Our local volunteering campaigns are taking us into our local communities and wild spaces. Earlier in June, our colleagues in Oxford, UK, spent the morning volunteering in a local ‘feral’ space.
Anthesis’ team of internal Sustainability Champions across the UK have been encouraging colleagues to make better use of the two volunteering days per year accorded to every employee. We have been organizing some group volunteering opportunities to enable us to have a bigger impact and get the simultaneous team-building advantages too. So, hot on the heels of our global World Environment Day photo gallery and running with the theme of connecting people with nature, we got a little more local in Oxford…
Earlier in June, a number of colleagues spent the morning volunteering in one of Oxford’s few wild, or, more accurately, feral spaces. There were reptile and amphibian hibernacula to be built (overwintering and summer basking sites for snakes, slow-worms, newts, toads, etc.) and wildflower meadows to manage. While we were armed with all-round enthusiasm, the ecology expertise was a little more limited – though that meant the scope to learn was substantial!
The location for the work is a great example of circularity in action. Aston’s Eyot is a historic waste dump which was in use as late as the 1940s, and that has since been returned to a semi-wild state. It is now managed by Friend of Aston’s Eyot, a local charity of committed volunteers who are trying to encourage wildflowers to conquer over the nettles and to create habitats for local wildlife. Most strikingly, where food waste was once strewn, we now see mature apple orchards and even grapevines – a legacy of the food waste that was once dumped there. The rich pickings in Autumn are well known locally when we enjoy an abundance of apples!
The volunteers had a great time and learned a lot. For example, we now know a Burdock from a Teasel and all about the Yellow, or Hay, Rattle, whose rattling seeds were once used to augur in the harvest. The experience of being in a shared community wild space, which we all enjoy and have a stake in, was impressive, and the volunteering brought us into contact with the sort of local, bottom-up activity that makes a tangible difference. The experience provided a great reminder not only of the wild space that is on our doorstep, but also of the people on our doorstep taking action to conserve and work with the environment.
Feedback from colleagues was positive too. Comments included, “I had a lovely time!”, “I learned about some of the rare flowers they are trying to encourage”, “the local volunteers we met were magical” and even, on uncovering old jars and bottles, “I learnt that Brylcreem lasts forever!”.
If we accept the broad consensus that business needs to give back to the community where it operates, but wonder what that might look like for a global business, then local-level, employee-driven volunteering initiatives offer one way to do that, as well as to make a difference to employees themselves.
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