As an urban farmer, I’ve always been proud of my small-scale food production and gardening efforts, thinking that I’m supporting nature and working with the environment. But I wasn’t aware of the impacts of the gardening materials I chose and unable to see the big picture and interconnectedness of what I thought was a sustainable practice.
For example, I sighed every time I tried to save the unrecyclable polystyrene planting trays for the next season or reuse them for other purposes, knowing that there was no better option out there. The common use of peat as compost in the trays is also an issue — turns out, commercial harvesting can destroy hundreds of years’ worth of peat and complex wildlife ecosystems in one or two years.
That is why I was ecstatic to read about B&Q’s Teabag Technology™ and easyGrow™ solution. The pack consists of trays made from recycled plastic bottles that can be recycled again and a self-contained biodegradable ‘teabag’ made from cornstarch, a renewable resource that is fully compostable. Each bag is filled with coir, a natural fiber extracted from coconut husks, instead of peat. Other advantages of using coir compost are that it retains water very well, and its light weight dramatically reduces the carbon footprint of transport.
Beginning in April, B&Q replaced all of the polystyrene packaging across its range of 20 varieties of bedding plants with its easyGrow packs — which are 100 percent recyclable and 95-99 percent peat-free, removing peat from commercial plant production — in an effort to facilitate growing and raise awareness among home gardeners about how to keep their garden without negatively affecting the rest of the environment.
B&Q’s sustainability efforts do not end there. As Ben Smith, Bedding Plants Buyer at B&Q, explains: “The coir we use is produced in Sri Lanka to high ethical standards which have been independently audited. We’ve created 750 new jobs there as part of the production, and have been playing our part in helping to support the area with funding for a local school.”
My other favorite feature of the biodegradable Teabags is that the plants come in little parcels, which mean no fuss, the roots are protected, and there’s very little packaging. This makes it easy for inexperienced gardeners — simply put the teabag into the soil, cover it up with dirt, water and watch it grow.
As gardeners we need to be more aware of the impact we are having on the environment and the wildlife around us. Thoughtful solutions such as easyGrow will hopefully encourage other gardening businesses to produce products that allow the two agendas to match — beautiful gardens and protected planet.