Sustainability at Hills

By 14 February 2017Environment, History, Plants
Sustainability

Whether it be watering the plants, lighting and heating the glasshouses or making the staff a cuppa at break time; every process carries with it a question: “Are we doing this in the greenest way possible?”. The answer is “yes” we believe we are. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t be even better. At Hills, we are continually working to improve our impact on the environment.

Let’s start with watering the plants…

Around 90% of the water we use is either harvested from the glasshouse roofs, when it rains, and stored in our reservoir or its recycled from the growing areas after the plants have taken what they need. We are currently looking into expanding the area of roof space that we can harvest rainwater from and the possibility of increasing the capacity of the reservoirs.

Next, we need to provide good light…

The plants need it to grow and sometimes it’s necessary to trick them into thinking it’s a different time of year. The staff too need good light, not just for seeing where they are going but also for carrying out all the quality checks and monitoring that is required. During daylight hours, all the electricity needed for lighting and for screening, venting, running the computers and tea-making is provided by our solar panels. In the future, we hope to be able to store power to use during the night too, because some plants, as with some people, like a light left on.

Now we come to heat…

Not just for the plants but also for the people too. Having the right amount of heat to promote healthy growth in a crop is vital but creating a comfortable working environment is paramount. People just don’t work either happily or efficiently when having to wear an additional 5 jumpers and 3 pairs of socks. This is where the Biomass Boiler comes in. It is fueled by woodchip which is a by-product of the local Controlled Forestry industry. This heating system provides all the heat we need in the glasshouses. It may not be the most straight forward way of heating the nursery but it’s certainly one of the most environmentally responsible ways of doing it.

Then there’s the great outdoors…

We are lucky enough to be surrounded by beautiful countryside and a lot of its furry and feathered inhabitants are spotted regularly around the site. For them, we provide nesting boxes, log piles, suitable food and a promise that we’ll keep any chemical use to a minimum. Over the next year, we are hoping to develop a pond and nature area in a quiet disused part of the nursery. Staff will be encouraged to enjoy the area and report any sightings so that a record can be maintained. So far, we have spotted Squirrels, Deer and even Buzzards close by.

A little about our environment credentials…

We have been BOPP Grower and BOPP Packhouse approved for many years and continue to do well in these audits. In recent years, we have also successfully achieved LEAF Marque (Linking the Environment And Farming) approved status as an environmentally responsible supplier.

Finally, there’s our philosophy…

At Hills, we believe that it is possible to grow in a way that helps rather than hinders the environment. As a business, we need to be profitable but as growers we care enough to want to be green.

Written by our Compliance Manager (and queen of Green!) Rebecca Dalley