Sustainability in the gardening industry

A couple of months ago I spoke about how to make your garden more sustainable. In this months blog, I want to discuss sustainability in the gardening industry as a whole, as well as the steps we’re taking as a business to play our part in helping the planet. 

A growing problem  

The gardening industry is seen as a green sector (in more ways than one!) but sadly it’s actually quite a big polluter.


For a start, there’s plastic. Lots and lots of plastic. If you buy a plant it's likely to come in a plastic pot. Compost and bulbs are often sold in plastic packaging. And seed trays and plant labels are usually plastic too. Research suggests a whopping 500 million plant pots and seed trays are sold in the UK every year. Two thirds of these pots end up in landfill or incinerators as many local authorities can’t accept them for recycling. 

Next, there’s peat. Peat has historically been used in compost because of its ability to retain water and nutrients but removing it from its natural habitat is hugely damaging to the environment. First of all, peat bogs are usually teaming with wildlife and plant life that can only survive in that specific environment. Peat also soaks up water and therefore help to reduce the risk of flooding. Living in a flood zone ourselves, we know first-hand how important it is that peat stays exactly where it’s meant to be! 

There’s also the seed monopoly. Just four seed companies control around 60% of the global seed market. There’s the obvious carbon footprint associated with transporting seeds around the world, but the seed monopoly also means that the biological diversity of crops is in decline. Worryingly, this will affect our food supply as crops will be less likely to cope and adapt to climate change.


Gardening is going green  

It’s not all doom and gloom though! The gardening industry is changing.

Many companies are now looking at their plastic use and trying to find alternatives. Instead of plastic pots and seed trays for example, many businesses offer bamboo or other biodegradable substitutes. Packaging is changing too. Bulbs are now often sold in paper bags and some garden centres are selling compost in reusable sacks and offering cheaper refills. 

Speaking of compost, there’s been a big increase in suppliers offering peat-free alternatives. The formular has been refined over the years and is now often more effective than its peat-filled cousin! When buying compost, always check the label to ensure its peat-free and be aware that organic doesn’t necessarily mean no peat - sneaky! If you want to start making your own compost, there’s now lots more advice out there to help you on your journey, as well as much more choice over the compost bin you choose.

Thankfully, there’s also been a big shift in the use of chemicals in gardening products. If you look at pest control for example, there are now lots of organic options that don’t harm other plants and wildlife. We talk about why this is important and share some tips for environmentally friendly pest control in this blog post about bees.


Our sustainability credentials

At Sow Clever, we’re passionate about sustainability and want to make sure we’re playing our part in the fight against climate change. When I first set up the business, I knew that I didn’t want to contribute to landfill or have a huge carbon footprint.

With that in mind, our kits are: 

  • Peat free - all our compost products are - and always will be - peat free
  • Plastic free - you will never find any plastics in any of our growing kits
  • Recycling friendly - our packaging is recyclable and sourced from recycled materials wherever possible, even down to our packing tape
  • Locally sourced - our seeds are from a UK independent seed grower. Better for the environment, crop diversity and we’re supporting another small, UK-based business

While I’m really proud of our credentials, I think it’s also really important to say that I’m certainly not perfect when it comes to my carbon footprint. I still have a lot to learn but I’m pleased of the steps that we’ve taken so far as a business and as family to reduce our emissions and help the planet.


Best wishes,

Lucy & John X

Sustainability in the gardening industry