“Rushing into things is dangerous. But doing nothing is more dangerous.” So says Adam Wigglesworth of Aylett Nurseries in St Albans in GTN's Sustainability Directory 2020, published last week.
“It's a moving target, this sustainability thing but customers expect it. Financially, it makes sense. It works, recycling, waste reduction. Those things actually make efficiencies and even in situations where things are slightly more expensive actually, customers are normally happy to pay the difference, or you have to absorb a bit of it.”
Aylett Nurseries have been on the sustainability journey now for many years and are main sponsors of the annual St Albans Sustainability Week. “I've been banging on about it for a while but if you only did one thing it would be by yourself a bailer and bail your plastic, bale your cardboard and bale your shrink and take it out of your waste stream.”
“When we show our customers what we do (they have massive displays of their waste management and sustainable products etc in store during St Albans Sustainability Week and at other times) they all say, ‘I didn't realize you were doing so much.’ That’s why we must tell people about it.”
Adam’s staff at Aylett’s play a big part in their sustainability journey. “How many people work in garden centres who aren't enthusiastic about the environment? This is not a difficult sell. When we started on the sustainability kick, we had a management meeting: I said there are two ways to look at this, there are those of you who are the eco warriors, you're going to love this and then there are those of you who aren't and you're interested in your pay packet. All of you are going to benefit from this because we're going to reduce the amount we send to landfill, we're going to reduce our costs. We're going to sell our cardboard and our plastic, we're going to reduce the waste bill. So everyone succeeds and customers love it.”
“That's why I like being in this industry was their reaction. That doesn't mean we're green. It doesn't mean we don't have plastic pots. It doesn't mean we don't use heating but we certainly need to adapt and change and keep moving forward. We've got to do our best. I feel very, very passionately about it. Customers are not asking us to completely rip up our business model and change it. There's a huge following, particularly in St Albans from customers to know what we're doing. And when we tell them what we're doing, it is such a positive saying and we're not doing nearly enough.”
“I suspect loads of people have done L.E.D. lights. I've changed every single light in the garden centre. It cost £60k with a very helpful carbon trust grant of 10%. I'm saving just over 20 percent a year on my energy bill so the payback for me is three years. They've got a warranty of five years and over their lifetime that’s 30 tons of carbon we’ve saved just by putting in LED lights.”
Aylett Nurseries have also been involved in wider sustainability initiatives. “A few years ago we signed up to the Refill App (www.refill.org.uk) for free water bottle re-fills and currently we get at least a dozen people a day calling in for free water. What’s not to like about that!”
“At the end of the day you've got to do this for the right reason. And the right reason is for the environment. Everything else is a benefit. If you're only doing this to be seen to be green that's the wrong reason.”
Read more about garden centre sustainability in the on-line version of GTN's Sustainability Directory 2020 using this link and see the sustainability listings of over 80 garden centre suppliers.
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