In our experience, when companies think of sustainability, they often think they have to go big or go home – and that, of course, can be rather intimidating. But there are actually all kinds of little initiatives you can take to create healthier ecosystems. In fact, starting off small can be one of the most powerful ways to build momentum for bigger, more ambitious sustainability projects! So to get you pumped and inspired, we spoke to four teams who have all taken a unique approach to doing their part. Hopefully they’ll make you want to contribute too!
Case 1: How Brampton made a big dent by doing nothing at all
Looking to merge the urban and rural initiatives in its environmental master plan, the city of Brampton saw a great opportunity in pollinators. They are, after all, the ultimate bridge-builders between our flowers and food. So they set to work finding small ways to improve their natural habitat.
The solution: don’t mow, let it grow
In 2018, the city launched the Don’t mow, let it grow initiative which involved identifying strategic areas that would be spared their usual manicuring, and be naturalized instead. And science backs it up. In Summer 2019, a joint study lead by four researchers from Montreal’s top universities found tangible evidence that mowed lawns are simply ineffective; they’re known to be less efficient with heat distribution, to eliminate key species within the overall ecosystem (including pollinators), and to require a disproportionate amount of water.
To test the waters, they teamed up with the conservation authorities and staff to identify what kinds of local plants they could grow where, and then started strategic planting across 7 sites covering just over 6 hectares.
Through informational door hangers and brochures, the city of Brampton was able to spread awareness and high-level information about their project – setting the stage for their 2020 plans to expand to an additional 7 sites covering 6 hectares.
“Take the pilot approach. Start small. Make sure there is information for the public. Think about every potential argument against it so that you have back up. Communicate early. Communicate before too. Plant plants too! Don’t just stop mowing.“ -Michael Hoy, Supervisor, Environmental Planning at the City of Brampton
Case 2: How the city of Dorval piggy-backed on existing initiatives
When the city of Dorval’s David Le Brasseur reached out to us, he had one mission in mind: to help the bees as best he could. Together, we started looking for little actions that could have a big impact – first delaying all mowing until the dandelion’s last bloom, then settling hives into their new, delicious home.
The solution: set up beside flourishing community gardens
As it turns out, the City of Dorval already had some prime real-estate for their new buzzing neighbours: their pollinator-friendly, wildly diverse community gardens. They even planted additional fruit, berries, and trees specifically for their bees.
To get people involved and tackle any concerns, they invited the whole community to attend Alvéole’s workshops, where everyone got to excitedly interact with the bees. The city’s hope? That citizens will bring this new awareness of bees and ecosystems back home.
“Try to approach it in a low key kind of way and simply encourage people to come to visit. Also, make sure you’re focusing on education – we had kids at two of the workshops and it was great!” - David Le Brasseur, Animator, Leisure and Culture, City of Dorval
Case 3: How Air Transat planted a bee buffet
Air Transat is no stranger to green initiatives, in fact, they started doing their part over 10 years ago by gradually covering their land with clovers, flowers, flower boxes, and shrubs. So by the time they reached out to us in 2017, they had more than enough food ready for their new guests.
The solution: plant a variety of delectable clover and pollinator-friendly plants
To make their land that much more appealing, Air Transat planted countless new species, 3 consecutive clover plantations which mean they do not have to water their lawns.
The company also added a social component to its initiative by teaming up with Accueil Bonneau – an important NGO supporting the local homeless – to take care of their bees; solidly anchoring the project in the community to make it fun for everyone. Today, they’re proud to boast 18 hives hosting one million bees!
“I believe it’s important to add the social side of it. (...) We sell around 500 to 700 jars per year and 100% of the profits go to Accueil Bonneau – it got the management on board too. So yes, we do something for the environment, but we’re working for humans too! It’s a two for one!” - Geneviève Dubé, Advisor, System and environmental services, Air Transat
Wondering how you can get started planning and planting your own regionally flavoured bee buffet? It’s simpler than you might think, and there are great resources to help you. One of our favourites: Xerces’ North American list of native, bee-friendly plants.
Curious to know what bees adore in your area? They’ve got you covered.
Case 4: How Morguard property scaled initiatives – and impact
Always looking for new ways to have a positive impact on communities, Morguard knows just how to play to its strength: its ability to implement initiatives across multiple properties.
The solution: “Pardon the weeds, we’re feeding the bees” campaign.
Partnering with Alvéole, the Morguard team set up 12 hives across its properties Canada-wide. But that was only the first step! Then they set to work spreading the word: inviting people to workshops, sponsoring mural artists in Saskatoon to create a piece that portrays the role of bees in food production, and even launching a powerful marketing campaign titled “Pardon the weeds, we’re feeding the bees”. This year, they’re taking a page out of Air Transat’s social impact book by selling their honey and giving all proceeds to the Brampton Civic Hospital.
“Get people involved! Following our first harvest last fall, we shared the honey and our experience with the tenants and staff, and the response was tremendously positive. There were lots of questions and great feedback. Everyone loved the honey and wanted to learn more about the program.” - Jill Smith, Regional Manager at, Morguard Properties
Eager to figure out how you can do your part?