Let Earth Receive Her Trees

Employees braved the cold in December to participate in a tree planting event at Joy Park in Akron, completing a companywide Green Team goal of planting 1,000 trees across our service territories in 2020. Pictured (l.-r.): Ben Krembs, George Farah, Donn Jackson, Phil Schuchter, and Auggie Ruggiero.

January 29, 2021

When it came to giving last year, FirstEnergy Utilities (FEU) continued to bring the company’s mission to life – serving our customers, improving our communities and making our environment better.

The Illuminating Company, assisted by the CEI Green Team, conducted an employee collection of electronic waste in November for National Recycling Day. Together, employees gathered more than 600 pounds of old electronics that will be recycled instead of landfilled.

FEU employees made large scale, dedicated strides to protect and preserve the environment​ in 2020. The most notable involved the planting of 1,000 new trees throughout our service territories – an effort designed to increase tree canopies and plant diversity in our communities.

Led by FEU’s newly established Green Teams, the tree p​lanting effort was one of several planned projects that various employee groups participated in to help reduce FirstEnergy’s carbon footprint, promote responsible use of natural resources and further the advancement of sustainable practices.

“The Green Team concept initially was established at JCP&​L by External Affairs’ John Meehan as an opportunity for employee-driven groups to develop ideas to strengthen environmental focus,” said George Farah, vice president, Utility Services, and Green Teams executive sponsor. “It worked so well, we encouraged expansion of the effort across FEU, creating a formalized program that unites employees through a common goal: ensuring a clean environment for our families, communities and the customers we serve for generations to come.”

The Green Teams, which are comprised of FEU employees from Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and West Virginia, accomplished more than just tree planting last year. They also completed critical waste reduction and recycling projects, including an effort at The Illuminating Company (CEI) that collected more than 600 pounds of old electronics for recycling.​

“While there were many activities, the trees were obviously our biggest effort last year. We completed our goal of planting 1,000 trees in early December,” said Carol Hoffman, senior scientist, who helped coordinate many of the Green Team events for employees. “Since most Earth Day tree planting events were canceled last year due to the pandemic, our employees stepped in to help make up the difference.”

George Felton, line clerk storekeeper, prepares an old hard drive for CEI’s initiative.

To successfully fulfill their mission and find meaningful projects to support, the Green Teams partnered with state park systems, watershed and recycling groups, garden clubs, schools and other environmentally focused organizations in 2020. Employees were also encouraged to use their volunteer time off (VTO) hours to participate in Green Team projects, which are usually conducted during work hours.

This year, the teams are not only planning to expand their tree planting efforts, but also want to support projects tied to the Corporate Responsibility team’s pollinator garden installations at FirstEnergy locations, electronic waste reduction and increased recycling. They will also help grow FEU’s utility pole recycling program piloted with Ohio Edison. In the first six months of the pilot program, nearly 250 tons of utility poles were recycled.

“I’m extremely proud of our Green Teams and the work they accomplished last year to advance our sustainability focus and environmental mission,” expressed George. “Especially given the restrictions presented by the COVID-19 emergency, many of these volunteer events were not easy to plan, but our employees still found ways to participate safely and make a difference.”