Brussels-based Growing Media Europe (GME), the European association of growing media producers, an important sector within the horticultural industry, has worked with Blonk (The Netherlands) to develop an innovative tool that allows companies to measure and improve the environmental footprint of their products. The tool is based on the recently released Growing Media Environmental Footprint Guidelines (GMEF guidelines), a project that was also carried out in collaboration with Blonk.
The GMEF guidelines are the result of an extensive Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) project that started in 2018 with the intention to develop methods to analyse the environmental impact of growing media. The guidelines provide a set of recommendations and best practices that help companies calculate their environmental impact when producing growing media.
The new LCA standard enables all growing media producers to calculate their product´s environmental impact using the same calculation rules, considering the same impact categories, aligned with the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) method published by the European Commission.
Yet, guidelines are only useful if they can be practically applied in the industry. That’s why GME launched a powerful online tool and corresponding datasets that allow growing media producers to assess the environmental impact of their operations and identify opportunities for improvement. The tool has already been licensed by more than 20 companies and is now available for all horticultural companies that want to improve their sustainability practices.
“We are proud to be the frontrunner sector to launch this innovative tool that will help growing media companies improve their environmental footprint,” said Thanja van Dongen, chairwoman of GME. “With this tool, companies can easily identify areas where they can reduce their environmental impact and become more sustainable. We hope that more companies will join us in this effort to make the horticultural industry more environmentally friendly.”
The GMEF guidelines currently focus on the environmental impact of growing media as a standalone product. However, GME, in cooperation with Blonk, is actively collaborating with the ornamental sector within the FloriPEFCR and with the fruits and vegetable sector (Freshfel) within the HortiFootprint project to align the calculation of the impact of crops grown on the growing media. This will enable horticultural companies to calculate the environmental impact of their entire supply chain for crop production, including growing media products.
“It is important to note that even though a growing medium may have a higher environmental impact as a standalone product, it can still contribute to a more efficient growth and thus ultimately lead to a lower environmental impact of the crop,” said Hans Blonk. “Therefore, we believe that it is crucial to consider the full life cycle and include the use phase of growing media products as such, it is essential that the GMEF guidelines are further aligned within the horticultural sector to create more comprehensive sustainability practices that benefit the entire industry.”