not — we’re in this together.

That’s why we — Sierra Club and The Clorox Company — decided it was time to bridge the gap and come together as partners. For some, the idea was unthinkable. Had Sierra Club sold out? Was Clorox trying to greenwash? What could “the bleach maker” and the “oldest and largest environmental organization” have in common? The partnership we forged for the launch of the Green Works brand showed just how much.

At Sierra Club, we decided if the goal of green continued to seem so huge, so unattainable, so out of reach, people would give up. Through a partnership with Clorox and the Green Works brand, we could show that it was possible for a big company to take the first steps toward a greener future and consumers could live a little greener every day. Also important, financial support from the Green Works brand will help Sierra Club continue our conservation efforts, including the protection of America’s clean air, clean water, wildlife and special places.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

At Clorox, we’re proud that Green Works products can put green within reach since consumers do not need to travel to a specialty store to find them. Green Works products give us the chance to take natural cleaning mainstream. It may sound as if we have drunk the Kool-Aid, but since Green Works products entered the market, the natural cleaning category has been growing very strongly.

We both recognize the journey ahead. In the past year, Clorox has made major strides with its environmental sustainability initiatives, but it has a long way to go. Like any company, it’s an ongoing journey. At the same time, the Sierra Club needs the muscle and reach to push for the changes necessary to preserve our environment while also encouraging companies like Clorox to support green initiatives and engaging them in a very direct and frank dialogue about what additional improvements need to be made.

But when we rang the opening bell together at the New York Stock Exchange, it was one more demonstration that the unthinkable can and should happen.

American ingenuity and innovation can lead the way when it comes to improving clean technologies and protecting the environment. We had one industrial revolution; why not another? This partnership is just one example of how we can focus our investment and initiative on the challenge of building a clean economy for future generations.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.