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Sustainable Practices, Economic Contributions, Consumer Behavior, and Labor Management in the U.S. Environmental Horticulture Industry
Department of Horticulture
The value proposition for the green industry in the future must focus on the unique ways in which quality of life is improved for its customer base. Sustainability is an integral part of our value proposition message in the future and the green industry cannot overemphasize the importance of this quality of life message, particularly in focusing its differentiation strategies in the future.
This project is a continuation of previous multi-state projects active since 1976. A large team of research and extension faculty from numerous public universities will contribute to this project, including both agricultural economists and horticulturists. This group, known as the Green Industry Research Consortium, has a history of interdisciplinary collaboration. Project investigators will utilize various research methods to address these research objectives, such as input-output analysis, enterprise budgeting, field trials, energy and water audits, and life-cycle analysis.
The project will develop outreach materials for target audiences, including peer-reviewed publications, trade press articles, workshops, presentations at professional conferences, and various electronic media such as websites, weblogs, webinars, DVDs, software, and podcasts. The results stemming from these collaborative research efforts will also better enable industry firms to better tell their story in regards to sustainability.
2011 Project Description
The Green Industry Research Consortium, (S-1051), represents an integrated, system-level approach to research and extension related to the nursery, greenhouse and landscaping industries. The University of Kentucky is a collaborator in that effort.
In 2011, Circular HO89, Characteristics of the Kentucky Nursery and Greenhouse Industry, was published by the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service with specific Kentucky industry information from the 2009 national nursery and greenhouse survey. According to the survey, Kentucky's sales were more than $147 million in 2008.
A series of three articles were published on the subject in consecutive Kentucky Nursery View issues. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) has been described relative to its potential application to the green industry. It can be an effective tool to study the components of a production system relative to environmental impact factors. A journal article has been submitted for review that describes this tool and how it can be used to study horticulture production systems. An Extension Circular (HO-90) was published by the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service to describe this tool to nursery, greenhouse and landscape service firm managers and to suggest how to interpret the results from LCA.
LCA was used to study the contributions of field nursery production system components to the carbon footprint, or Global Warming Potential (GWP), of a 5-cm caliper, spade-dug red maple tree. Diesel consumption by equipment used for field operations accounted for approximately 70% of the carbon footprint during the production phase, and 70% of that occurs at harvest. Accounting for eco-services from sequestered CO2 during production, the carbon footprint of the tree from cutting to transplanting in the landscape was estimated to be approximately 5 kg CO2 equivalent. Transporting and transplanting the finished tree would add 7 kg CO2e to the carbon footprint of the tree, based on expected shipping distances.
LCA has proven to be a valuable tool in analyzing the individual input components in the field production of a shade tree. The results of such studies will allow nursery mangers to make informed decisions about the various elements of the operation. For example, if shipping distance for the finished product was reduced by one-third, there would be a 28% reduction in the carbon footprint. If the cull rate was 10% instead of the 5% assumed in the analysis, the carbon footprint of each marketable tree would increase by 6%.
Consumers can be informed about the relative GWP impact of system components such as transportation distance and make informed purchasing decisions driven by environmental concerns.
Ingram, D. L. W. Dunwell and A. Hodges. 2011. Characteristics of Kentucky s Nursery and Greenhouse Industries. KY Cooperative Extension Service Circular HO-89. 7 p.
Ingram, D.L. and T. Fernandez. 2011. Life Cycle Assessment: Implications for the Green Industry. KY Cooperative Extension Service Circular HO-90. 4 p.
Ingram, D. L. and W. Dunwell. 2011. The general characteristics of Kentuckys nursery and greenhouse industries. Nursery Views. Volume 41 (2). p 18-19.
Ingram, D. L. and W. Dunwell. 2011. Kentucky s nursery and greenhouse industries: Employment and Product Forms. Nursery Views. Volume 41 (3). p 18-19.
Ingram, D. L. and W. Dunwell. 2011. Kentucky s nursery and greenhouse industries: Markets, Marketing and Advertisement. Nursery Views. Volume 41 (4). p 14-15.