Across America, corporate employees are going green in a new way. They’re volunteering alongside their coworkers at national wildlife refuges, clearing trails and planting native flowers, with enthusiastic backing from their supervisors.
When your employer suggests you join a company volunteer day at a , you may find yourself:
- Clearing a recreation trail;
- Planting host plants for a rare butterfly;
- Collecting prairie seeds; or
- Hauling off invasive plants.
Watch out or you may fall in love with the place – and discover a new passion for wildlife conservation. It’s been known to happen.
Big Names Pitch In
Companies that have sent teams of volunteers to help at refuges include Brother International, Canon, DTE Energy, FedEx, Ford, General Motors, Monsanto, Nike, OMRON Scientific Technologies, Patagonia, The Home Depot, The North Face, and Wells Fargo & Company. Some employees help on their own time; some work on the company clock.
A Sense of Pride
In Oregon, employees from The North Face’s Lincoln City store help out several times a year at three nearby coastal refuges.
“You walk away with a really good feeling,” says store manager Jennifer Hickson. “It started out being just our team. Now we bring our families. They want to be part of it, too. Because they hear you say, ‘Yeah, it was a hard day. Yeah, I’m sore. But you wouldn’t believe the feeling of accomplishment, the feeling you’re making a difference.’ ”
In 2015, crew members cut and removed 10 truckloads of invasive Scotch broom from Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge, near a new nature trail and a canoe/kayak launch.
“Before these folks came out to help, they didn’t know this place existed, even though they live and work close by,” says refuge visitor services manager Dawn Harris. “They were very excited to hear you will soon be able to launch a canoe from here and go on a nature trail. One of them said, ‘Oh, this is going to be a perfect short walk to take with my kids.’ ”
Participating companies see benefits, too – like higher staff morale. Just ask execs at Brother International, based in Bridgewater, New Jersey. For five years in a row, the company has sent a work crew to nearby Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.
When employees work alongside one another to restore a landscape, “there’s a wonderful gift that happens,” says Doriana Allyn, the company’s former senior environmental health and safety manager. “We do good work for the refuge,” she says, “and the company gets something back in return from the camaraderie that gets built up.”
Whether companies frame their initiatives as community service or team building exercises, refuges welcome the efforts.
“Absolutely, we like it,” says visitor services manager Jonathan Rosenberg at Great Swamp Refuge. “It brings visitors to the refuge, gets work done on the ground, sells our mission and gets our conservation message out there in the corporate world. It’s all good stuff.”
Even minor missteps don’t dim volunteers’ enthusiasm. One spring, outdoor enthusiast Nancy Armstrong joined co-workers from OMRON Scientific Technologies at Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Their task: clearing and bagging French broom, an invasive woody shrub. Armstrong left with a sense of accomplishment and something else: a nasty case of poison oak. “My entire left forearm was covered with welts for a week.”
She laughs it off. “It was a fantastic souvenir,” she says, “but you know what? I’ll be back next year … I was amazed at how beautiful the refuge was, how wild it was and with this beautiful view of the bay. It was amazing.”
Some companies and the national wildlife refuges where their teams have volunteered.
|Best Buy||Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee Refuge, FL|
|Brother International||Great Swamp Refuge, NJ|
|Canon||Valle De Oro Refuge, NM|
|Ceridian Human Capital Management||Minnesota Valley Refuge|
|DTE Energy||Detroit River Refuge, MI|
|FedEx||John Heinz Refuge at Tinicum, PA|
|Ford Motor||Detroit River Refuge, MI|
|General Motors||Shiawassee Refuge, MI|
|HP||Steigerwald Lake Refuge, WA|
|Incisive Software||Don Edwards San Francisco Bay Refuge|
|Marriott International’s Fairway Villas||Edwin B. Forsythe Refuge, NJ|
|Monsanto||Neal Smith Refuge, IA|
|Nike||Ridgefield Refuge, WA|
|OMRON Scientific Technologies||Don Edwards San Francisco Bay Refuge|
|Patagonia||Balcones Canyonlands Refuge, TX|
|Pelican Pub & Brewery||Ridgefield Refuge, WA|
|Samson||Anahuac Refuge, TX|
|Syngenta Corp.||Columbia Refuge, WA|
|The Home Depot||Minnesota Valley Refuge|
|The North Face, Lincoln City store||Siletz Bay Refuge, OR|
|Nestucca Bay Refuge, OR|
|Oregon Islands Refuge|
|The Principal Financial Group||Neal Smith Refuge, IA|
|Thermo Fisher Scientific||Don Edwards San Francisco Bay Refuge, CA|
|U-Haul International||Eastern Neck Refuge, MD|
|Wells Fargo & Company||Neal Smith Refuge, IA|
See a photo album of private company teams volunteering on national wildlife refuges.