Office workers turn urban gardeners on Paris luxury store rooftops

Fri Aug 26, 2016 12:34pm EDT
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By Geert De Clercq

PARIS (Reuters) - Le Bon Marche and La Grande Epicerie, two landmark Paris luxury stores have turned their joint rooftops into an urban garden for staff who can grow their own crops in their free time.

In the past months, the LVMH-owned adjoining stores on Paris's residential left bank have built planter boxes on a 700 square meter (7,500 square feet) roof area, where the store's employees grow 60 or so kinds of fruit, vegetables and herbs such as strawberries, zucchinis, mint and lavender.

The stunning views over Paris and the chance to learn about gardening have attracted 200 of the stores' 1,500 employees, selected by lottery, and put the stores at the forefront of the city's urban gardening drive.

By 2020, the Paris city government wants to have 100 hectares (1 square km) of green roofs, sidewalks and walls, with one third dedicated to the production of fruits and vegetables.

"In the beginning we spent more time looking at the amazing view than at the planter boxes, but this is a great place to grow vegetables and meet colleagues," said Charlotte Arnoux, recruitment officer and first-time gardener.

Arnoux and seven colleagues take turns taking care of three one square meter (11 square feet) planter boxes in which they grow sorrel, basil and different varieties of tomatoes, all without the use of pesticides.

The stores' customers are not aware of the garden over their heads and cannot visit it, but the initiative has drawn visitors from other companies in France and abroad who want to set up similar rooftop gardens for staff.

"Given the impact this has on staff morale, the cost of investment was minimal," said technical director Hubert Genet.   Continued...

A man walks between planter boxes on the 700 square metre (7500 square feet) rooftop of the Bon Marche, where the store's employees grow some 60 kinds of fruits and vegetables such as strawberries, zucchinis, mint and other herbs in their urban garden with a view of the capital in Paris, France, August 26, 2016.  REUTERS/Regis Duvignau