FROM THE EDITOR: September 2007

January 17, 2008
Written by
Environmentalism has become mainstream. We’re all embracing the Three Rs of Reducing, Reusing and Recycling. We have strict pollution controls on car exhaust emissions; for example here in Ontario, motorists must recertify their vehicles as meeting those standards every two years. Companies are encouraged to use less packaging. Retailers such as Wal-Mart and Home Depot are sourcing an increasing number of environmentally friendly products.

The new industry buzzword is sustainable horticulture. People are talking about food miles and environmental footprints. Such talk is not a fad, but a grassroots movement that says the planet needs a little TLC before we completely exhaust its resources and irrevocably foul its ecosystems.

Leading the way in Canada is the Institute for Sustainable Horticulture at Kwantlen University College in Langley, British Columbia. Established in 2004 by professor Dr. James Matteoni, the institute this year received $2.2 million from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation. The institute’s goal is to “work in collaboration with industry to consolidate and advance British Columbia’s position as a leader in sustainable horticulture research, development and application.” Project themes include integrated pest management, ecosystem sustainability, industrial innovation, community awareness, and education and training.

This year’s Ohio Short Course featured a pair of seminars on the topic: Sustainable Floriculture: The Nature, Economics, and Marketing of the ‘Next Big Thing,’ followed by Sustainable Floriculture: the Nuts and Bolts of the ‘Next Big Thing.’ Both were very well attended.

The MPS program, based in the Netherlands, is a highly touted environmental program that continues to expand within new production areas, and most recently into China. Between 60 and 70 per cent of all products sold in Dutch auctions is MPS certified. It was developed in the 1990s by flower auctions and grower associations to reassure retailers and consumers of the environmental awareness and sensitivity demonstrated by the country’s flower production industry.

The more recently developed VeriFlora program, with the tag line “the Sustainable Choice,” is gaining momentum in North America (with 18 farms) and Central America (with 32 farms). Based in California, it is a sustainability certification program for fresh cut flowers and potted plants.

The greenhouse industry has an enviable record of sustainability. Production efficiencies are increasing each year. Yields are improving constantly. Growers are enthusiastically embracing many examples of sustainability, including greater use of biodegradable pots, film recycling, IPM programs, and closed irrigation systems, to name a few. Growers are also choosing alternative fuels, such as wood wastes.

There are many economic incentives to support sustainable horticulture. Retailers are probably a step or two ahead of growers on this issue.

But there are also incentives that hit closer to home. There is an old saying that no one really owns any land, it’s merely borrowed from our children. That’s a powerful concept. The world we transfer to our children and grandchildren should offer the same opportunities as the one we inherited.

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