More than 50 Green Mountain Coffee Roaster employees volunteered to clean up the Puyallup River along the Riverwalk Trail last week. The Sumner-based workers picked up trash and large objects Wednesday and Thursday.
“Our employees in Sumner are truly dedicated to making a difference in their community,” said T.J. Whalen, chief strategy and sustainability officer for Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. “From designating grants for local education nonprofits, to volunteering time to the food bank, our employees were adamant about starting a river cleanup in Sumner after the seeing the program’s success in Vermont, Tennessee and Massachusetts in past years.”
Volunteer specialist Liz Dohrman said the company’s annual river cleanup has been going strong. This summer marked the ninth year for the program at the company’s corporate office in Waterbury, Vt.
Dohrman said more than 450 employees company-wide cleaned up rivers last year near the offices of Waterbury; Knoxville, Tenn.; and Reading, Mass. Across those sites, more than 1,000 tires and 17 tons of trash were collected.
This year, the Sumner office joined three other river cleanups that took place near company locations and were held in conjunction with American Rivers’ National River Cleanup, a nationwide effort to keep the country’s waterways clean.
The Sumner location partnered with the Puget SoundKeeper Alliance to carry out its inaugural cleanup. It was in conjunction with the alliance’s 12 Rivers 12 Months program.
“Our mission is to protect and prevent pollutants from entering the (Puget) Sound,” said Andy Gregory, pollution prevention program manager for the alliance. “Part of this program is to see where the sources of pollution are, and sharing that information with the public and turning that into education to empower people to be good stewards of the river.”
Gregory said the group of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters employees worked the river on rafts provided by Wild and Scenic River Tours and found plenty of evidence of consumerism. Items picked included shopping carts, plastic bottles, drink cans and bags, old mattresses and lawn chairs.
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters has more than 350 employees at its Sumner location and has a Community Action For Employees program. It encourages employees to spend up to 52 hours per fiscal year on volunteering for a nonprofit or community-based organization during their normal work day.
Sumner employees contributed nearly 6,000 volunteer hours in the community in fiscal year 2012, according to a company news release.
Sterling Hatch, who has worked for the company for four months, said he was inspired to apply for a job there because GMCR encourages volunteerism. Last week was Hatch’s first time volunteering with the company.
“I’m amazed at how much Green Mountain Coffee Roasters does,” he said. “There are a lot of volunteering opportunities.”
Manuel Carrasco, a machine operator for the company, said he enjoys the opportunity volunteering gives him to be productive during the work day. He volunteered for 12 hours last year and said his goal is to increase that amount this year.
The river rafting crew picked up 200 pounds of trash from the river Wednesday morning. They picked up larger items the following morning.
“This is more trash than we expected,” said Shana Pennington-Baird, development director for Puget SoundKeeper Alliance. “We love the fact that we’re partnering with a local business, because it brings them awareness of the pollution in their local river.”