The installation began at dawn so that everything would be ready by the end of the afternoon, when dozens of Microsoft employees climbed to the third floor of the building, now transformed into a vegetable garden. According to Clara Mansilha, Head of Sustainability at Microsoft, this new initiative was met with both surprise and enthusiasm. Few employees knew how to plant and grow their food, but they were curious and eager to learn — it feels great to be connected to the earth without even having to leave the city.
Bruno Lacey, one of the growers participating in the installation, captivated those around him by demystifying everything that happens after a seed is planted in the ground. As employees planted the shoots of various vegetables — including some less well-known types, like fennel or chard — in the growing boxes, the grower taught them everything he knows, from the vitamins and minerals in each plant to the best way to cook them.
It’s clear that this activity gives everyone a break from their daily lives, and that it feels great. On top of that, according to Clara, the main objective was really “to involve employees in all different occasions for cooperation, and to take that opportunity to show the importance of creating a positive environmental impact for society.”
And even with lockdowns and the difficulty of regular garden visits and workshops, all was not lost. Nothing was wasted or left to chance — how amazing is that? To achieve this, grower André Maciel played a crucial role, keeping the group energized and interested. In their WhatsApp group chat, he sends everyone photos and describes the activities performed on each visit, encouraging them to start their own vegetable garden at home.
“The harvested products are left in the kitchen so that employees can come and collect them; large donations were also made to the junta de freguesia (similar to a municipal town hall) of Parque das Nações and to the social enterprise Re-food, so that they can be distributed to those in most need.”
And even from a distance, the advantages can be seen in the recipes shared after each harvest and the photos of the meals prepared with them. The vegetable garden is ultimately a bridge between colleagues, who are themselves connected to nature. The pandemic seems to have also awakened an awareness of the importance of organic vegetables as a synonym of health through good food. Employees feel that they can be “active agents of change” — André can sense it.
Now that everyone recognizes the challenges of prolonged physical distancing, the importance of community spaces is extending to workspaces, for the well-being of employees. This could be a silver lining, and we hope it will continue to encourage cooperation and workshops around the vegetable garden, set to resume as soon as the team returns to the rooftop of Microsoft Lisbon.