Matt Tompsett is the senior environment and sustainability manager for Kier Highways. Here, he talks about the Depots in Bloom competition ran by Kier Highways. Today, Matt announced the winner of the competition – Halesworth Depot in Suffolk for its efforts to improve the environment in which they work, creating a space for employees to take time to reflect or talk.

“The Kier Highways Depots in Bloom Competition started a couple of years ago in our Area 3 Strategic Contract and was a great success. The idea came from the nationwide “Britain in Bloom” competition that takes place in villages across the country.

Depots in Bloom aims to improve our depot environments and provide important additional habitat for pollinators which is often lacking in our depots. Instead of being a barren wasteland (through the eyes of a pollinator) our depots can be transformed to provide what we call “stepping stone habitat” providing areas for pollinators to rest and forage and linking larger areas of habitat.

Last year, the competition was repeated in Area 3 and launched in Areas 6&8. After a discussion at the Highways Sustainability Business Improvement Group, the decision was taken to roll this out across the whole Highways business, due to the success of the contract competitions and the multiple benefits that were realised.

Individual contracts run a local competition to find a local winner. Each depot that enters receives a £25 voucher to kickstart their efforts. We only give a small sum to encourage reusing and recycling old materials and this is where people’s enthusiasm and inventiveness really shines through. In previous years we have seen a huge variety of planters made from upcycled waste items from old skips to traffic cones; a water feature was even created on a rockery.

Local judging undertaken by safety, health and environment managers, with winners from each contract put forward to a national final. Judging for take place in mid-September at the Highways Environment Business Improvement Group (BIG).

The competition encourages teamwork and some friendly competition between the depots, as well as providing some essential stress relief from the challenges of day to day working. There is a mountain of conclusive evidence that demonstrates the mental health benefits of gardening are extensive. Not only can regular gardening reduce mental health problems like depression and anxiety, but it can also reduce stress and combat high blood pressure, as well as improving overall physical fitness. The benefits of having the opportunity to undertake a spot of creative gardening whilst at work should not be underestimated.

There has been a noticeable improvement of general morale in participant depots, which will in turn have business benefits. I was impressed with all submissions this year and the depots really worked hard to create spaces for themselves and pollinators, to enjoy. I am already looking forward to next year’s competition.”

Head of SHE, Steve Crofts, added: “This year’s Depots in Bloom competition is the first I have experienced in Kier and I have been blown away by the effort and quality that has gone into entries. I had the pleasure of being among those judging the finalists and was struck not only by the impact the competition had on the look and feel of depots, but the effect it had on those taking part.

“We heard about the teamwork involved, the ingenuity in the reuse of materials, the creation of habitats, the involvement and impact on wider family and how the changes made encouraged people to take a break from their desks at lunch time and share some time together.

“I’m delighted at the positive impact this competition has had on local environments and the health and wellbeing of those at our depots. Well done to all involved.”

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