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Product, Service & Design Innovation
For Peat’s Sake:
Back to the Roots Equips Home Gardeners with Climate-Friendly Soil

While peatlands cover only 3% of our land, they store 30% of the world’s soil carbon. And the popularity of peat in commercial potting soils means that peatlands, or bogs, are rapidly disappearing. Back to the Roots aimed to give conscientious home gardeners a solution.

As the home-gardening movement booms in popularity, a ‘dirty’ little secret from the industry has come to light: peat. The mining of peat — a common ingredient central to most store-bought potting soils — has had a devastating impact on our climate, accounting for nearly 6 percent of all human-made greenhouse gas emissions.

That’s the challenge that Back to the Roots, the millennial gardening company known for its indoor and at-home gardening kits and USA-grown seeds, set out to solve with its new, peat-free potting mix — the first nationally available, premium potting mix of its kind. The soil launched in Walmart stores across the country in May.

While peatlands cover only 3 percent of the Earth’s land, they store 30 percent of the world’s soil carbon. And the popularity of peat in commercially manufactured potting soil means that peatlands, or bogs — which have their own important role to play in our ecosystem — are rapidly disappearing. Globally, mined peatlands contribute to over one billion metric tons of CO2 emissions per year — nearly equivalent to the emissions of all the cars in the world combined.

“If we do it the right way — without the toxic chemicals and carbon-emitting peat — gardening and growing our own food can be one of the most sustainable things any of us can do,” said Back to the Roots Co-CEO Nikhil Arora. “We want to help empower a new generation of gardeners with the tools that are not just best for their plants, but best for the planet, too.”

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In formulating the soil, Back to the Roots was challenged with avoiding peat while still offering competitive moisture-holding capacity and performance for growers. To make sure it was able to retain water as well as any peat-centric soil, the Back to the Roots team included coconut coir fibers — an upcycled waste stream from the coconut industry — and a natural saponin extract, from the drought-resistant yucca plant, in their formula.

“This new potting mix gives millennial gardeners a professional-grade blend without the devastating impact to our peatlands and climate,” said Back to the Roots co-CEO Alejandro Velez. “This next generation of gardeners wants to grow — but they also want to know that their dollars aren’t accelerating climate change.”

The pair were inspired to add a soil line to their offerings after experimenting with soil blends for their indoor grow kits. They’d been perfecting their soils for years — and customers were noticing.

“We had so many people reach out and ask how they could buy our soil in bulk,” Velez said. “Obsessing over the best soil for our gardening community has always been a huge part of our work behind the scenes. We’re just bringing it front and center now, and making it available to gardeners everywhere.”

Arora describes the peat-free soil as a “natural progression” of the gardening company’s product lines.

“For years, we’ve been on a mission to bring organic gardening to every kid and family across the country, and help people grow everywhere and everything — no matter your experience or space,” Arora said. “We’re excited to inspire a new generation to get into the garden!”