2016 Sustainability Statement
Another spring season is upon us; pansies are growing in the greenhouses and we’re busy planting many acres worth of pots, planters, baskets and flats each week. Each February we provide a look at our sustainable practices from the prior year, and 2015 was one of our most successful years in this regard.
- We entered our 7th year of being a ‘Veriflora ‘Sustainably Grown’ certified grower. We continue to be one of a small group of big-box suppliers able to meet the criteria for this program. This means passing a multiday inspection to prove we meet or exceed benchmarks for sustainable crop production, product quality, employee safety, ecosystem protection and product purity.
- 2015 was our best recycling year yet with 749,000 pounds of material. This ranges from pots, trays, and tags returned on the designated recycling carts in Home Depot stores to cardboard and paper sleeves from tropical plant deliveries and everything between. Our 5 year total is now over 2.7 million pounds of material, a truly impressive mark. This is equivalent to almost 700 average cars in weight. Over half of our 2015 recycling was done with an industry partner that regrinds the plastic and uses it to make carry trays from 100% recycled plastic. We support this program by exclusively using this recycled carry tray for our 1 gallon perennial production. When you see these trays holding our perennials in stores you can know they may have been 6” annual pots, 12” hanging baskets, or market packs in a previous life.
- Our Elkridge and Burtonsville facilities in Maryland are operating on 100% wind generated power. This is our 3rdyear in this program and the annual result is removing close to 200 vehicles from the road or not consuming over 100,000 gallons of gasoline.
- We installed numerous beehives at our Burtonsville facility in 2015 to observe firsthand the challenges that face bees and the multitude of factors impacting their decline. Our growing in Burtonsville was done without using any chemicals in the neonicotinoid class as we continue to participate in a large scale experiment. We also hired a very experienced beekeeper to purchase the hives and perform weekly maintenance. In the end, we lost 80% of the bee population due to the effects of varroa mites and hive beetles. We’ll be installing more hives (and replacing the bees we lost) in 2016 and look forward to learning more about counteracting these pests that can decimate bee populations.
We typically interpret sustainability to be a measure of how our impact on the environment is mitigated through various green initiatives. While that is indeed important, a broader interpretation of sustainability would include our work to make positive change in our communities and the lives of the people around us. It is this broader interpretation, and the related work we’ve done, that made last year one of our best ever from a sustainability standpoint.
2015 was a difficult year for Baltimore; the largest city in Maryland saw riots for the first time in over 45 years. Bell’s corporate headquarters is located less than 15 miles from where much of this took place. Watching these events unfold in April was heartbreaking; many members of the Bell team live in the city and see the good in it every day. Thankfully, in partnership with the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives and The Home Depot, we were able to affect real change in parts of the city this year. In early June, hundreds of volunteers were able to install a community garden and renovate a community center in West Baltimore in just a matter of days. The garden featured raised beds, over 2,000 square feet of growing space and thousands of vegetable plants and flowers. The community center received a new roof, exterior landscaping, and an interior renovation. Dozens of community members came out to work alongside the volunteers and improve the neighborhood. This was truly a group effort and everyone was working towards the same goal of creating significant and sustainable change in Baltimore. In addition, Bell was able to host hiring days at the community center to bring jobs to members of the community. Through the summer and early fall, thousands of pounds of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, squash, watermelon and more were harvested and enjoyed by the community.
This winter, we were able to again work with Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives and two community centers in the city that we had built relationships with to collect and distribute winter coats and toys. With results far surpassing expectations, over 1000 winter coats and 1500 wrapped gifts were distributed to the community members through these centers in December. It was hard to tell if the smiles of the volunteers or recipients were larger – the gratitude was immense and mutual.
Our core principals of Quality, Service, Innovation, and Value continue to drive our business and remain our focus in 2016. As with our approach to sustainability, we will interpret our principals not just with an eye towards business, but also our communities.
Continue to Act Like You Own It!