affordable sustainability into hairy pot production
There is plenty of focus on carbon footprints as an indicator of environmental
impact, but there is much more to it than that. The overall effect of
carbon being released into the atmosphere is being seen, quite rightly,
as important, however there are many other factors that also come into
play when looking at sustainability.
We look across the whole business to minimise the impact we have on the
worlds resources and environment while keeping in balance the need to
keep our products affordable and the business afloat. As well as trying
to get our products sympathetic to our aims, we also make every effort
to get the production methods and inputs in line too.
Here are a few areas where we endeavour to get it right and where we continually
try to improve;
After a major refit we introduced more thrifty and versatile application
methods. This included our Evaposensor kit installed in 2013, so we can
measure water loss and adjust the volume of water applied more accurately.
We pump borehole water to cover a large proportion of our needs and plan
to harvest more rainfall, drastically reducing our dependency on the mains
We have also installed an acid dosing system to adjust the alkalinity
of our very hard irrigation water. This improves foliage and root quality,
reduces fertiliser use and helps keep the spray lines clear.
disease and weed control.
Our weed control depends less now on chemicals as
we hand-weed all our crops and introduce more cultural controls like bark
and coir mulches to reduce weed contamination from elsewhere.
Pest control through the summer is now largely dependant on predators,
either artificially introduced by ourselves, or migrating in from the
large volume of natural hedging we have planted around the site and our
scattering of ponds. We still spot-spray areas where a pest gets established
and the predators need a little help. Even the sprays are developing as
we move to more biopesticides and biofungicides when they become available.
After disappointing results using bacterial spores in the compost to give
long term vine weevil control, we turned in 2014 to applying a range of
nematodes to regain control. Multiple applications applied through the
irrigation system in the spring and autumn have been far more effective
and we will be extending their use through coming seasons to control other
The amount and type of waste produced is another focal point. The sustainable
and reusable packaging systems we use, virtually eliminate any packaging
waste that our customers need to dispose of. On the purchasing side we
are minimising waste levels of materials and products bought onto our
site through tighter planning and buying. The waste we do produce is either
reused, recycled, composted or used as fuel. There is only a very small
volume going to the local incineration and power generation station with
no waste knowingly going to landfill.
Energy developments on the nursery
Carbon footprint reduction is still an important part our overall sustainability
effort. Our initial target has always been to lower energy consumption
by using new technology, closely monitoring our usage, adjusting our heating
and lighting programmes, fitting extra insulation and improving staff
awareness. This has resulted in reductions in our electricity use by over
30% since 2008 and 30% in heating oil.
Solutions can be as technically diverse as fitting specialist LED lighting
in the lab growth room or installing variable speed pumps, to constructing
a waste wood store from old pallets.
Generating our own power has proved very beneficial after the installation
in July 2011 of our three 11kW wind turbines above the nursery. If the
weather is with us, we now generate as much electricity as we use which
helps save on costs and provides useful income through feed-in-tariffs
paid for renewable energy generation and any excess power we export.
Help and support
We are very grateful for all the practical help and inspiration given
to us on our long drive towards sustainability. That support has come
from many sources, being members of PLATO Sustain, participants in the
10:10 campaign, Sustainable Business Network and the Carbon Smart accreditation
scheme from which we received their top Gold Award. This has helped us
reinforce our commitment to our sustainable approach to how we run our
lives and our business.