2018 Sustainability Statement
It’s an exciting time on the production side of the business as we’ve been in ‘spring mode’ for a month now – the greenhouses and fields are full, baskets are being hung, and we are planting acres worth of planters, packs, pots and baskets each week. I wanted to briefly update you on our numerous sustainable initiatives we continue to work on each year. As a part of the original “green” industry, it’s important we continue to be leaders when it comes to protecting our employees and environment while producing the highest quality plants we can.
We had another great year on the recycling front with over 560,000 pounds of material sent to our recycling partners. This brings our running total from the beginning of the program in 2011 to over 3.7 million pounds that has been recycled instead of ending up in a landfill. From our store teams that support the in-store recycling carts to the facility teams that process everything to be sent to recyclers it’s truly an effort to be proud of! We continue to partner with one of our plastic vendors on over half the recycling that we do. They regrind the plastic we send back and turn it into the carry trays we use for our 1-gallon perennials. These trays used to be a pot, tray, or hanging basket and have now come full circle back into our business through recycling.
We switched our Burtonsville, MD and Elkridge, MD facilities to 100% wind generated power in 2014 and are happy to say our Springfield, OH location made the switch to wind power in 2017. The result of these three facilities running on wind power is to avoid greenhouse gas emissions of over 1,600 metric tons of CO2 per year. The EPA provides a pretty interesting calculator to help illustrate just how significant that environmental impact is and by using renewable energy each year at these locations we avoid the consumption of any one of the following:
- 3,700 barrels of oil
- 1,750,000 pounds of coal (almost 9 railcars worth)
- 180,000 gallons of gasoline
- 344 cars being driven for a year
- 173 homes worth of energy use
This class of chemical has received a lot of media attention in recent years related to honey bees and being one of many potential causes for their population decline. The EPA is currently conducting research into the effects of neonicotinoids (“neonics”) on pollinators and it’s important for us to note we have not used neonics in production for over 4 years. We were one of the first big-box growers to phase neonics out of production and it did not come free of a learning curve. A lot of plants were lost trialing replacement crop protection agents but in the end, we have been successful thanks to a strong integrated pest management program. We are continuing to trial beneficial insects for pest control at many of our locations and continue to work with our vendor partners in Florida to help them find a replacement for neonics on tropical plants.
Shortly after going neonic free in our own production, we still had questions about what was causing so many issues for honeybees in the United States. Starting in 2015 we became beekeepers with 10 hives at our Burtonsville, MD location managed by students from a local university. In short, all 10 hives died as a result of pressure from numerous pests and diseases. 2016 gave us very similar results but with 20 hives, 100% loss. Last year we hired a professional beekeeper who manages hundreds of hives for his livelihood to care for our 20 hives. As of February 1st, 1 of 20 hives is still alive. Pressure primarily from varroa mites but also small hive beetle, deformed wing virus and other issues killed our bees again. In our own anecdotal experiences there are a multitude of issues that bees are facing and singling colony loss down to just one is nearly impossible. In the interest of trying to learn more we have initiated dialogue with other area beekeepers who have significant knowledge and experience as well as a vested interest in the long-term health of pollinators. We will continue with our beekeeping in 2018 and look forward to better results.
Monarch Butterfly Conservation
In 2017 we created Monarch Butterly Waystations at all company production facilities in MD, OH, VA and NC and registered each dedicated area with Monarch Watch. (Monarchwatch.org). Monarch waystations provide critical habitat and forage, including Milkweed, which are necessary for Monarchs to produce successive generations and sustain their migration to overwintering sites in Mexico and California.
In April 2017 we donated several thousand young Milkweed plants to Friends of Patuxent, a non profit group that supports the mission of the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge and Research Center in Laurel, MD. Plants were given to attendees at several events last Spring. Plans are in place to repeat and expand this in 2018 with a variety of pollinator friendly plants.
We are entering our 9th year of producing Veriflora Certified Sustainably grown plants. We continue to be one of a small group of big-box suppliers able to meet the criteria for this program. This involves a multi-day onsite audit of our practices and facilities to prove we meet or exceed benchmarks for sustainable crop production, product quality, employee health and safety, ecosystem protection and product purity. More can be learned here: https://www.scsglobalservices.com/services/veriflora-certified-sustainably-grown
We are proud of the progress made on our sustainable initiatives and the excitement knowing we can do more in 2018. What we’ve been able achieve so far is a credit to each member of the Bell team and their commitment to improving the environment. We look forward to another fun spring season while continuing to be responsible to the communities in which we live and work.