Retailing Green: A No-Brainer

Each year, the United States uses nearly 100 million tons of plastic. That’s a lot of non-earth-friendly material filling up our landfills. And unfortunately, most plastics take eons to decompose, and the risk of perpetuating disease keeps many nurseries from reusing plastic pots. It sounds hopeless, doesn’t it? Especially when plastic containers are all we, as an industry, know.

In a recent Today’s Garden Center magazine survey on recycling, our Revolutionary 100 Garden Centers gave us their two cents on this issue, which in the end left us with some priceless information. What follows are a few “revolutionary” recycling practices that may make getting caught red-handed in this green movement a good thing for your garden center.

Making The Most Of It

For a place that’s recycling “everything possible,” Herbly Wonderful of Batavia, N.Y., doesn’t mind reusing a variety of plastic pots, and neither do its customers. “Any plastic pots that can be reused are cleaned and sterilized for the following year’s production,” Tracy Gaus, owner of Herbly Wonderful, says. “This has reduced the amount we need to purchase by 50 to 75 percent most years.” Any broken or unusable pots are collected and taken to a recycling facility. The odd-sized pots returned to them are used, too. They’re saved for those rare greenhouse specimens and also make for excellent potted-up parting gifts for children on school field trips. Herbly Wonderful began its recycling program in 1999 to reduce trash output, cut costs with reusable materials and, of course, encourage positive environmental practices. When starting out, this “very rewarding program” had one main concern – sanitation – a concern that lost steam once Gaus found plant-disease carryover and timely cleaning practices to be non-issues. Besides plastics, the Herbly Wonderful staff recycles plant material for a variety of purposes. At the end of the season, leftover plant materials are saved for the following year, used to help make new plants or donated to the landscapes of local charities. Old, dried herbs and flowers are bagged as a potpourri mix for customers.

Even as an avid recycler, Gaus and her staff are starting to feel the push from her customers to do more. Gaus explains, “The pressure now is to begin offering biodegradable pots for those customers that do not want to recycle for convenience of their lifestyle, but still want to feel they are helping the environment in some way.”

Reuse, Recycle And Retain …Your Customers

While starting up a recycling program for environmental reasons might be the politically correct thing to do for garden centers, more than a handful of our Revolutionary 100 survey respondents admit that having a program like that in place also helps retain their customer base.
Jennifer Schamber of Missouri’s Greenscape Gardens agrees. “It brings people back into the garden center to return the pots, and hopefully, they’ll find something they can’t resist on their trip back,” she says.

One way to ensure a burgeoning recycling program and repeat customers is to offer a credit for plastic pot dropoffs. Mesquite Valley Growers Nursery in Tucson gives nursery credit for any 1-, 2-, 5-, 7-, 10- and 15-gallon plastic pots. “We give the recycler a credit they can use like cash at the register for anything in the nursery,” says Mesquite Valley’s Cathy Bishop. For those who bring back cardboard and plastic trays at Boulevard Flower Gardens in Colonial Heights, Va., patrons receive a 15-cent credit toward their next purchase.

Northeast Ohio’s Suncrest Gardens is a bit more assertive in its recycling efforts. “We started several years ago to charge a deposit for our large plastic pots,” says Suncrest’s Julie Nan. They did this to offset rising costs in petroleum products, and to avoid passing these costs directly onto the customers. Depending on the size of the pot, customers pay a $10 or $20 deposit, and when they return the pots with a receipt, they receive their money back.

Paper Or Plastic?

Ellepots might not be the newest kid on the eco-friendly block, but they are quickly building up the reputation as a preferable alternative to the infamous plastic pot. Just ask Mark McWilliams of Copper Tree Designs, who says, “The use of the new Ellepots for annuals and perennials will make a big difference some day.”

Benefiting growers to gardeners and plants to planet earth, Ellepots are typically made from degradable, non-woven paper. One Ellepot supplier, Ball Horticultural Company, explains that their degradable nature is just one of the many reasons Ellepots’ stock is continuing to rise.

Available in a wide range of sizes, the Ellepots’ paper construction allows increased airflow for improved root systems. They also produce plants that root quicker and leave no plastic waste behind. Ron Dubena, greenhouse manager at Acorn Farms, agrees that Ellepots make for faster plant installation, cut back on a plant’s transplant shock and save on any cleanup efforts.

