Waste Management owns a wide range of properties – large and small, urban and rural. At our larger properties, in the substantial areas that we set aside as buffer zones, we make a concerted effort to enhance the natural value of the land by providing habitat for wildlife and offering educational opportunities and natural beauty to the surrounding community.
One of our key partners in protecting and enhancing wildlife habitat is the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC), a nonprofit organization recognized as the authoritative conservation program for businesses. Our long-standing partnership with WHC has resulted in the creation of 110 WHC-certified projects at 95 Waste Management sites. Through project certification, the WHC recognizes commendable wildlife habitat management and community environmental education programs. Together, these properties encompass nearly 25,000 acres created, enhanced or protected for wildlife across North America. The projects often feature a community environmental education component.
Our projects are included in the WHC’s Conservation Registry, an interactive database that maps conservation, restoration and wildlife habitat-enhancement projects worldwide, allowing us to better understand the impact of our conservation programs. We continue to expand certified sites to include small urban habitats at transfer stations, recycling facilities and other smaller Waste Management facilities. Beyond the wildlife habitats certified at our active and closed facilities, we lease our unused property for productive use by farmers and ranchers. As of 2015, more than 16,000 acres in the United States and Canada were used for this purpose.
In addition to our work with WHC in certifying wildlife habitat and environmental education at our sites, Waste Management works with WHC on collaborative efforts among nonprofits, government agencies and companies to create conservation strategies. For example, the Corporate Pollinator Ecosystem Project (C-PEP) brings together companies with the United States Business Council for Sustainable Development to identify pollinator habitats on corporate land and ultimately help revive declining pollinator populations. Upon project culmination, the C-PEP Survey will be presented to the federal government as a response to President Obama’s 2014 goal to restore or enhance 7 million acres of land for pollinators. This effort is just one of our more than 50 programs dedicated to protecting pollinators throughout North America. We also support the Highways Bettering the Economy and Environment Pollinator Protection Act (Highways BEE Act). If passed, the law would facilitate efforts by states to use more pollinator-friendly highway landscaping practices, including reducing mowing and planting native plants and grasses that provide habitats and forage for Monarch butterflies and bees.
Another dimension of our commitment to environmental preservation is demonstrating the value of biodiversity to children to instill the importance of being good environmental stewards. We incorporate STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education into most of our wildlife habitat programs. For example, the bat conservation project at the El Sobrante Landfill and Wildlife Preserve in Southern California asks students to use engineering and math skills to solve environmental issues. This project also helps teachers fulfill federal Common Core education standards by promoting group learning and discussion – meaning that busy teachers are more likely to continue to use the program.