Sustainable Resolutions For 2010

Sustainable Resolutions For 2010

Sustainable certification and dieting have two things in common: No one really wants to begin either one, but once the process starts, both are good for us.

So as we begin a new year, I am resolving that this year is my year to work on health: I will work to help improve the bottom line of many greenhouse businesses while I help them better understand their impact on the environment and how they compare to other greenhouse growers. I am doing this by continuing to introduce more North American growers to the certification system out of the Netherlands, MPS.

Sustainability As A Process

Most growers with whom I talk about certification admit to ranking this process way down their list of priorities. Given all the challenges that arise in our businesses, I can understand why.

Yet, the reason I like the MPS approach to certification is because it is much more than a certificate to hang in the front office. The tools the MPS system puts in front of growers help them make key decisions for improving their operations. MPS often puts dollars to the bottom line, too.

I have had the pleasure of working with the first grower to become MPS certified in North America, D.S. Cole Growers. D.S. Cole improved its MPS score enough over the last year to now rank as MPS A–the highest grade in the MPS system. This improvement came primarily from a reduction of applications of the more toxic red and amber crop protection agents (CPAs). Even though MPS led D.S. Cole to use more of the less toxic green CPAs, the environmental impact was improved. Cole believes, although he hasn’t yet documented it yet, that these changes had a positive benefit to the bottom line.

“The MPS reports allow us to view our data in an organized way, where we begin to ask questions and challenge our assumptions,” says Doug Cole. “In the past, we didn’t know enough to even ask the questions, so we continued doing things as we had in the past.”

Sustainability is a topic that’s gathering momentum among retailers, suppliers, consumers and especially among young people. Last month, the Food Marketing Institute had its third annual Sustainability Summit, this time partnering with the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which had its best attendance ever.

The summit addressed a wide range of topics for retailers and consumer-packaged goods manufacturers, including the introduction of its new program, “Sustainability on the Shelves–A Guide for Category Managers” for buyers and category managers of supermarkets and mass market retailers. The month before, the Consumer Goods Forum rolled out its two new initiatives: ending deforestation and phasing out hydro fluorocarbon refrigerants.

We have learned of the activities of the Sustainability Consortium, which counts Walmart, Safeway, Best Buy, Ahold and Marks & Spencer as tier 1 and tier 2 retailers on the project. And, we shouldn’t forget the Global Packaging Project, which addresses product packaging and its environmental impact. These projects and others are bringing the vocabulary of sustainable practices to the forefront among buyers, who will ask questions of their suppliers and growers with increasing frequency and depth.

Once a grower begins the certification process for the business, all associates will have access to the process in which their organization is involved and their sustainability score. Understanding it will help improve the business and lessen the impact on the environment. Thus, associates will have answers to the questions raised by buyers, their customers and the media.

Dismissing Myths

Some growers don’t like the idea of certification because they don’t want others involved in their businesses. A certification program doesn’t require the certification organization to be involved heavily in your operation. It should require that you have access to answers to your questions; that confidentiality be maintained with your information; and that your information is professionally audited for accuracy.

The MPS system is an electronic password-protected database of your information. Four times a year, reports are available to you with the data organized and displayed in charts and graphs, demonstrating how your inputs have changed and what impact your changes have on your MPS score and the environment. The entire database is the collection of approximately 5,000 growers worldwide, so in effect you are compared to growers of similar crops in similar environmental zones while your company information is held confidential.

The most difficult part of signing up for a sustainable certification program is putting a stake in the ground as a beginning date. Almost every season of the year has its reasons for not beginning a new program, especially one you pay for and one that requires initial work without the benefits of the scorecard.

Once the systems are in place to collect the data, growers tell me it generally takes only a half hour to input the information each period, or every four weeks, so it is not overwhelming. The leadership of the organization must commit to a start, and let the MPS coordinator guide the organization through the process to lead the business to a successful start. Like dieting, you can begin any time of the year by making the commitment and sticking to it. So make 2011 the year you make the commitment to begin sustainability certification, learn more about your business and how it compares to others. You’ll learn ways you can improve your business and lessen its impact on the environment.

Leave a Reply

More From Plant Culture...
Feature Image Cob 700 (NewLux)

November 28, 2015

16 LED Lighting Solutions For Your Greenhouse

Narrowing in on the right LED lighting product often comes down to considering your specific crop needs and growing requirements to see what works best for your application. Here are 15 LED products to take into account when choosing the right fit for your greenhouse.

