Sustainability at STEMS

Catherine McGonagle, STEMS Co-Founder & President, holding two buckets of pink tulips

STEMS is committed to sustainability – the process of green, livable, vibrant, cyclical practices that become entrenched through time and dedication.

Like flowers in a field, sustainable practice endures even through rainy times, using everything available to help its growth. Sun plus rain plus dirt plus sustainable practice equals beauty!

In short, sustainable practices prevent the depletion of natural or physical resources, so those resources remain available over time. It’s not just a buzz word for modern business – it’s the management of environmental, social, and financial concerns by companies to ensure responsible, ethical, and ongoing success. 

According to a 2020 study at Kadence International, a worldwide market research agency, 66 percent of Generation Z are willing to pay more for sustainable or environmentally friendly products, and 73 percent are willing to pay more for ethically sourced products – statistics probably unheard of when their Generation X parents came of age. But how many members of Gen Z are already entrepreneurs focused on sustainable practice?

STEMS founder Cassie McGonagle, a junior at the University of Vermont, has already dug deep into the methodologies surrounding sustainable practice, and spoke at length regarding STEMS protocols in that arena. In working with plants consistently, McGonagle noticed that “nature has natural recyclers. There’s so much beauty in it. We should do it too.” 

Just a short list of how STEMS works toward sustainability:

  • Using mint as filler. Mint is abundant in gardening.
  • Composting. STEMS uses dead plant material in the composting process so the soil and products can be used from season to season, making the soil more abundant.
  • Drip irrigation systems: STEMS uses this methodology to use as little water as possible, and deliver what little water is used directly to the roots.
  • Vases: All of STEMS’s vases are donated or purchased from Goodwill. They are then repurposed and become part of the STEMS community, bringing others into the endeavor.
  • Pots used are donated from throughout the metro west community.
  • As much as possible, all materials are donated to STEMS from throughout the community, then later brought back to Goodwill for even further use.

“We’re constantly working on getting the community involved and having people learn to be more involved, as well as teaching them how to compost and repurpose new things in their house,” McGonagle said. 

Sustainability isn’t just a Gen Z phenomenon, either, or a corporate flash in the pan.

McGonagle literally feels it in her hands while she’s working in the dirt. “The more you work with it and in it, the more you’re aware of it,” she said. Anyone who has spent a long day in the garden understands exactly what she means.

Another sustainable practice: McGonagle goes to large chain stores, including TJ Maxx, Walmart, and Stop and Shop, and picks up their leftover cardboard. “We bring it to the fields and lay it across where we’re planting,” she said. “When you wet the cardboard it kills weeds and decomposes itself, and the roots grow right through it.”

“I love learning about this kind of thing, and we play such a role in every part of it,” McGonagle continued. “It’s so important and it’s what society needs. So many businesses have no problem damaging the environment. Using these practices can cause a nice change of pace.”

STEMS Wayland