At A Glance – Coronavirus and the Plant Wastage Crisis
Springtime in London traditionally equates to sauntering down Columbia Road flower market, bouquet in one hand, oat milk caffeine fix in the other. Elsewhere across the UK, garden centres experience their highest customer traffic as flowers blossom and avid Alan Titchmarsh enthusiasts are let loose on their landscapes. However, for approximately 23 million of the country’s gardeners – this has been upturned as coronavirus has rippled across the country.
Closure of ‘non-essential’ retail including nurseries and over 2000 garden centres has created a seismic drop in demand, meaning millions of plants, flora and fauna, shrubs and trees are in jeopardy of going to waste.
How does one go about resolving such a crisis? Cue Plant Savers – the innovative company delivering plants via proxy to alleviate this problem. A hybrid in my mind, likened to a botanical version of a Mindful Chef meal box and a Too-Good-To-Go style goody bag for the avid gardener.
Who Are Plant Savers?
PlantSavers sell and deliver packages of surplus plants to Britons at home under lockdown. Their mission is to be a positive and constructive force within the gardening industry, evidence of which is already clear!
To mitigate the risk of the aforementioned millions of plants destined for landfill and in a bid to support the livelihoods of all stakeholders working within the industry, the PlantSavers team are providing a solution to this challenge.
How does it work? By partnering with garden centres and plant nurseries unable to deliver or shift stock, they purchase as many of the perennial or annual plants as possible. This prevents them from going to waste through cancelled orders and lack of customer traffic.
Since launching only a few weeks ago, PlantSavers have expanded their reach from London to neighbouring counties in the South East. You can find where they deliver to here.
Bountiful bundles of fresh flowers and plants currently retailed via the website range from £25 – £60. With three options, there is something for everyone whether you’re new to gardening or a serious landscaper. The smaller ‘Bloomer Bundle’ (£25) comes with an assortment of at least seven plants and compost whilst the larger ‘Springtime Special’ can aid the transformation of your garden with over nineteen plants.
Zero contact and no unnecessary packaging are pre-requisites to the considered and thorough operations of PlantSavers.
What’s more – £1 from each sale is donated to the ‘Meals for the NHS’ scheme dedicated to feeding the front-line workers.
In Conversation with Co-Founder Matt Bouloux
Co-Founder Matt Bouloux and I discussed the purpose and reflected on the journey of PlantSavers thus far.
With a professional background in technology consulting and social entrepreneurship within the sustainability arena, Matt is well versed in how to create positive impact.
Like many others across the country who whimpered when they read that millions of plants were destined for bins, his mother, a gardening enthusiast inspired a solution to an urgent and impending problem.
Alongside a team of two other co-founders with expertise in supply chains, data management and marketing, PlantSavers has been executed remotely. Founding a business in 2020 where members of the starting team have only communicated virtually has become the new norm for start-ups that have sprung to fruition since the pandemic began. Developing a strong business model without traditional forms of communication is an accolade in itself.
Since launch, PlantSavers have received and rightfully so, overwhelmingly positive feedback, many customers or suppliers selling to the company are grateful for the outlet the company has provided.
Reading through the PlantSavers website, transparency and authenticity is evident. Touching on lessons learnt, Matt notes there have been teething issues on a few orders and it has involved schooling himself on general gardening knowledge. As with all companies in their infancy, it’s all hands on deck and Matt has been manning the service line since operations began. He noted connecting with customers personally has proved to be uplifting and the interaction has been welcomed by many we are all currently a little starved of regular social contact.
When quizzed on the future vision for PlantSavers, the team’s focus will be on understanding what their customers and partners want from the service. Using data to segment various customer groups will help to enhance their business offering. For example, dividing millennials who can just about look after terrariums versus the outdoor enthusiast with a solid four plus decades of gardening experience under their belt.
For me, the mission behind PlantSavers is faultless. It combats intrinsic challenges of waste and social disruption within the gardening community. An element I admire most is the value it provides in connecting members of society to gardening for much needed respite and relief during these turbulent times. For example, at the end of delivery runs, any remaining bundles or compost are donated. Last weekend, that meant providing a London Ambulance Station with spare packs of plants for their on-site garden to destress after their shifts!
Final Thoughts – A Long Term Solution
Challenges of plant wastage are not exclusive to the COVID-19 era and will continue once lockdown is lifted. The spread of the virus and subsequent social distancing measures have acted as a catalyst for PlantSavers to initiate this much needed long-term solution!
A final note – if there’s one thing we’ve learnt since the pandemic began, it is that nature equals nurture. The scientific benefits of gardening in the great outdoors for mental health are undeniable. Through purchasing from PlantSavers, not only are you supporting the gardening industry and creating a positive social impact, you are boosting your Vitamin D levels and the natural serotonin (a bacterium called mycobacterium Bacchae) that accumulates when interacting with soil. Not to mention, planting and landscaping make for an attractive break from the monotony of working from home and the allotted one hour of daily exercise!
PlantSavers are constantly scouting for new suppliers and nurseries of any size. From across the country whether that’s the Midlands, Cornwall or the South East, the team are keen to expand their collaborative network!
If you are a grower and interested in collaborating with Plant Savers or have a charitable cause close to your heart that would benefit from a little love and lovage, head to their Partners Page.
For more features like this, subscribe to S & S below:
- Electric Vehicles: The Road to Carbon Neutrality & Sustainable Transport
- S & S Decoded: The Health Effects of Climate Change
- Lost Stock – the Company Supporting Fashion Workers in Bangladesh During the Coronavirus
- The 15 Sustainable Swimwear Brands to Buy This Summer: S & S Top Picks
- S & S Podcast Playlist: May Picks