Read More
Begonia 'BabyWing Red' (2015 Louisiana State University Field Trials)

November 27, 2015

2015 Louisiana State University (Hammond, La.) Field Trials Results

See the 2015 field trials results (includes photo gallery) for Louisiana State University in Hammond, La.

Read More
Cape Fear Botanical Garden

November 27, 2015

National Garden Bureau Awards Grants To Three Therapeutic Gardens

The grants, totaling $10,000, are through the organization’s Growing For Futures program, which supports the growth of therapeutic gardens across the country.

Read More
Latest Stories

September 20, 2015

Technology Improves Orchid Production At Green Circle G…

Green Circle Growers in Oberlin, Ohio, has a commitment to using production practices that are efficient and sustainable. The operation has been growing Orchids for nine years, and is entering its second full year with its current system, which entails three camera grades. “The camera grading — first at production into a 5-inch pot, then 12 weeks later and a final grade after the stem and buds have developed — is raising our overall quality,” says Wesley Van Wingerden, director of growing for Green Circle Growers. Greenhouse Grower visited the operation to take a tour of its facilities and learn more about its Orchid production. Read on for more details about the process. The first of the camera grades is incorporated into the transplant process, which involves placing the Orchids from a community tray into 5-inch pots. The plants are separated into three sizes with the smallest returning to the […]

Read More

September 15, 2015

Young Plant Growers Weigh In On Crop Gains, Sales Trend…

Almost 100 young plant producers participated in Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Young Plant Grower Survey, which asked growers questions abot crop categories, sales, order fulfillment and more.

Read More
Top20YPGrowers feature image

September 15, 2015

The State Of The 2015 Young Plant Market

Young plant growers in North America are changing their strategies to stay competitive in today’s market. Here is how 2015 shapes up in trends and statistics.

Read More
Vivero International_Endisch

September 8, 2015

Vivero Internacional Continues To Expand Unrooted Cutti…

The tenth largest cuttings farm in the world, Vivero Internacional was founded in 1991 and began exporting unrooted cuttings in 1993. Based in Tepoztlan, Morelos, just outside of Mexico City, Mexico, the operation opened with 2 hectares or 5 acres. With time and new customers, the farm has experienced rapid growth, now spanning 40 hectares or 99 acres, says Vivero’s Dennis Hitzigrath. “The first 10 years, production was doubling every season,” Hitzigrath says. “In the last three years, it’s been about 20 percent.”     The independent operation grows 100 million cuttings annually for several breeders, serving the North American market. Hitzigrath says consolidation among breeders has brought more of a focus on Vivero Internacional from third-party breeders in recent years. This growing interest is spurring even more growth. “We are planning for a minimum growth of 20 percent,” Hitzigrath says. “We are adding more production space and hope to be […]

Read More

August 19, 2015

Greenhouse Growing Recommendations For Lobularia

Modern-day Lobularias are garden classics with good vigor and long bloom times. These growing recommendations will help keep your crop in prime condition.

Read More
Mike McGroarty, owner of Mike’s Backyard Nursery

July 29, 2015

Backyard Success: Mike McGroarty Educates Aspiring Grow…

Mike’s Backyard Nursery sits on a long, narrow, 5-acre property located in Perry, Ohio. There, customers can find a variety of flowering shrubs available, all in 2-quart pots, and all for sale for $5.97 each. Owner Mike McGroarty, a lifelong resident of Perry, says the town has a lot of plant nurseries, including 100 wholesale growers within a 10-mile radius of his house. That doesn’t discourage McGroarty, because he knows that while there are a lot of nurseries in his area, no one else is doing what he is doing. McGroarty has learned about plants — and marketing them to his audience — through decades of experience. He has never hesitated to pass along his knowledge to other growers looking to start their own backyard operations, and has created an entire program to educate aspiring growers. McGroarty Likes To Practice What He Preaches McGroarty’s operation serves as the laboratory for […]

