FirstEnergy Green Teams Gather for First TimeVirtual summit marks the beginning of a new era in company’s environmental stewardship
Tree plantings and pollinator gardens in Maryland. Recycling programs in Pennsylvania. Nesting platforms and paper-use reduction initiatives in Ohio. E-waste events in West Virginia. Clean energy overhauls in New Jersey.
Across FirstEnergy’s footprint, Green Teams – teams of employees at each FirstEnergy operating company who volunteer their time and talents to support a wide variety of environmental initiatives –have been taking steps to improve the company’s stewardship of the environment. But those initiatives have been largely led on a local level…until now.
Last week, FirstEnergy held its first company-wide Green Team Summit, bringing together dozens of team members to share their ideas, successes and lessons learned. Over the course of several hours, team members brainstormed initiatives to get their teams out in front of employees and the public more frequently and shared projects that they have on the horizon.
“It created an elevated energy in the team members, knowing the other teams are just as passionate about the environment,” said Carol Trembly, senior scientist and Green Team leader. “You could see how energized other team members became during the brainstorming sessions, with all the ideas being generated on how to gain exposure of our teams, which directly leads to us fulfilling our missions.”
What now has nearly 100 members across five states started as a pitch to improve communication with municipal environmental teams in New Jersey. In October 2018, Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L) officially founded the first Green Team.
“The early days were like putting a jigsaw together without the photo on the box cover. We weren’t sure what we were building, but we knew we were headed in the right direction,” said John Meehan, regional external affairs consultant and JCP&L Green Team lead. “We were guided by the phrase, ‘you can’t go wrong when you do the right thing.’”
Green Teams Expand and Make a Big Impact
Initially, the goals were small, like formalizing recycling programs at company facilities. The team then worked to be part of conversations on sustainability in local communities, and volunteer opportunities were identified to plant trees and give away saplings.
“JCP&L President Jim Fakult was immediately on board and was committed to providing our Green Team with whatever resources were needed for us to be successful,” said Meehan.
Those early successes helped provide a blueprint for other operating companies. The Illuminating Company soon brought Green Team initiatives to northeast Ohio, followed by Toledo Edison and a combined team with employees from Ohio Edison and Penn Power.
Mon Power launched with a dedicated social responsibility mailbox, monitored by its Green Team members. Met-Ed and Penelec then joined forces in establishing a statewide Green Team for Pennsylvania, followed shortly thereafter by Potomac Edison in Maryland.
Just this past May, the Green Team expanded once again with a dedicated 16-member Transmission Green Team.
Tree plantings and community volunteer events have been hallmarks of Green Team efforts, with more than 14,000 trees planted across five states and an estimated 2,000 Volunteer Time Off (VTO) hours used.
“The Green Teams have been instrumental to projects to reduce waste, like employee electronic waste collections,” said Trembly. “They are also working to help implement pole recycling programs in their operating companies and expanding recycling options at FirstEnergy facilities.”
Recognition has followed. JCP&L became the first utility named to the New Jersey Dept. of Environmental Protection’s Sustainable Business Registry, and Toledo Edison helped support the expansion of the Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative.
More Green Team Initiatives Underway
As the newest Green Team, Transmission members are investigating Adopt-a-Highway programs. The Toledo Edison team is focusing on osprey and bat conservation and expanding pollinator habitats. In Pennsylvania, new signage is being tested to increase recycling. A substation beautification project is on The Illuminating Company’s agenda for 2022.
Potomac Edison’s team members are looking for ways to engage employees in the “new normal” brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic by motivating those working remotely to “Go Green at Home.” Additionally, they’re looking to join Maryland’s Green Registry, which will open doors for technical assistance from other Green Registry members on implementing new environmental best practices, as well as provide opportunities for public recognition.
In New Jersey, JCP&L’s team is continuing work on perhaps the most ambitious project yet. The Long Branch Sustainability Project will see a line shop property renovated to include a pollinator garden, bio-swale and retention basin, solar panel arrays and windmills to help power electric vehicle charging stations.
“This Green Team project is far bigger and more impactful than anything I had hoped to accomplish,” said Meehan. “I believe it is evidence of company leadership’s commitment to our environment and our FirstEnergy family.”
CONTACT: Chris Hoenig, 609-350-8599