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Tree Plantation Story – a story of exceptional engagement with employees to inculcate a culture of nurturing and caring for trees and creating win-win solutions for planet, profit and and people

    by Team Sage Sustainability

    In conversation with Mr M Ramaswamy, MD Alpine Knits India Pvt. Ltd., a spinning mill based in the textile hub of Coimbatore. While it is only in last two to three years that the global target setting for climate is trending, this spinning mill created a mini-forest in the campus through employee engagement, installed solar rooftop for energy requirement and managed waste innovatively. Mr M. Ramaswamy took this initiative as a gut feeling to do what felt right.

    Alpine Spinning mill was constructed in 2007 and employees were recruited in 2008. Right from the beginning, Mr Ramaswamy, Managing Director of Alpine Spinning Mill thought of keeping the campus green and well-nurtured.

    Green Initiatives:

    Tree Plantation by Employees:

    One of the earliest initiative was to offer a tree for planting and nurturing for every new employee who joins the mill in return for their name around the tree, so that there is a sense of ownership. While initially, there were nearly 200 trees, this kept on increasing as more employees joined the organization. This initiative along with several other planting campaigns led by management led to creation of a mini forest with over 4000 trees.

    Renewable Energy and Carbon Neutrality:

    Alpine Spinning Mill was a pioneer to install 1 MW as rooftop solar way back in 2012. Today many brands and large companies are setting targets to become carbon neutral by 2030. This shift to renewables helps in reducing the emissions for the textile processing and thereby reducing life cycle emissions for the yarn and the textiles.

    A view from the top- Rooftop solar

    Sanitary waste

    In ladies hostel of Alpine Spinning Mill, the sanitary waste is used for energy for water heaters. Not only this helps in waste disposal at site but also reduces power requirement for the heaters. It must be mentioned that this initiative assures proper disposal of sanitary napkins as it works for employees as well as the mill.

    Food waste composting

    Alpine Spinning Mill campus cultivates aerobic microbes on coir pith. The food waste that is generated is mixed with these microbes and converted into compost. This is an odourless composting technique that works well for vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian food waste. Alpine Spinning Mill has been able to successfully combat the risks of food waste through the use of cultivated microbes.

    Compost is very rich in nutrients and it used as manure for plants in the campus. As a soil conditioner it replaces chemical fertilizers and maintains the fertility of the soil. So basically it reduces the cost of maintaining the trees and it is also eco-friendly.

    Waste Water use

    Around 300 employees stay within the campus of the mill and hence considerate amount of water is consumed for bathing, cooking, cleaning etc. The waste water is filtered and used for watering coconut trees through drip irrigation.

    The Reward and Co-benefits of the Green Initiatives:

    Human-Nature Connection: While planting a tree is a reward on its own. However, there are other benefits such as cherishing the connection of humans with nature and allowing that space to appreciate nature and nurture. The reward for employees was also the fact that their name was written around the tree that they were nurturing. The employees watered the plant when there was no drip irrigation system maintained. 

    Ambient temperature: Co benefits of creating this micro environment is a cool campus which is airy for the workers who also stay in the hostel facility. As it is well known that trees not only help reduce temperature to about 2 degrees peak time, it also helps in removing significant pollutant gases through leaf stomata, also by dry deposition of SPM. The heat island phenomenon so prevalent in urban areas also gets mitigated by the trees.

    Employee productivity and engagement: Corporates look for activities that can bring an outdoorsy experience for their employees such as tree plantation activities. This kind of activity is targeted for a couple of days in a year. While it provides some experience, it fails to create a deeper connection. Aesthetic value of trees is an understated benefit that has a calming influence on us humans. This in turns help in worker efficiency and productivity.

    Biodiversity Enhancement: With a rich variety of trees that are closely spaced, biodiversity enhancement is a natural outcome. It would be nice to engage employees to know the trees better and to spot the avian visitors.

    Lessons Learnt: 

    Far sighted thinking that creates win-win strategy for employees, company and the ecosystem is the need of the hour. Many a times this thinking is a result of human values and sharing that with others. Management of Alpine Spinning Mill is determined to think in terms of resource conservation and employee engagement. Engaged employees at the time of joining the organization helped in creating a bond with the employee and employee’s bond with nature. This not only benefits the company and employees but also the whole society. It is an excellent example of an organization using resource conservation and employee engagement as a tool to drive greening of the process and campus- a win-win for people, planet and profits.

    Trees bearing name of the employees who planted and nurtured the trees.

    Interview by Shashi K. Manju S. Kumar