Being a good global citizen

How the Metro Toronto Convention Centre transformed its neighbourhood one green initiative – and buzzing beehive – at a time

If you want to talk about urban beekeeping, few places are as fitting as the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Located in the heart of downtown Toronto just mere steps away from the iconic CN Tower, the MTCC has long been serious about its role within its local community and broader environmental ecosystem. So naturally, when their Sustainability Manager Vivian Fleet got in touch with us in 2016 to express her interest in inviting bees onto their building, we couldn’t wait to get started.

  • To the MTCC’s sustainability team, being a good citizen isn’t simply about reducing negative impact, but about adding true value to the community & giving more than you take.

    “It’s a nice thing to cut down and reduce, but you also have to share and give back to your community. You have to give more. That’s how we’re going to have a real impact on our environment.”
    – Gabriel Shifferaw, Sustainability Coordinator, MTCC

    So alongside their philanthropic fundraising, co-op programs, scholarships and mentorship programs, the MTCC also offers a unique and up-close experience through their 6 buzzing hives nestled cozily in their beautiful rooftop.

  • Location, location, location

    Boasting not only the title of Canada’s biggest city, Toronto is also the fourth most populous city in North America. Its population of nearly 3M people allow for a perfect incubator for new and innovative urban development projects. Located right in the middle of it all, the MTCC benefits from all of the perks that come with a great location including easy transit, countless nearby shops and restaurants, 24h foot traffic, you name it. And of course, location is key for our bees too, which is why they’ve thrived on the MTCC’s 7 acres of lush, green rooftop space complete with beautiful native flowers and local produce. In fact, according to their Sustainability Coordinator Gabriel Shifferaw, it’s the rooftop’s Chef’s Garden that first prompted the MTCC team to add a few hives to the mix.

    ”It’s an entire ecosystem, really. We needed the hives to produce enough, and make the gardens beneficial and self-sufficient. By inviting people to free workshops, telling them that the food they’re eating was produced on their rooftop, and that we have all of these veggies thanks to pollinators; we really get to inform and educate.”

    – Gabriel Shifferaw, Sustainability Coordinator, MTCC

As a result, the team’s award-winning chefs can season their dishes with the freshest herbs and produce, while reconnecting with the natural cycles and flavours that so inspire them. Fortunately, the chefs aren’t the only ones getting up close and personal with the bees. By creating large decals of helpful bee facts and positioning a hive right by the elevators, visitors get a front-row seat to the hard-working pollinators as they do their thing to the backdrop of a distinctly urban skyscape.

All hands on deck

Beyond educational decals, the MTCC has also made a point of teaming up with Alvéole to make sure employees can learn and get involved. Be it for a maintenance visit or an extraction workshop, visits to the MTCC always result in a full house of curious onlookers eager to learn more about the bees and their broader impact on our environment. Because helping people understand that bigger picture, says Shifferaw, is always the end goal.

Metro Toronto Convention Centre's tenants holding frames of honey beesAlvéole's hives.
  • So much more than honey

    While there’s no denying that the 800 jars of raw, branded honey produced by the MTCC hives last year made for a delicious treat for restaurant guests, employees, chefs and VIPs; the impact of our collaboration goes far beyond what our taste buds can pick up on. Since the team bolstered its sustainability and educational efforts, it’s seen an important uptick in employee morale and pride. In fact, the company has now received a Great Place to Work certification and maintains a 98% employee satisfaction rating by keeping employees involved and engaged in every part of their mission and vision. Beyond that, the hives have had a significant impact on their bottom line by attracting visitors to their unique building amenities, providing fresh products for the kitchen, reducing the cost of produce and transportation, and helping them reduce their carbon footprint by keeping their rooftop thriving and green. In fact, it might even be fair to say that the hives have helped the MTCC keep its spot at the top as they build industry curiosity, credibility and admiration around the world.

    ” In the industry, people talk a lot about our garden and hives. They come to see the impact the bees have on our garden and we share all of the educational material with them. Usually, they leave hoping to bring the project to their city.”

    – Gabriel Shifferaw, Sustainability Coordinator, MTCC

    I feel that sustainability is a trend right now, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I think that the next step that everyone needs to get to is understanding that when you take and reduce, it’s important to give back and share with your surroundings as well.

    The major shift in the industry is that clients begin to understand the purchasing power they have. It means that when you make intentional choices, you can give your money to an organization you trust that is doing their best for the environment and the local community. We’re not just doing this”for our convention center, but because we care!

    - Gabriel Shifferaw, Sustainability Coordinator, MTCC

    Metro Toronto Convention Centre logo
  • And of course, that awareness and commitment to education is exactly what drives us.

    ” I was super impressed in the ownership of the project and the initiative Alvéole took to showcase it. It’s a point of pride for them and they’re very vocal about showcasing everything about the ”hives. They really do it for the education side of it.”

    – Gabriel Shifferaw, Sustainability Coordinator, MTCC

    Curious to know more about how urban beekeeping can benefit your building and contribute to a better neighbourhood? Book a chat with us!

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