While these paper pots have a tremendous upside, one snag to a poly-to-paper transition may be cost. “While a lot of the market is still using plastic, it is tough to offer an eco-friendly product that costs more to the end user when they are trying to save every dime they can to continue to make a profit,” Dubena says.

The Ellepot switch is just one example of what’s to come for an industry evolving for the better and the greener. “We must all now become aware of the carbon footprint we make at home, in business and in our communities,” says Beth Simpson of Rolling Green Nursery. “Starting a recycling program is a no-brainer.”

Leave a Reply

Latest Stories
Travis Higginbotham

February 8, 2016

Biocontrols And Next-Generation Production

Biocontrols are becoming much more established in greenhouse production. In some cases, it’s the next generation of growers that’s helping to support the adoption of this next generation of pest control. Travis Higginbotham, R&D Manager for Battlefield Farms, in Rapidan, VA, is a great example. Brought on in 2014, he is helping Battlefield take the next step in product development, as well as become more efficient as a business and adapt to new technologies and demands from their customers with a more proactive approach. Higginbotham will share information on Battlefield’s nematode program at the Biocontrols USA 2016 Conference and Expo, March 3-4, 2016 in Monterey, CA. We asked him about the details involved with building a new biocontrols program, as well as the future of sustainability in greenhouse production. Q: What are the differences in costs involved in using biocontrols? What costs should growers consider, aside from the hard costs […]

Read More
Jim Zablocki, Plant Prod

February 5, 2016

Sign Up For A Webinar On Using Plant Nutrition To Impro…

The webinar takes place March 2, and covers how leading growers are using plant nutrition to minimize costs, reduce the number of factors they need to worry about, and lessen environmental impacts.

Read More
Biocontrols Conference and Expo 2016

February 4, 2016

Biocontrols 2016 Conference Offers Insights And Learnin…

The Biocontrols 2016 Conference & Expo, which takes place March 3-4, 2016, in Monterey, CA, brings together growers, pest control advisers, suppliers, researchers, and other segments of the industry to share the latest information on biochemicals, microbial pesticides, and beneficials, and help you put biocontrols to work in your operation.

Read More

February 4, 2016

Poinsettia Growers Discuss Their Recent Trials And Triu…

Growers from Pennsylvania, Illinois, and North Carolina describer their experiences trialing everyone’s favorite holiday season flora.

Read More
LiveTrends Copper Wire Orb

February 3, 2016

The Coolest New Retail Products From TPIE

During the recent Tropical Plants Industry Exhibition (TPIE) in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, the Garden Center Group embarked on a search for the coolest new products for garden retailers. Here’s what they discovered.

Read More

February 3, 2016

New Plants, Products, And Trends From TPIE 2016

Tropicals, foliage, and succulents may be the way to new consumers’ hearts, based on the cool ideas, products, and trends presented at the Florida Nursery Growers and Landscape Association’s (FNGLA) 2016 Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition (TPIE), January 20-22, 2016 at the Broward County Convention Center in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. The theme this year, Elevating Expectations, was fulfilled, renewing and reinvigorating attendees to carry forth their businesses into 2016 and beyond. TPIE showcases the latest trends in foliage, floral, and tropical plants, with a tradeshow of more than 200,000 square feet of show-stopping displays. While checking out new plants and products is a great excuse to travel to South Florida in late January, the threat of Storm Jonas bringing the snowstorm of the century to the Mid-Atlantic and Southern states had some show attendees booking flights early to get home before they were stranded. Still, reports from FNGLA said this year’s TPIE […]

Read More
Rhododendron ‘Dandy Man’ (Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs)

February 2, 2016

Spring Meadow Nursery Partnering With Proven Winners Eu…

The expansion creates a cohesive brand for what is now a global market, immediately introducing more than 24 shrubs to the European market, with the potential for 125 or more in the future.

Read More

February 2, 2016

19 Strategies To Strengthen The Horticulture Industry

In Greenhouse Grower’s annual State Of The Industry Survey, we asked how your operation is living the GROW initiative’s five pillars: cultivate new customers, demand quality, drive consumer success, invest in the industry, and sharpen business management. Here is what you had to say.

