2015 Sustainability Statement

Environmental StrategyHello Everyone,

Over the past year we put special focus on four initiatives in our sustainability program; these were Veriflora, Neonicotinoids, Recycling, and Energy.

Certified Veriflora Sustainably Grown

We are entering our 6th year of certification in the Veriflora program and are excited to further develop and hone our sustainable practices.  To meet the Veriflora standard we pass a multi-day inspection and provide data through documents and employee interviews that show we meet or exceed benchmarks for: sustainable crop production, ecosystem protection, community outreach, production quality, product safety and purity. We are proud to be one of the few big box suppliers in the US with this certification as well as one of the first to complete it 6 years ago.

 Neonicotinoids (Neonics)

The controversy around this class of pesticide has continued to build since we described it to you last year in our update.  While this class of chemical is one of the best for us to use in terms of pest control vs. employee safety it is still blamed, either wholly or in-part, for Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) among honey bees across the United States. The argument against this class of chemical is largely based in emotion and lacks sound scientific evidence; however it continues to gain traction amongst our local and state legislators. There is a bill being considered in the Maryland Senate that would impose strict labeling requirements in 2015 and an outright ban in 2016 on this chemical class.  Supporters of the bill have made claims that Neonics kill everything from babies to blue crabs, and of course the honeybee.  We hope that all involved continue to pursue the truth through scientific research, no matter where it may lead, instead of following unsupported, emotional arguments. A recent editorial that addresses the studies used by pro-ban advocates is located here and definitely worth a read.  We will continue to update http://bellnursery.com/bee-informed/ with articles, videos, and links to research as it becomes available.

Last year we mentioned our Director of Growing Operations, Tom Wheeler, worked out a plan to grow Neonicotinoid free in 2014 and we would monitor the results.  We accomplished that goal of growing plants without Neonics but not without added expense and occasional pest issues. In 2015 we have decided to add Neonics back into our ‘tool box’ of chemical applications and use them when necessary. It is one of the least-harmful classes of pesticides towards mammals and our employee safety is paramount. If we use Neonics in production at all this year, all plants with this chemical applied to them will receive an additional informative tag that explains the chemical was used. This will be in addition to the usual care tag.

For more information please visit our “Bee Informed” section of the website.

Bee Informed

 Recycling

Bell HD Recycling CartsOn the recycling front our progress continues to be nothing short of amazing.  We are continuing to work with an industry partner to re-grind the recycled plastics into usable products.  The 6-count carry trays that you will see our 1 gallon perennials shipping in from our NC and MD farms this year are made of 100% recycled plastics that come back to the DC’s on the recycle carts in stores. We’ve changed all of our 1 gallon perennial tray purchasing over to this 100% recycled version for 2015 to further support this program. Here is how our recycling numbers look over the last 4 years:

  • 2011: 210,000 pounds
  • 2012: 490,000 pounds
  • 2013: 550,000 pounds
  • 2014: 710,000 pounds

We saw a huge increase this past year thanks to the tremendous dedication everyone  shows towards this program.  Let’s continue to strive and push these year over year increases into 2015 – keeping recyclables out of landfills is something we should all be proud of, and these numbers show the power of our collective efforts!

Energy

Last year we told you about one of our facilities running on 100% wind power, the equivalent of taking 184 cars off the road for a year or avoiding the consumption of 100,000 gallons of gasoline. This year we are working towards reducing our overall energy usage during strains on the local energy grids where our facilities are located. The Energy Demand Response program will notify our facility managers of impending grid strain (think 100 degree summer days when everyone wants heavy A/C) so that we can curtail, or in some cases eliminate, our energy draw by shutting down non-essential components or converting to generator power. By reducing or eliminating our energy draw during periods of heavy use we help our local municipalities avoid brown-outs and receive reimbursement if we switch to generator power.

We had a tremendous year in 2014 on all fronts and plan to continue that momentum into 2015.  By focusing on Quality, Service, Innovation, and Value we will continue to drive top line sales growth and increase bottom line profitability; all while promoting a message of sustainability with our team, our communities, and our environment.   Thank you for all that you continue to do to ensure the success of Bell Nursery – we would be nothing without our amazing team of Purple People!

Cole Mangum