Alan: Well, I think there were several elements to it. I think I’ve always been interested in birds. Living on the northeast coast of England, the Farne Islands were a place I used to regularly visit on vacation and the bird populations up there are pretty impressive.
I think the sustainable part of it came about through a couple of different things. One was the introduction of a Clean Air Act in England back in the 1960s, which really changed my perspective — I became much more aware of the value of government legislation in that respect.
And what I found was that as we talked about the birds and as we talked about this bird friendly glass [at the Javits Center], we talked about a sustainable approach, and people said, “That’s great. What are you doing next?”. So it became a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy because every time we talked about something that we’d done [at the Javits Center], we then had to find something else that we’d done or we had to talk about something else that we planned to do.
So I think that we were again fortunate in terms of timing, but I think we saw the opportunity — I saw the opportunity to move the building’s image and reputation from what it had been, which wasn’t always great, to something that was much more of an asset to the community. So we had the green roof and that led us to talk about what else we can do to help the community, which led us to discussions about one of our big programs called Javits Cares, where we recycle goods left by exhibitors at shows to local charities. Then we looked at catering and decided we could recirculate food that we had been serving to people for lunches, dinners and other things where we weren’t using excess food.
We try to do as much as we can, but culturally it’s always a challenge to change people’s behavior. I will say that having things like the beehives — when we put beehives up and we started to collect honey — that actually helped some of the cultural change because it made our employees more aware of what we were doing. And it was kind of fun for them to talk about having not just the Javits Convention Center, but a Javits Beehive and Javits Honey. And we did some things associated with that, like having the staff join us to do bottling of the honey and labeling of the honey and those kinds of things. And we gave those honey jars away to our customers. So each of those people, whether they’re an employee or a customer, gets a message that is reinforced by the honey, and it helps to kind of make their attitude towards sustainable items a little better — and, you know, hopefully stimulates them into thinking what can they do to make a difference in their [own] locations.
Liz: I was actually there at one of the bottlings — when the New York Times was doing a feature article [on your work with the bees]. It was fun because Reit did the packaging — and to try to find the right size jar and the box and make it match the Javits brand, but still make it fun — I loved being a part of that. And I learned so much about the honey making process.