Last year, Amazon launched its enormous new offices in downtown Seattle featuring ‘The Spheres’, which is made up of three glass and metal domes and is packed with lush tropical plant life. The idea is that employees - who feel starved of nature - can meet here, sit in a treehouse and reconnect with the outside world, inside. Apple’s offices in California have a similar set-up where workers can walk through a forest of 9,000 trees while brainstorming. And not to be outdone, Facebook offers its staff a nine-acre rooftop park complete with a teepee swing.
It’s something environmental campaigners think businesses in Malta should also consider – albeit on a smaller scale. Adrian Gatt is a mechanical engineer who has an ambitious plan for the island. Through his side project Grow 10 Trees, he’s asking people to sow at least ten saplings at home, then give them back to him to be planted in public spaces. Since 2017 he’s gathered more than three thousand followers on his Facebook page and is now hoping he can encourage businesses in Malta to also involved.
Adrian Gatt/Grow 10 Trees
“I have already convinced my own engineering company to do this. I was able to plant 20 trees without losing one car space.” And those on his Facebook page are inspired by his lead, with some of his followers approaching businesses like Lidl Malta and asking them to get involved.
Adrian has only been contacted by three companies so far to take part in his project and is urging more people to come forward. “One company is getting its staff to collect milk cartons, so that when I give them the seeds, they will be ready to plant. Another company is interested in it for the health benefits it will provide its staff, as well as the team-building and productivity it will help create.”
But it’s an uphill battle for the man who runs his NGO with just the help of his 15-year-old son Nathan and a handful of volunteers. So far, he’s managed to plant more than 800 trees, but his mission is both physically and mentally demanding.
“Maltese people hate trees. They believe they pull up foundations, create too many leaves and attract birds who leave droppings. But any negatives are massively outweighed by positives. If we can green our urban areas, we can help pollution and air quality to benefit everyone. Just a few plants in a small space where employees can stand or sit while on their break, can make a huge difference to mental health.”
Grow 10 Trees Project/Katie Badenhorst
A study carried out by Harvard University in 2017 backs up Adrian’s claim. After examining 10 high-performing buildings across five US cities, researchers found that staff who worked in green areas had a 26 per cent boost in cognition. It also revealed a 30 per cent drop in sick days and a six per cent rise in their sleep quality.
Dr Alexandra Mifsud from the Centre for Environmental Education and Research (CEER) at the University of Malta is also urging businesses to step up when it comes to their environmental responsibilities.
“We see a lot of people who have green roofs around the world, but this is met with a bit of resistance in Malta as many people live and work in blocks and after they install the water tank and solar panels, they don’t have enough space for a garden. So, what I like to promote is green walls. We have so many buildings in Malta now which have this vast space to grow little shrubs that would attract wildlife like butterflies, bees and other insects to keep the eco-system going. And it looks aesthetically very pleasing.”
“I think Malta has gone too far when it comes to climate change, but it’s not on its own. Governments around the world have been warned they have ten-fifteen years to pull it together. If not, we’ve reached the point of no return. While Malta is working towards the goals set by the UN for all EU countries, it’s failing quite miserably. We need to adhere to working towards the target of not allowing the Earth’s temperatures to increase any more than 1.5 per cent.”