Read More

February 1, 2016

Stores Big On Plant Sales Vs. Stores With Diverse Produ…

Stores with most of their gross sales coming from plants tend to think those where plants generate less than half of annual sales are ... not quite legitimate. So we took a closer look at what kind of differences we could find between the two groups, and discovered several surprising results.

Read More

February 1, 2016

Vendor Day At Osuna Nursery Draws Gardeners And Builds …

The New Mexico-based garden retailer invites all its vendors to meet its customers one day a year, and give customers access to deeply knowledgeable representatives, and giving vendors a chance to meet the public in a way not usually available to them.

Read More

February 1, 2016

12 New Poinsettias For Holiday Growing

Poinsettias are still a consumer favorite during the holidays for home décor and gift giving. For greenhouse growers looking to get a jumpstart on purchasing young plants for the 2016 poinsettia growing season, there is no shortage of great varieties to choose from. Here are 12 new varieties to keep in mind for holiday product offerings.

Read More
Texas Aquaponics

January 30, 2016

Texas A&M Extension Hosting Aquaponics Workshop In …

During the workshop, which takes place on Feb. 27, participants will help assemble and set up a fully functional aquaponics system.

Read More
Workers at The Farm at Green Village

January 30, 2016

Protect Your Love For Your Garden Work By Taking Time O…

We have an annual work rhythm that I think threatens to steal the joy we find in our industry. Our marathon run of extreme hours during the spring rush must stop.

Read More
Fertilizer Rates Feature Image

January 29, 2016

Bioworks Releases New Higher Nitrogen Fertilizer For Or…

Verdanta N-Vita 9-4-3 promotes foliar growth and features a slow release process, making nutrients available for a longer period of time.

Read More
Costa Farms

January 29, 2016

Costa Farms Named International Grower Of The Year

Costa Farms was the night’s biggest winner during an awards gala presented by the International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH) and held at IPM Essen in Germany. (Read more about the business culture that’s driven Costa’s success in Greenhouse Grower’s January 2016 feature story.) The Florida-based grower was named the International Grower Of The Year, and was chosen from a group that included eight other international companies. “This award is a reflection of our entire team, and we are all dedicated to being the best at what we do and making this company successful for the long term,” said Jose Costa, Executive Vice President of Costa’s foliage division. The AIPH awarded gold, silver, and bronze awards in three categories — Finished Plants And Trees, Young Plants, and Cut Flowers — prior to naming the big winner. Costa was the gold winner in the Finished Plants and Trees Category. Each of […]

Read More
Zinnia On ISS

January 28, 2016

NASA Astronauts Become Gardeners With First Space-Grown…

The issues faced by growing zinnias on the International Space Station offer several learning opportunities for scientists back on Earth.

Read More

January 27, 2016

Costa Farms’ Season Premier Provides Sneak Peek A…

Costa Farms presented the 2016 Season Premier at its 2-acre Trial Gardens in Miami, FL, in the third week of January. The event showcases varieties from breeders of all sizes to growers and major retail buyers, providing a look at what genetics are coming to the market and how they’ll perform in retail settings and in the landscape, when consumers bring them home. The mild winter climate in South Florida allows Costa Farms’ Research and Development Department to simulate the spring growing conditions of various regions in the country. Because each group of visitors to Costa Farms’ Trial Gardens wants to see what the new plants look like in the environments that matter to them, Season Premier offers several areas within the Trial Gardens that highlight different ways to look at the wealth of new varieties. The New Product Showcase offers a way for retailers to see how plants will […]

Read More

January 27, 2016

Garden Retail Survey Says Consumers Are Buying Annuals …

During the 2014 Greenhouse Grower GROW Summit, Susie Raker of C. Raker & Sons made a comment that hit home for everyone in the room. She said she was tired of trying to get more market share from a shrinking pie. She would much rather grow her business by having the industry expand. Susie gave voice to what just about everyone in the industry feels. It’s ridiculous to fight each other for market share when we should be focusing on fighting for our industry’s future. Simply put, we need more customers. One way to expand our customer base is to follow the lead of those in charge: consumers. Ultimately, they control how much our industry grows or slims down. To help make that happen, take a few minutes to look over the results of what we learned from retail surveys over the past few years. When retailers report what is selling […]

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