Workplace gardens offer numerous benefits to companies and the environment
School and community gardens have taken off in recent years, with more and more neighborhoods realizing the value of working in the dirt and producing their own food. Similarly, companies have begun to catch on and are developing their own form of the community garden at the office. In order to reap the benefits of a workplace garden, it’s important to know how to start and why to get involved in the endeavor in the first place.
Ask any purveyor of the community garden concept about their project, and they will be quick to tell you of the satisfaction obtained from growing your own beautiful flowers and nourishing fruits and vegetables. Not only that, a garden gives you an excuse to spend some time outside, interacting with nature — a welcome change for those stuck behind a desk all day. All these benefits, and more, can be enjoyed by team members involved with a workplace garden.
Companies looking to promote great culture are turning to gardening projects to build a stronger community in the workplace. The teamwork required to make a garden successful builds camaraderie, as does working to the common goal of growing quality food. Co-workers who have little to discuss outside of work can bond over the progress of the project and the workplace garden becomes a place to gather and socialize on breaks.
Kohl’s is an example of a successful company that has become involved in workplace gardening. At their corporate headquarters in Menomonee Falls, Wis., the company has encouraged employees to get involved with Growing Power, a neighboring community garden, where they harvest fruit, peppers, and edible flowers. The harvest is then shared between Growing Power and the Kohl’s campus café.
Once it gets going, the garden provides healthy food and snacks for employees who can shun the traditional vending machine’s chips and candy bars for fresh apples and carrots. Excess food can be donated to charity, furthering a business’s involvement in the community.
In addition to physical health, gardening also promotes mental health. The stresses that arise during the work week can be alleviated by gardening in a few ways. One is the simple act of working outside and being in the sun, which raises dopamine and serotonin levels while lowering the level of cortisol, the hormone linked to stress.
In addition to connecting with nature through the simple act of digging in the soil, gardening offers the opportunity to release some stress through more physical acts such as breaking branches, yanking out weeds, and more. Simply exerting energy through physical labor could be enough to get employees to forget about the stresses of the office and recharge for the next workday.
The benefits of a workplace garden are clear, but for many the tricky part is getting the project going. Fortunately, there are plenty of great resources for aspiring gardeners to use. The best way to approach starting any project is with a proper plan, and the Soil Science Society of America is a great place to start for help strategizing. In fact, an entire section of its site is devoted to helping people start a community garden, from organizing the community to designing the garden, choosing a site, and more.
Put up signs around the office and send out emails to promote the project. Encourage both experienced gardeners and novices to join. Explain that people without experience gardening can learn from their co-workers or take free classes at local businesses such as Armstrong Gardens or Home Depot. Some companies have even offered incentives to get employees involved in their gardens.
Outdoor apparel company Timberland has a novel way of encouraging involvement at its Victory Garden, which was founded at its New Hampshire headquarters more than a decade ago. Employees at the company are afforded the time to get involved in the community while on the clock — including time spent at Victory Garden. At more than 2,000 square feet, the vegetable farm produces thousands of pounds of produce which employees can then purchase from the company. Profits made from the sales are donated to the New Hampshire Food Bank.
Thinking Outside the (Flower) Box
If there’s not enough room around the office to build a garden, consider creating a living roof, as was done in Dearborn, Mich., at the Ford Truck Plant. The 10.4-acre rooftop garden helps protect the roof from UV rays, filters stormwater, and improves air quality.
Of course, not every company has the extra space to build an extravagant garden or enough employees to tend it. Smaller offices can still reap the benefits of workplace gardens with indoor vertical gardens. These living walls allow workers the opportunity to tend plants and be creative through the arrangement of flower planters, succulents, ferns, and more.
Ford provides further inspiration for companies looking for creative ways to be environmentally conscious and promote collaboration among employees. Over the summer, the company started a beekeeping program at its Dearborn plant and created a butterfly garden at its Livonia factory.
From supporting a community garden to building a workplace garden, indoor living walls, and more, there are plenty of options for companies of all sizes to start exciting programs that benefit both workers and the environment.