In the past several years, businesses have recognized that environmental initiatives — from recycling to encouraging the use of public transportation — are not only good for the earth, but for their companies, too.
A bird-watching couple arrived
at the Watertown offices of Tufts Health Plan earlier this year with some surprising news: A pair of endangered peregrine falcons that had been nesting on the insurance provider’s roof for two years had laid eggs.
The building, the highest in Watertown, is near Mount Auburn Cemetery, a well-known haunt of avian enthusiasts. The birds are one of only a couple dozen nesting pairs of peregrines in the state, and they had set up house near an American flag that gets raised and lowered each day.
Tufts Health Plan leaders immediately called in state wildlife officials to find out how to keep the falcons safe. “We need to respect the falcon’s struggle, you know?” said director of real estate Ron Reppucci.
The real buzz began when the fledglings hatched earlier this year.
Peregrines often nest in the same spot, and if the birds come back next year, the insurer hopes to set up a live camera feed to show the birds in real time.
Inside the Congress Street offices of Stantec, thousands of workers toil in the kitchen, munching their way through leafy lunch leftovers and used office paper to turn trash into compost. These red wiggler worms have helped the engineering and architectural firm cut down on waste by 10 to 20 percent, estimates architect and worm caretaker Jenna Beltram. Employees use the compost and resulting liquid fertilizer, known as “tea,” to tend plants at the office and at home. What started out as 1,000 worms in 2007, when several Stantec employees decided to do something about the banana peels and strawberry tops in the trash, has grown into a workforce of 12,000.
“They’re kind of the office pets,” Beltram said. “Everyone is invested in their well-being.”
The filo dough dessert filled with ricotta and honey, the Aura house salad with baby lettuces and honey vinaigrette, the Long Trail honey ginger IPA — indulging in these items at the Seaport Boston Hotel supports local agriculture.
How local? The honey for these products is made just five floors up, on the roof, where executive steward cum “bee master” Edwin Medrano and his team tend a million bees.
The hotel started the hives about three years ago after managers learned of an often mysterious sickness endangering bees across the country. “We thought, ‘We can help,’” said general manager Jim Carmody.
So Medrano’s superiors sent the steward to beekeeping school and purchased 5,000 Buckfast bees. The hotel’s first harvest yielded 140 pounds of honey; its most recent netted 350 pounds. Next up: a rooftop vegetable garden pollinated by the bees.
Working with the bees is empowering, Medrano said, but it also adds a touch of danger to his day: “I’ve been stung in an area that I never thought a bee would get me.”
It’s better by bicycle
Years before the Hubway bike-sharing program planted wheels across the city, Shawmut Design and Construction began offering its employees the use of 10-speeds to get to work appointments.
The Boston general contracting firm wanted to encourage employees to travel in an environmentally sustainable way. It’s also a convenient way to get around the city, said Tom Perry, director of engineering services and keeper of the bike lock keys.
“Parking in Boston [is] expensive, and you could be late for a meeting trying to find parking,” he said. “So much better to ride a bike.”
Any of Shawmut’s 429 Boston employees can use the bikes after they take a safety course. The company, which also provides helmets, locks, and travel bags, is considering expanding the program to other offices.
Shawmut also purchases wind energy credits to offset its power use in the Boston office.
“If you’re helping your client develop sustainable design and construction,” Perry said, “you need to walk the walk.”
A farm-fresh deposit
Every Friday from spring to fall, PeoplesBank transforms the pavement in front of its Holyoke headquarters into a bit of paradise, filled with fresh fruit, vegetables, flowers, and other greenery.
The bank began hosting an afternoon farmers market a few years ago, after chief executive and Holyoke native Douglas Bowen expressed a desire to give back to the environment and the community.
“We’re a local community bank, and for us to be supporting local agriculture, that’s just very important to us,” said Susan B. Wilson, vice president of corporate responsibility.
The bank partners with a family farm stand business for the Friday market, showcasing locally grown produce. It has become a convenience for PeoplesBank employees and hundreds of other workers in the office complex, who can pop outside for a few minutes at the end of the week to load up on fresh groceries.
“It was so visually appealing,” said Janice Mazzallo, senior vice president of human resources, recalling a recent market. “You looked out there and you saw the cornstalks and pumpkins.”
This past spring, leadership at Ironwood Pharmaceuticals threw a “meet your neighbor social” in its Cambridge cafeteria. But the lunchtime gathering was more than just a friendly meet-up; the company wanted to encourage employees to carpool.
Sharing a ride not only reduces carbon dioxide emissions by taking vehicles off the road, it “gives people a chance to connect outside of work and create great friendships,” said vice president of human resources Jonathan Rosin.
At the social, Ironwood set up stations where people could meet co-workers who lived in the same neighborhood. Afterward, at least 15 employees stopped asking for garage parking passes, though whether they are carpooling is unclear. Ironwood also gives employees a $100 monthly stipend for transportation.
The social helped associate director of sales training and development Rich Twombly pick up another member for his South Shore car pool. The group jokes around and listens to comedy routines on the drive — while using the high-occupancy vehicle lane to zip past gridlocked solo drivers and shave 20 minutes off the drive.
“We have this policy,” he quipped. “What happens in car pool stays [there].”