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
Terra Nova 2018 Catalog

September 23, 2017

Terra Nova Nurseries’ Latest Plant Catalog is Now Avail…

The new 2017-2018 plant catalog, which features hundreds of varieties, series, and collections from Terra Nova Nurseries, pays homage to the company’s 25th anniversary.

Read More
Steve Garvey, Dallas Johnson Greenhouses

September 23, 2017

Producing Quality Plants in the Greenhouse Starts From …

It's common for growers to make mistakes. What you learn from those mistakes is what sets you apart as a grower and where quality starts.

Read More
Soil Dosage Bunkers at Meyers Greenhouses feature

September 22, 2017

An Up-Close Look at Meyers Greenhouses’ Central Soil De…

Head Grower Aron Hoff was looking for a way to customize soil mixes on multiple planting lines in real time. The system he’s now using makes the process much simpler.

Read More
Hurricane Irma Damage

September 22, 2017

Hurricane Recovery Update: Aris Resumes Shipping, Assis…

Harvey and Irma wreaked havoc on the floriculture and nursery industries in Texas, Florida, and elsewhere. Here are the latest updates.

Read More
Armitage GWA Buffalo Tour 5

September 21, 2017

Tour of Buffalo Gardens Reveals Hidden Gems And Communi…

This past August, Allan Armitage joined the Association for Garden Communicators on a tour of Buffalo. It was a reminder that that we can make a difference in neighborhoods, in cities, and in people’s lives.

Read More
Quality in the Greenhouse

September 21, 2017

Two Head Growers and a Retail Live Goods Buyer Talk Bes…

Ultimately, the quality of the plants you grow will be responsible for the success of the consumer, and consumer success will ideally translate to repeat sales. That’s why quality must be a top priority for all growers, according to Brad Julian, a Live Goods Buyer for Lowe’s Home Improvement, and Head Growers Dennis Crum of Four Star Greenhouse and Joe Moore of Lucas Greenhouses.

Read More

September 21, 2017

Horticulture Is All About Connections

The beauty of our industry is that we are more than willing to reach out and help those around us. What connections can you make today to help your business, and what can you offer to help another grower?

Read More
SBI Rack Scanning feature

September 20, 2017

8 Questions To Ask, And Answer, Before You Invest in Ne…

Implementing new software in your greenhouse business may seem overwhelming at first, but doing your homework will pay off in the long run.

Read More

September 19, 2017

Horticulture Business Leaders Demand Resolution to Labo…

AmericanHort's Impact Washington event was an importantly timed mission of advocacy for the green industry, delivering messages to lawmakers on three of the most pressing issues – labor and the workforce, research and innovation, and tax reform.

Read More

September 19, 2017

Here’s Your Chance to Earn CEUs in Weed Management

The University of Florida is offering a new online training course covering weed management in the greenhouse. The course offers Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for growers in many states.

Read More
Boxwood Blight

September 19, 2017

Concerned About Boxwood Blight? Here Are Some Updated M…

AmericanHort’s Horticultural Research Institute has released an updated version of its boxwood blight Best Management Practices document.

Read More
Hydrangea mac. Fire Island (Monrovia Nursery)

September 19, 2017

Grower-Retailers Pick Their Favorites From Farwest 2017

Members of The Garden Center Group once again named their top selections in both live and hard goods for the Retailers’ Choice Awards at Farwest 2017.

Read More
Valoya Lights

September 18, 2017

3 Steps to Improving the Efficiency of Your LED Systems

Achieving the largest possible optimal light intensity area with the lowest possible number of lights is essential to making an investment in LEDs pay off.

Read More
Suntory Grandessa argyranthemum - feature

September 18, 2017

Breeders Open Availability for Unrooted Cuttings; Here&…

With new avenues for buying young plants for vegetative production, growers should have an easier time finding availability and receiving shipments of unrooted cuttings for the coming seasons.

Read More
Micandy Gardens Team

September 17, 2017

4 Ways Micandy Gardens Greenhouses Reaches Out to Mill…

Micandy leverages social media to get the word out about its products and spread the word about how flowers can make a difference in people’s lives.

Read More
MANTS

September 16, 2017

Registration for MANTS 2018 Now Open

MANTS, which takes place Jan. 10-12, 2018, in Baltimore, MD, brings together green industry professionals from around the world.

Read More
Proven Winners Potting Soil and Plant Food

September 15, 2017

Sun Gro Forms New Distribution Agreement with Proven Wi…

Sun Gro will distribute Proven Winners-branded potting soils and plant foods to independent garden centers.

Read More
Common Greenhouse Maintenance Problems GVZ Glasshouses

September 14, 2017

How to Deal With Common Greenhouse Maintenance Issues

The most common problems often come from a lack of cleanliness and faulty equipment. Here are a number of tips you can follow in each of these areas.

Read More