In June 2020, The GIANT Company celebrated National Pollinator Week by announcing the completion of a seven-acre pollinator-friendly solar field located at its corporate headquarters in Carlisle, Pa. The field is the first of its kind for a grocery retailer and creates a synergistic environment that generates clean energy while supporting the bee and pollinator populations needed within the agricultural industry. The endeavor contributes to a healthier local ecosystem while generating community opportunities for sustainability education. For this project, the company partnered with Ernst Pollinator Service to plant a native seed mix in and around the new solar array. The company also launched a new strategic partnership with Planet Bee Foundation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that constructed the beehives for the field and employs a local beekeeper to tend to the health of the bee colonies. To drive awareness about the importance of bees to the grocery and agricultural supply chain, The GIANT Company will install educational signage along the on-campus walking path through the field. Media coverage for the initiative as well as large roadside signage identifying the field have also been used to educate the community. Honey bees pollinate $15 billion worth of food crops in the United States each year, yet populations have been experiencing a decline for more than three decades. Stewarding these essential workers in the food industry has become an important part of The GIANT Company’s commitment to help heal the planet.
The GIANT Company dedicated seven acres of its property to this project. In addition to funding the solar panel installation and the pollinator-friendly field development, the company made a $50,000 contribution to advance Planet Bee Foundation’s work driving awareness for pollinators and creating environmental stewards of all ages. Initially, the project raised the local community’s environmental awareness through media coverage of the project and site signage visible from the road. As the field grows and COVID-19 social restrictions are eased, more community education opportunities will become available, including access next spring to educational signage along the on-campus walking path at the site. The local community’s well-being will directly benefit from the field’s environmental advantages, including the pollinators who will thrive off the nearly one million flowers and contribute to the local ecosystem that provides the community’s food.
The GIANT Company is focused on helping to heal the planet we all share while providing local communities with healthy food. The objectives of the solar-array pollinator program include: 1) providing essential pollinator services to local farms that grow the community’s food, 2) raising awareness about the importance of bees to the grocery and agricultural supply chains, and 3) in combination with the solar array on the roof of the company’s headquarters, offsetting 4.5 million pounds of CO2 per year by generating enough solar energy to power the building.
The field’s hives currently house 150,000 honey bees. As the field matures over the next few years, nearly one million pollinator-attracting plants will provide pollen and nectar sources for honey bees and other pollinators, which will in turn pollinate local farm fields. The site will also create a habitat for birds and small wildlife while improving the soil quality, reducing runoff, and creating an attractive backdrop that features 20+ native wildflower varieties. The field’s solar array, coupled with the one currently installed on the roof of The GIANT Company’s headquarters, will generate enough power for the entire building—thus reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 4.5 million pounds per year. The GIANT Company was selected as the first grocery retailer and first Pennsylvania participant to take part in the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s InSPIRE study, in which scientists measure and track the performance of pollinator-friendly ground cover for solar energy projects. Once data starts coming in after COVID-19 travel restrictions are lifted, the information from the study will help guide future state and national solar energy projects. In addition to the direct ecological and scientific benefits, the project is helping raise community awareness of the importance of pollinators and environmental stewardship. Coverage of the project included 34 media placements, generating 1.3 million potential impressions in local and trade media. Roadside signage at the site further enhances community awareness. Additional onsite educational activities are anticipated in the coming year as the field develops, hive activities come into season, and COVID-19 restrictions ease.
“From almonds to zucchini and countless fruits, vegetables and nuts in between, nearly one third of our food supply depends on pollinators, making bees an essential part of our food supply chain and ecosystem. A pollinator field provides us with a unique opportunity to educate our team members, customers and the community about the crucial role bees play in getting food onto their family’s table. For The GIANT Company, healing the planet starts at home, so creating a pollinator habitat at our headquarters is a natural first step as we work to address the declining bee population.” Nicholas Bertram, President, The GIANT Company
“The GIANT Company has always been an incredible partner to Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry, so it’s no surprise that they’ve extended that partnership from farmers to bees. One out of every third bite we eat is thanks to pollinators. It’s important that we all take steps to protect our vital workforce of pollinators; their value to agriculture is nearly impossible to estimate, but we see it in the grocery store and on our plate every day.” Cheryl Cook, Deputy Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture