We sometimes get questions from journalists about what we do at Edibleculture and its interesting to show my (David) responses set against what they choose to say. Horticulture Week is pretty good as it seems balanced.. these questions are from them. Its been a interesting last 6 months and we are more determined to push through our ideas against the tide of profit over planet.
- Has demand suffered since March/the beginning of the pandemic? If so, why? Like a lot of nurseries and garden centres that offered delivery/pickup from site we had a massive increase in sales via phone and internet. This became evident after about a week where (just) before we had furloughed staff and thought ‘is this the end of our business’? Peat free compost sales were very large (50% up on last year) with new people picking up on our bag for life idea and coming back for lots of refills to create raised beds. Because we had a very up to date list of our plant stock gardeners went for a lot of specialist seed grown stock and wildflower/bee friendly stock.. wildlife gardening is going to be big for us in the coming year and with the relaunch of POSIpot we are going to re-invest and build on the experiences of the last few months.. now is the time to take risks and follow what feels right.
- If not, do you think any of that is due to the influence of increased coverage from nature and environment programmes? eg Blue Planet 2? I would say that 50% of customers had an awareness of our approach to the environment and our campaigning stance against plastic misuse/greenwash in horticulture.. they obviously have an awareness of just how precarious the earth future looks by watching programmes like Blue Planet. With the remaining 50% we gained a lot of new loyal custom, when we delivered plants in our POSIpots, weighed seed/feed and turned up with bag for life peat free compost.. many had no idea a company was doing this. The best argument is not just talking but doing.. As David Attenborough said.. Covid will be a footnote in human history, climate change will change everything. Gardening became very important to people during lockdown, I spent a lot of time just sitting, relaxing and watching nature.. the concept that a ‘perfect’ outdoor room seems redundant.. we advocate always wildlife friendly.
- What do you see in the future for Edibleculture? We have had a small grant from our local authority, and we have invested this in a wildlife gardening shop made from a rather beaten up shipping container. I see shipping containers as great selling spaces and have really enjoyed restoring and setting up the space. Wildlife gardening will be big this year as people reflect more on the outdoor spaces they oversee. During lockdown we noticed wildlife thriving and air quality improving.. A lot of people are questioning their actions and how they live at the moment, what do we really need to be happy? I personally took real joy at a very scary time in seeing wildlife closer and more confident..
- How do you ensure there is no long-term detrimental consequences of your products damaging the environment? Running a business will generate waste/carbon, it can’t be helped. Offsetting will mitigate and luckily by selling and often giving away trees and plants we believe we are carbon positive. Now we have completed the plastic circle within the business we have a handle on any bulk plastics that need specialist recycling. Broken pots, compost bale wrappings and general packaging that comes into us is sorted, graded and sent to specialist companies for recycling. The real problem for the environment from horticulture is..
- The re-branding of plastic pots as ‘green’ because they are not black anymore (Taupe) – This is the worst kind of greenwash because it excuses growers (and buyers) to think they are doing something positive.. but in reality, keeping a polluting and destructive product going. Even the miniscule percentage that is recycled wastes a huge amount of energy.
- Peat and peat-based compost, destroying a fragile eco system and the best carbon store we have?
- Plastic packaging of compost and sundries. Single use and unrecyclable.
- Imported cheap plants from countries who have a competitive advantage because their governments support what they do. The UK nursery industry is in sharp decline, it needs to be supported to be greener, experimental and seen as a living wage career.
The nub of this is who sees the true cost of plastic misuse or peat mining? Not the producers or disseminators of these products, whilst a bag of peat compost is cheap from a supermarket what is its true cost??
- Has there been any concerns from customers regarding the logistical side of implementing your products? We choose not to sell our plants online as we hate the packaging waste and general reliability of the courier system. We receive goods from companies and even after asking for no plastic we get reams of the stuff. We delivered ourselves throughout lockdown in our electric van and I know that sounds really smug but for us it feels the right thing to do, we are lucky living in a relatively affluent area, people like to come to us as we give a lot of advice. Our shop is the big surprise, when we started, we thought we would be tree planting to generate revenue.. it’s the face to face (with a mask on) which is our big earner… we are really open about what we do, and we are not perfect but always try to explain our processes to customers.. I know we could make good money from web sales but it’s not our thing.
- How does Baaslug anti-slug mulch work? Baaslug is our new product for the spring working with Romney marsh wool company. It’s a wool and bark mulch which we have testing over the summer.. we are really excited about it as it allows us to use on site packaging like our compost bag for life and lined paper bags. With the banning of chemical based slug pellets, we think we have a great product, locally sourced and reasonably priced.
If there’s anything else you think I haven’t covered with these that’s important please feel free to tell me about it too. I may return with some follow-up questions. That’s no problem.. I love having a rant on my days off!
All the best