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Reducing Carbon Footprint

Reducing Carbon Footprint


As lockdown (hopefully) becomes an unpleasant memory, it is time to think about the next major challenge which all businesses face in the next 10 years.

Confining the global temperature rise to 1.5C to 2°C, reducing global warming, and achieving Carbon Net Zero (a 60% reduction in carbon emissions relative to 1990) requires all businesses and individuals to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions. The government has set out challenging plans to meet this target by or before 2050.

So where does Burncoose position itself in all this and what can we do to improve?

Within the nursery we have already taken the obvious, immediate, steps which we can:

? We have now changed to using only recyclable pots rather than black plastic ones although it will take a year or two to complete this change in the growing cycle of the plants which we produce

Nearly all of our packing materials are now biodegradable and, apart from the plant labels themselves, no plastic is involved.

We have made great strides in moving towards a paperless packing shed with nearly everything possible relating to your orders simply on a screen

Our potting compost is now only around 60% peat with the remainder now being composted bark

Our propagation units are now heated with electricity rather than gas.

There is however much more which we can do in the next few years:

We intend to replace as many of the transport vehicles in the nursery as we can to being rechargeable electric ones

Although we have a bus stop on an A road outside the nursery entrance, we are located in the countryside. Car sharing amongst our staff and reducing the number of people coming to work in petrol/diesel vehicles becomes ever more important. Several of our staff already live on site.

Our ericaceous plants, and especially our specialities, camellias, magnolias and rhododendrons, cannot yet be grown properly without a peat based compost. Scientific advances may change this, but it will take time. In the meantime, we can move to growing other herbaceous plants in peat alternatives which are proven to work.

Beside these aspirations and objectives there are other issues which are far more difficult and expensive to address:

Plugs and liner plants which we buy in to grow on as well as finished plants for immediate resale are delivered in huge lorries; some from overseas. Shortening the supply chain for the huge diversity of plants which we offer in our catalogue is not easy.

All our mail order parcels are delivered to your door in courier vans. That is how internet mail order works across the board. We can aspire to delivering to ‘hubs’ from which individuals can collect locally, but this is not something a small business in Cornwall can do much about on its own.

We would very much like to recycle the well and borehole water which we use in the nursery but we are located on the brow of a hill and water flows two ways from different sides of the nursery. A recycling scheme is going to be challenging logistically and expensive.

So still much to do to reduce our carbon footprint which we emit each year as a nursery business.

However there are also massive and very positive benefits from planting more trees (or shrubs) which can remove CO2 from the atmosphere and result in ‘carbon capture’.

The government has set up new grant systems for tree planting, carbon capture and the sale of carbon credits by woodland owners creating new woodland.

Current estimates suggest that four large growing native trees will sequester or capture around one tonne of CO2 in their above ground biomass over the next 100 years. Forty to fifty largish shrubs might well achieve the same result.

An acre of new ornamental and/or woodland trees in a woodland garden can perhaps capture the equivalent of 100 tonnes of CO2 over the next 50 years and perhaps up to 200 tonnes over 100 years.

In the last year Burncoose Nurseries sold around 6,700 ornamental trees and around 41,000 larger growing shrubs.

On the basis that one might plant and grow around 800 trees or, say, 1,400 shrubs in an acre of woodland garden then our sales of trees and shrubs last year constitute a planted area of nearly 40 acres (16 hectares).

In terms of carbon capture from the atmosphere you can therefore readily see the potential for carbon capture which the nursery can generate over the years.

The woodland gardens at Burncoose which visitors enjoy are around 30 acres and we plan to expand this by some 2.5 acres in 2021 by planting up another field.

We are removing more carbon than we omit; or so we think and believe. Few other businesses could say this!

Estimating the levels of possible carbon capture by ornamental trees and shrubs, as opposed to more conventional native broadleaved forestry plantations, is still at an early stage. The longevity of trees and shrubs will only ever be an estimate. HOWEVER, our business, and you as our customers, ARE making a, perhaps tiny, but positive contribution towards carbon capture and improving the environment for all of us.

Most businesses can and should be taking positive steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The added positive benefit of carbon capture by purchasing trees and shrubs from Burncoose is still not properly understood by our customers.

Economists, politicians and business leaders anticipate that a new PERSONAL or INDIVIDUAL carbon tax will become a reality in the UK within the next 10 years. For businesses this may well come sooner. This will, hopefully, cause even more people to understand the real benefits of planting trees.

So there is much to do but our customers need to understand more about the value of Burncoose and the plants which we sell in the context of the fight against global warming.

We can remove rather more carbon than we emit and we may soon need to prove this as carbon taxes become a reality.

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