The NetSuite SuiteImpact Teams, part of the NetSuite.org corporate citizenship program, have been giving back to our environment and helping our employees live and work in greener offices and communities. Today, I’m excited to celebrate Earth Day by recognizing our fantastic Austin Office, which has taken on an inspiring project at a local school. Tony Caporal, a solutions consultant in Austin and one of the Ambassador leaders of our SuiteImpact team, described the project in this interview.
Erin Dietrich: Tell us about your recent SuiteImpact Austin Project.
Tony Caporal: This spring, our office decided we wanted to make a difference in the local community by helping children and the environment. We took on a project to create a vegetable garden at a local charter school that was requested by the grade 6-9 Science Teacher and conducted in partnership with the school and a local non-profit organization called Green Corn Project. Green Corn is a local nonprofit committed to educating and assisting central Texans in growing organic food gardens. GCP digs gardens for qualified applicants in Austin, Texas. Eligibility criteria typically include financial eligibility, disability
eligibility and school-based eligibility. The organization started in 1998 and is committed to teaching others to grow healthy and nutritious food leveraging available resources. You can find out more about them at http://www.greencornproject.org/.
Dietrich: Why is it important for schools to have vegetable gardens?
Caporal: There is a volume of research that shows positive correlation between children growing their own food and healthy food and lifestyle habits. With childhood obesity at epidemic levels, schools are trying to understand how to best engage learners to take charge of their bodies and actions with regard to food choices. Additionally, educators can teach a variety of lessons while gardening including math (volume of soil to grow food), science (bugs, seeds, life cycle, soil, water, etc), language arts (blogging about their experiences is a frequent experience, keeping a garden journal is always a great idea) and life skills (teaching kids how to cook their food). First Lady Michelle Obama has been a champion of this by providing small grants that are often matched by local companies (like Lowe’s , Home Depot, etc.) and encouraging children (and their families) to eat more nutritionally dense foods.
In Austin, starting at the elementary level, students are learning to grow food, keep chickens and compost. A few of these schools have incorporated their garden bounties into their school lunch programs and the cafeteria workers are composting nearly 90% of the food waste that then creates the soil the kids use to grow food that ends up on their plates. As students graduate to Middle School, they can participate in the Green Tech program that incorporates these same skills on a much larger scale – teaching students to be ambassadors and junior Master Gardeners in their communities.
Dietrich: That is amazing—what a great program. Why was it important to you/the office to get involved with this?
Caporal: A few colleagues had wanted to participate in digging a garden and learning how to garden at their homes. This was a great opportunity to teach skills, help others and make a positive impact in the Austin community.
Dietrich: What do you think was the biggest benefit of the project?
Caporal: The biggest benefit was seeing all of the children getting excited about growing
food and being engaged in the process. It is also fun for camaraderie—it’s always a good time when we get to hang out with each other in these types of settings.
Dietrich: I heard that recently you introduced some new green elements to the office- can you tell us about that?
Caporal: We did! We’re proud to report that the Austin Office now has a Bakashi Composter in our kitchen and we are recycling all paper, aluminum, glass and food waste.
Dietrich: Okay, to wrap it up, we wanted to ask the question that’s clearly on all of our
minds…. If you were a superhero who was saving the planet what would your power be?
Caporal: My superhero powers would be to either (1) have the power to supply fresh and
clean water to the entire world or (2) have the power to provide fresh food to everyone in the world. Without food and water – civilization would cease to exist and to date, these two issues remain major obstacles to developing nations and their people.
Dietrich: Excellent! In the meantime, keep up the amazing work being a superhero to the Austin office, helping them give back to the local community and find ways to live more environmentally friendly lives.