When visitors show up at the Chandler offices of community association management company AAM, they no longer get handed chilly bottles of water - even during the triple-digit mid-summer temperatures.
The homebuilders, developers, homeowner board members and other existing and potential AAM clients get served the cool thirst quencher in cups made from corn and filled from an elegant glass urn, said Carla Helmstadter, East Valley operations manager.
AAM manages more than 320 residential and commercial community associations in Arizona and New Mexico. The Chandler office handles all the East Valley properties, including Sun Groves, Fonte Al Sole and McQueen Lakes in Chandler.
AAM monitors the use of water and electricity in the communities it oversees and is always looking for ways to save money and the environment, Helmstadter said.
The company tries to do the same within its own shop, too, said Gina Beverly, AAM marketing coordinator. Replacing plastic water bottles with glass pitchers and corn cups saves about $2,000 a year, Beverly said.
And the move from plastic to corn saves lots of landfill space, too.
The cups, which look like standard plastic tumblers, disintegrate in 45 to 60 days in commercial composting conditions, she said.
Or in seconds, if you pour boiling hot liquids into them, Beverly said.
It's a factor she is careful to point out to AAM employees who want to impress, not startle or scald, visitors.
No such incidents have happened yet, she said.
Beverly is a member of AAM's Environmental Committee, a group of employees formed to find and implement eco-friendly business practices.
Most of the initiatives the committee has devised so far are pretty standard fare - for example, printing on both sides of paper within the office environs, or sending the homeowner welcome kits, which typically include about 100 pages of a condo community's rules and regulations, on CD instead of paper.
"Just that saves hundreds of thousands of sheets of paper a year," Beverly said.
And AAM conducts employee meetings and homeowner board training sessions on the Internet to save time and gas, Helmstadter said.
"They can log in from home and view a Webinar in their pajamas," she said.
But the corn cups may be the most unusual of the company's "green" initiatives.
So was the idea's origin.
Beverly was served beverages in corn cups while at a honeymoon hotel with her husband, she said.
When she returned to reality - and work - she sought out a supplier of the eco-friendly vessels for the office.