Read More
cannabis, marijuana plant

June 27, 2015

Concern Grows Over Unregulated Pesticide Use On Cannabi…

As most growers know well, the federal government regulates all insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and other commercial chemicals used on agricultural crops. Therein lies the problem with use of chemicals on cannabis crops – so far, the feds want nothing to do with legalized marijuana. According to “Concern Grows Over Unregulated Pesticide Use On Cannabis,” a June 17 article on the National Public Radio (NPR) network by Agribusiness Reporter Luke Runyon, the lack of regulated chemicals for cannabis has left growers to experiment on their own. “In the absence of any direction the subject of pesticide use on the crop has just devolved to whatever people think is working or they think is appropriate,” said Colorado State University Entomologist Whitney Cranshaw in the NPR report. “Sometimes they’ve used some things that are appropriate, sometimes unsafe.” Denver officials held tens of thousands of marijuana plants earlier this year due to safety concerns, but […]

Read More

June 16, 2015

The Butterfly Effect: Insect’s Wings Key To Azalea Poll…

A researcher from North Carolina State University (NC State) has found that in the case of the flame azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum), all pollinators are not created equal. In fact, due to the flower’s unique reproductive structure, butterflies — and specifically, their wings — are the key to pollination. The flame azalea is commonly found in the Appalachian Mountains, ranging from as far north as New York to Georgia in the south. Like most azaleas, the flowers are large, and have an unusual structure: both the anther (male) and stigma (female) parts are very elongated and separated from one another. NC State biologist Mary Jane Epps was interested in how the azalea’s flower structure affected its pollination. “In order for a plant to reproduce, a pollinator — usually an insect — has to spread the pollen from the anther to the stigma,” Epps says. “In the case of the flame azalea, […]

Read More
Bee on a Sedum

March 17, 2015

4 Key Pollinator Research Projects To Be Funded By Hort…

The Horticultural Research Institute will grant $125,000 in financial support for four key projects as part of the Horticultural Industry Bee & Pollinator Stewardship Initiative. The Initiative has three primary goals. First, to convene a task force to develop a bee and pollinator stewardship program, including creation of best management practices for plant production. Second, to identify and fund research that will help answer key science questions and fill gaps needed to design and refine the stewardship program. Third, to seek to positively position the horticultural community and its customers by collaborating with other compatible groups interested in augmenting pollinator habitat and protection.

Read More

March 11, 2015

Pollinator Initiative Promotes Bee-Friendly Talking Poi…

AmericanHort and the Society of American Florists are working tirelessly with the ornamental industry's Pollinator Stewardship Initiative on a number of new projects.

Read More

February 11, 2015

Infusion Technology Boosts Seed Performance, Study Sugg…

Seven-year-old wheat seed germination can increase by as much as 83 percent, according to a Vital Force Technology Study that looks at the effects of energy infusion technology on plant vitality.

Read More

February 3, 2015

American Floral Endowment Accepting Research Pre-Propos…

If you are pursuing a floriculture research project, now is the time to apply for funding through the American Floral Endowment. Research pre-proposal applications for 2015-2016 funding are due to AFE by June 1, 2015.

Read More

January 27, 2015

Marijuana’s Trajectory And Ascent To Horticultural Cr…

Marijuana growing is poised for change as growers and researchers focus on improving production practices.

Read More

December 9, 2014

Greenhouse Production: Two Years Of Basics & Beyond…

Greenhouse Grower's Basics & Beyond articles cover some of the latest news and research going on in greenhouse production. Here are article links for the last two years.

Read More
GrowIt! App Wins Gold At Design100 2014 US Mobile & App Design Awards

November 24, 2014

GrowIt! App Wins Gold At Design100 2014 US Mobile &…

The social garden app GrowIt! takes the Gold Winner award at the design100 2014 Mobile & App Design Awards.

Read More

November 10, 2014

The Perennial Farm Joins HGTV HOME Plant Collection

The Perennial Farm joins the HGTV HOME Plant Collection growers' network for 2015.

Read More

November 4, 2014

AmericanHort Publishes Revised American Standard For Nu…

AmericanHort announces the revised American Standard for Nursery Stock (ANSI Z60.1) is now available for industry use. The Standard reflects the consensus of the industry regarding how nursery stock — living plants other than annuals — should be specified and sold within the trade.

Read More

September 26, 2014

Master The Art Of Watering

Watering is elemental to healthy plants, but one of the hardest concepts for new employees to master in the greenhouse. Recommend these tips to start them off right.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]