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
Anna Chernyavsky

January 20, 2017

New Director of Sales for Bedding Plants and Perennials…

Anna Chernyavsky, who joined Danziger in August 2016, will be in charge of the U.S. and United Kingdom markets.

Read More
Workplace Trends

January 20, 2017

10 Trends Predicted to Impact the Workplace in 2017

Here are 10 workplace trends that Forbes contributor Dan Schawbel predicts for 2017 that may change the way you do business in the future

Read More
Hydrangea ‘Endless Summer BloomStruck’ (Bailey Nurseries)

January 19, 2017

Bailey Nurseries Hosting Spring Previews in February

The previews, which provide education, new variety information, and retail support programs, will take place in Illinois, Minnesota, and Boston.

Read More
Bouldin and Lawson Precision Needle Seeder feature

January 19, 2017

How You Can Get More Precise With Your Seeder

Bouldin & Lawson’s Precision Needle Seeder is designed to improve accuracy when sowing small, difficult seeds.

Read More
Selecta Sponsor bed at Raker trial gardens

January 18, 2017

2016 C. Raker & Sons Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results for C. Raker & Sons in Litchfield, MI.

Read More
EFTE Film

January 18, 2017

Looking at Glass or Polyethylene for Your New Structure…

Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene, also known as EFTE, is a fluorine-based material that looks like a standard polyethylene greenhouse film but offers high light transmittance.

Read More
Nadia Sabeh, CEAC

January 18, 2017

Upcoming Seminars to Focus on Managing the Greenhouse E…

The seminars, which will also be accessible online, are presented by the University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Center.

Read More
Spring Meadow Nursery Fire

January 17, 2017

Two Major Growers Recovering and Rebuilding After Fires

The blazes occurred at Dan Schantz Farm and Greenhouses in Zionsville, PA, and Spring Meadow Nursery in Grand Haven, MI. Both companies say no employees were injured, and they plan to pull together and stay on schedule for the remainder of the year.

Read More
Dallas Johnson

January 17, 2017

Dallas Johnson Greenhouses Owner Passes Away at 78

Dallas G. Johnson, who started the company in 1985, is survived by his wife, Kay, and two children.

Read More
Joe Cimino, Sakata Seed America

January 17, 2017

Sakata Seed Names New Senior Sales Manager for Ornament…

Joe Cimino comes to Sakata with past experience at Sun Gro and Florexpo.

Read More
JinPin Flower Seedling Company partners

January 17, 2017

Ernst Benary Partners With Chinese Young Plant Grower o…

The partnership creates a new company called Jinpin Flower Seedling Company, which will focus on providing young plants to the rapidly growing Chinese bedding plant market.

Read More
PC-31 Transplanter (Visser)

January 17, 2017

Visser NA Rebrands as Bellpark Horticulture

The new name will equally represent not only Visser, but all of the brands Bellpark represents, including Mayer, Logitec Plus, and Drygair in North America.

Read More
Stephanie Whitehouse

January 17, 2017

Stephanie Whitehouse Takes Her Passion for Plants to Di…

Stephanie Whitehouse, who has spent the last seven years as the Sales and Marketing Director for Peace Tree Farm in Kintnersville, PA, recently joined Dickman Farms Greenhouse and Garden Center in Auburn, NY, as the company’s new Retail General Manager.

Read More

January 13, 2017

We Must Help Heal Our Nation, with Plants and Flowers […

No matter how you may feel — personally or professionally — about the outcome of the election, it’s likely that you realize our nation has some healing to do.

Read More
Effective pest control

January 12, 2017

Prevention and Early Intervention: The Keys to Biocont…

Advance preparation and starting out right helps you implement an effective biocontrol program that reduces pest pressure.

Read More
Dipladenia Sundenia

January 11, 2017

New Tropical and Foliage Plants That Offer Hidden Benef…

Tropical and foliage plants can offer extra paybacks to your customers in terms of health-promoting benefits such as filtering the air, reducing stress, and absorbing noise. Consider these new varieties, hitting the retail market in 2017, for your product mix.

Read More

January 10, 2017

5 Can’t-Miss Events and Activities at TPIE

The Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association’s Tropical Plant Industry Exposition (TPIE) is fast approaching. As you plan your trip, here are five can’t-miss highlights from this year’s show.

Read More

January 10, 2017

Sidney B. Meadows Scholarship Endowment Fund Accepting …

The deadline for applications is May 26, and 12 scholarships of $1,500 each will be awarded at the SEGreen Conference in August.

Read More