Tens of thousands of individuals, businesses, and organisations have been sowing flower seeds for hungry bees and other pollinators; helping boost biodiversity among pollinators like wild bees and bumblebees. Tom van de Beek explains how it works.
Who are The Pollinators?
When we call sustainability expert and founder of The Pollinators, Tom van de Beek, to talk about the importance of pollinators, the phone line initially falters. Tom lives on a nature reserve in Ommen, Overijssel, one of the last areas without coverage in the Netherlands. Despite this hitch, Tom lives in a place many can only dream of: a cottage in the woods, far away from the city, with its noise, and pollution, and almost entirely self-sufficient.
The house has solar panels, a vegetable garden, and an orchard with apple, cherry and pear trees. Last year, he planted a walnut and an almond tree. In the summer, he boasts a hive full of bees. Tom only needs to rely on gas for his hot water, but a heat pump is due to be installed soon. Tom jokes: "If everything goes wrong in the world, just come here." But more seriously, he adds: "We are not prepping for the apocalypse, but I am very worried about the situation in the world, about pandemics, the war in Ukraine and climate change. I don't think it's going to change; it will only get more extreme. I'm looking for a way to deal with that. Through my work, creating a connection between people and nature helps with that."
"I am constantly looking for ways in which I can contribute to our world," Tom continues. "At the same time, I want to enthuse others to do the same. Indeed, we need to work not only on sustainable technological innovations, laws and regulations, but above all on how we relate to nature." With his various businesses and foundations, this has been a personal commitment ever since his school days. "Our attitude towards nature ultimately determines how we care for the earth. Many people have lost a connection with nature. I want to help restore this connection."
Drawing attention to the hungry bee
One way of restoring people's relationship with nature is by drawing attention to the bee. "After all, without pollinators, there is no life," Tom explains. "The welfare of bees and other pollinators has long been a concern, since they play an important role in our ecosystem and are essential for a healthy food supply. We wanted to draw attention to this in a fun and accessible way, so we founded The Pollinators. The Pollinators are creating a healthier habitat for pollinating species and raising awareness about their importance."
The packets of seeds are distributed by The Pollinators at a diverse range of locations, including people’s homes, libraries and shops. Tom explains: "1,500 people help in their neighbourhoods. From their own homes or other locations, they distribute packets of seeds of organic, native flower varieties to their neighbours. The map on The Pollinators’ website shows exactly where to find a ‘bee food bank’ nearby where people can pick up a parcel. What we do is very low-key. Really anyone can participate."
Tom adds: "So our movement very directly provides more flowers and food for pollinators, but indirectly all kinds of other things are also happening. If you sow something yourself, you are also going to nurture it. And then when it grows and blooms and a bumblebee lands on the flowers you have grown, it creates a feeling of euphoria. Suddenly you are in touch with nature. What we are also seeing is that people are increasingly aware of the importance of flowers and plants and are removing concrete from their gardens. Or, for example, they inspire the businesses they work for to be mindful of nature."
The community now consists of some 25,000 people, hundreds of whom are active volunteers. 1,500 people help with ‘bee food banks’ and there are also solid partnerships with organisations including Triodos Bank.
Triodos Foundation, a registered charity supported by the bank, is committed to a balanced ecosystem. Healthy soil and increased biodiversity are key to this. To create systemic change, endowment money is indispensable. Triodos Foundation supports initiatives that are the driving force for change and appeal to a wide audience – such as The Pollinators.