Hillier has always been a pioneer within horticulture, pursuing policies that have proved both commercially and environmentally beneficial.
We aim to work innovatively, sustainably and with integrity, to secure our position as an industry leader and a leader of good environmental practice.
We grow around 1 million plants each year on our nurseries, which are sold at Hillier Garden Centres. We are also the UK’s leading supplier of trees, with c. 750,000 growing on our field and container tree nursery at any one time. Plants bring great benefits to the environment, but we know as a business that there is always more that can be done, and we continually look at how we can make improvements.
Plastic Reduction and Waste Management
We aim to keep waste to a minimum throughout our supply chain.
Our nurseries were one of the first to introduce kerbside recyclable non-black pots in spring 2019. You can now find these in wide use at our garden centres.
Across our nurseries, 99% of black plastic used is in sent to be recycled. The wraps around delivery trollies are recycled. The plastic skins from polytunnels are recycled at the end of their lifespan (5-10 years). All compost bags are recycled, as are wooden pallets, which are sold for re-use. Scrap metal is recycled locally. All paper and cardboard are baled on site and recycled.
Plant clippings are composted and periodically graded into a soil improver.
Heating is only used to keep glasshouses frost free in winter. Heat levels are controlled by an environmental computer that automatically controls vents to minimise heat loss and energy consumption.
Our Garden Centres
Across our Garden Centres, we separate and recycle food, glass, wood, mixed (paper, card and plastic) and green waste in line with our commitment to reducing waste to landfill.
In our Restaurants, we have changed our disposable plastics to compostable materials; this includes our disposable cups, lids and straws. All of these are made from plant-based materials, such as trees, corn and sugar cane. Our entire range of adult soft drinks are purchased for sale in glass bottles, which we recycle at each of our centres. For our sauces, we re-use our ‘individual serve’ glass Tiptree jam jars – we do not use single-use plastic sachets of sauces.
Our Gardening Club magazines are now delivered in a 100% recyclable paper wrap.
We are committed to removing peat across all areas of the business; however, we must be careful to ensure peat is replaced with a sustainable alternative and not simply replaced with a product that is further damaging to the environment.
- As the largest UK grower of semi-mature trees, our tree production has been 100% peat-free for a number of years.
- Production of all other plants across our nurseries has moved from 75% peat-free in 2020 to over 90% peat-free for 2021. Our goal is to move to 100% peat-free production. Ensuring a sufficient supply of peat-free growing media is available is one part of achieving this.
- We have introduced an expanded peat-free range in our Garden Centres including in spring 2020 our Hillier Peat-Free Multipurpose Compost to give the customer a clear choice.
- We will be further expanding our range of peat-free options for 2022 as well as continuing to reduce the peat content of existing products with our suppliers.
- Based on sales from 1st September 2020 to 30th June 2021 (i.e. 9 months sales data), within the ‘growing media’ category in our Garden Centres, which includes composts, grow bags, topsoil and more, 44% of sales volume was of 100% peat-free products. The remaining 56% had some level peat, varying from 25% to 90% volume. This means as a total volume of peat vs non-peat, again in our growing media category 68% of total product volume was peat-free, with 32% peat-based.
- Challenges with global supply in 2021 of both coir and wood fibre – the main alternatives to peat – have hindered peat-free sales volume. As supply increases, we fully hope and expect volume sales of peat-free to continue to increase.
Neonicotinoids & Use of Chemicals
We do not use neonicotinoids as part of crop management on our nurseries.
We have a system of Integrated Crop Management (ICM), which has greatly reduced any use of chemicals to control pests and diseases. ICM uses environmental and biological controls wherever possible –making use of natural predators and parasites as pest control and using chemicals with a low environmental impact.
On our tree nurseries, artificial fertilisers are reduced by using a natural approach. We spread farmyard manure and use cover crops on fallow land such as grass, clover, mustard and marigolds. The latter has proved to be most beneficial as nematodes, living symbiotically on the roots, avoid the need for chemical soil sterilisation.
Our Garden Centres
We offer a large range of natural gardening products at all Hillier Garden Centres, including certified organic options, giving our customers choice about the way they want to care for their garden.
These include natural methods for pest control and lawn care, biodegradable propagation lines and organic fertilisers.
In the late 1980’s, it became apparent that mains water was not an environmentally sound way to water crops, so we constructed our own reservoir.
There is a drainage system through which rainwater and irrigation runoff are collected in the reservoir and used to irrigate crops. As a result, our nurseries are 85% water self-sufficient. This water is filtered, cleaned and treated on-site at a water treatment plant so it is the correct quality for plant growth.
Water use is managed with information from the Government’s Waterlink project. Irrigation is carefully controlled by evaposensors and sprinkler systems that target crops and not the surrounding area ensuring economic use of water.
As a grower of plants and trees, with their carbon-sequestering ability, we are naturally creating and providing assets that benefit the environment in terms of CO2 reduction.
On our field tree nursery sites, we keep paths and headlands to grass to increase the CO2 lock up (a carbon sink), as well as improving soil stability.
Hillier Nurseries recognises the risk posed to UK horticulture, gardens and the environment from imported plant pests and diseases.
We have in place a clear biosecurity policy to minimise risk, which includes zero tolerance for notifiable pests, diseases and weeds on all imported stock.
Read our biosecurity policy in full
Standards, Certifications & External Recognition
In 2019, Hillier Nurseries was awarded ISO 14001 accreditation. This is a globally recognised standard, providing an agreed framework to follow regarding Environmental Management Systems. It indicates that a company is having less of an impact on the environment and has strong systems in place.
Hillier Nurseries has also recently joined The Planet Mark. This is a certification programme that recognises companies committing to continuous improvements in sustainability. Through it, companies can measure and find opportunities to reduce carbon emissions, energy and water consumption, waste and more. Read more here.
In 2019, Hillier became the first UK ornamental tree nursery to be accredited with the Woodland Trusts UK Sourced and Grown Assurance Scheme (UKSG). This is a scheme operated by the Woodland Trust to audit nurseries based on their environmental and biosecurity credentials. The accreditation is in large part due to a very high percentage of Hillier stock being raised from seed or bud to saleable tree on our nurseries.