Every year on April 22, countries around the globe celebrate Earth Day – a day when people show their support for environmental protection. Here at the U.S. Embassy Bern, we honor and appreciate the beauty of our natural surroundings. Read on and learn about our efforts to preserve and protect our local wildlife habitat.
Since 2011, we have continuously worked on new initiatives to protect our immediate environment and make the Embassy grounds more sustainable and animal friendly. Check out our past (and future!) activities below:
2011: Certified Wildlife Habitat
In December 2011, the U.S. National Wildlife Federation certified U.S. Embassy Bern as an official wildlife habitat. We received the certification because the grounds surrounding the Embassy and the Ambassador’s Residence, along with the practices of our gardening staff, provide a habitat for wildlife to raise their young. There is plenty of water, food, space and shelter that allows for foxes, field mice, badgers, birds, bees, frogs and many other animals to prosper.
2012: Oil Tank Turns Irrigation System
In 2012, we changed the heating system at the Ambassador’s Residence from oil-fired heating to be a part of Bern’s District Heating System. The Residence was the first individual house in Bern to utilize district heating! Since we no longer needed the heating oil storage tank, we converted it into a rain water collection tank instead. Today, that rainwater is used to irrigate our lovely herb garden as well as to flush the toilet in one of the Residence’s restrooms.
2014: Buzzing with Bees
In June 2014, the White House issued a federal strategy to promote the health of honey bees and other pollinators. In response, Embassy Bern developed a pollinator-friendly landscaping system. We have been sowing and cultivating Switzerland-native flowering plants in our meadows, in order to create a beneficial environment for wild bees, bumblebees, and other pollinators. Interesting fact: While honey bee colonies live together in one beehive, wild bees – even though they live in a colony, too – each dig their own hole in the ground to live in. On sunny days, they all venture out and our Embassy grounds are buzzing with bees.
2019: New Cherry Trees
This year we are celebrating new arrivals on the Embassy grounds: wild cherry trees! In March, a number of lime trees, which were around 100 years old, had to be cut down because they had fallen sick and were hollow on the inside. In their place, eight prunus avium trees were planted. This wild cherry tree is a species native to Switzerland and produces beautiful blossoms in the spring, cherries during the summer, and nice autumn colors. To help foster nature in Bern’s urban environment, these trees also are important sources of nectar for bees, bumblebees, and other insects. This is vital for the entire ecosystem! In order to use as much of the cut lime trees as possible, some of the logs and branches will be left on the grounds. They will naturally decompose, create valuable living space and food sources for the critters that call the residence yard their home.
2020: Solar Powered Garden Equipment and ProSpecieRara Certified
This year we are saying goodbye to our electric gardening tools! As of now, we are taking care of our grounds surrounding the Embassy and the Ambassador’s Residence with solar powered tools. The newly acquired equipment is more resource-friendly and noiseless. A nice side effect, which our garden inhabitants – like foxes, bees, mice and frogs – will surely appreciate. In addition, the solar-powered devices are lighter, ergonomically up to date, produce no exhaust fumes and are cheaper to maintain, as they do not require fuel or maintenance.
Another novelty this year: The U.S. Embassy Bern is a certified network partner of ProSpecieRara. ProSpecieRara is a non-profit charitable organisation dedicated to the preservation of the genetic diversity of plants and animals in Switzerland. Every year, geraniums from all corners of the world bloom in our Embassy garden. Among them are also cultural and historical species such as Appleblossom Rosebud or Mrs Pollock. Together with ProSpecieRara, we commit ourselves to protect genetic and cultural-historical diversity, so that future generations will still be able to enjoy Mrs Pollock & Co.
Our wildlife refuge flourishes thanks to the dedication and passion of our gardening staff. It took years of continued work to see the plants and trees grow and to see more and more animals settle in. On the occasion of Earth Day, we thank them and everyone else for the important work done to protect our environment!