Local company takes environment seriously – lowers the heat and tells staff to bring in a sweater.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  February 13, 2014  There isn’t a large corporation on this side of the Atlantic that doesn’t say it is out there to help save the environment.  We Canadians, fresh air people for sure yet we live in a country that ships some of the dirtiest oil sucked out of the ground because a large part of our economy depends on selling that oil.

So when you hear about a company that says they are here to help save the environment – you kind of  raise an eyebrow and ask – yeah?

When we heard that the Walker Group has this Earth 1st program that sounded interesting – always good to have a snappy logo to slap on the shipping containers.  Then you look at the story a little more deeply and learn that the Walker Group has been doing this for more than ten years.

This year their challenge to their employees was to wear a really funky sweater to work February 7th.  Nice idea, lightens up the office, gives staff something different to do – but then they learn that the sweater might come in handy – they’ve turned the heat in all their plants down by two degrees.

THAT is a commitment; that is putting your money, and you personal comfort, where you mouth is.

Ask your staff to do some funky – and you never know what you’re going to get. The heat must have been down more than two degrees to bring out some of those scarves.  Norjohn plant in Burlington on a coffee break?

So we trotted along to the Norjohn Plant on Corporate Drive to see how staff had taken up the challenge.  Not a lot of people at this location.  Tight, tight security – which we will tell you about later.

There they were – the staff wearing their woollies.  Now this crowd isn’t going to take any prizes for the “funkiness” but they should get some points for the hat’s they wore.  The scarves on the guys at the left and right ends of the group photo are something we won’t comment other than to remind them that The Leaf’s haven’t won since 1967, which was the 100th anniversary of Confederation.

Warm sweater day was the way Walker Industries decided to have their employees reduce their environmental impact in celebration of the 10th anniversary of the company’s innovative EARTH 1st program.

EARTH 1st was developed to take Walker to another level of environmental performance by empowering employees to make a difference at work and at home.

In the past decade, through the suggestions of employees, the company has dramatically reduced its environmental impacts. Some examples include launching a carbon neutral building service, recycling concrete and asphalt, installing energy-efficient lighting and developing wax emulsions from environmentally sustainable resources.

The Walker Industries head office crowd did their part.

All 550-plus employees were asked to wear a warm sweater on February 7th. “We are encouraging staff to find wacky, funky and wild sweater, toque and scarf combinations,” says Alison Braithwaite, the company’s director of Environmental Performance. “We’re looking forward to the virtual fashion show as participants post their photos and videos on our challenge site.”

Walker locations taking part in the challenge included: Walker Industries Head Office & Walker Environmental Group – Thorold and Niagara Falls;  Organic Resource Management Inc. – Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, Woodstock; • Norjohn Contracting and Paving Limited – Niagara Falls; • Walker Aggregates Inc. – Simcoe County and Niagara Region;  Amherst Quarries – Essex County;  Norjohn Limited – Burlington;  Norjohn-ACI Inc. – Portland, Oregon and Palm Coast, Florida.

The Walker Industries gang out at the compost site were really innovative – was this because they are all in witness protection programs?

While the employees were encouraged to become involved the organization went a little further and asked their  customers, suppliers, friends and neighbours to lower their heat and put on their favourite sweater to take action against climate change and work towards a sustainable future.

Braithwaite pointed out that: “If every Canadian lowered the heat by just two degrees this winter, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 4 megatons.”

Other environmental challenges being planned for the year include a water reduction initiative, a turn-out-the-lights effort for Earth Hour, participation in Earth Day celebrations, a bike-to-work week, a community engagement project and a waste reduction week.

How did it work out?  Well the gang at Norjohn bought into the idea.  As for the rest of the organization – the results are still coming in.  Good idea, this planet is ours to save.

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