Going green usually means more than just mounting a wind turbine on the roof and banishing plastic carrier bags from the checkouts. In this environmentally conscious age, eco-savvy consumers are demanding a host of green products - from those that are ethically sourced to biodegradable garden goods clad in recyclable or compostable packaging.
Environmentally friendly gardening was at the forefront of Glee 2007 and this consumer-driven trend shows no sign of slowing when the 33-year-old show returns to Birmingham's National Exhibition Centre on 21-23 September, expecting to attract an audience of around 22,000 visitors.
"The trend for sustainable garden products evolved over the past couple of years and is now evident in all sectors of the garden-retail industry - from landscaping products to garden care and furniture. Eco-friendly goods are an expanding market," explains Glee event director Daniel Thurlow.
"Everyone is looking at ways to make their products more environmentally appealing. Just as concern has grown over food miles, consumers are more conscientious about plant miles. Shoppers still demand solutions to problems, but now they're more likely to opt for eco-friendly products and some buyers will even pay more for them. The green sector is higher profile now than ever before," Thurlow believes.
Glee organisers have channelled efforts into a "green trail" on the show's website (www.gleebirming ham.com). It boasts around 50 suppliers of eco-friendly garden goods. The aim is to help buyers prioritise their visits and earmark what to look for before venturing off to the NEC.
Also monitoring the rise in demand for green goods, and mapping out opportunities for the industry is the HTA. In June it carried out environmental research in the form of five focus groups across the UK, quizzing keen and marginal gardeners.
The HTA concluded that the bulk of consumers felt the issues of waste, recycling and packaging were their top environmental concerns. Consumers even hinted that they may pay a "slight premium" for biodegrad-able goods.
Here's a round-up of the top 10 green garden products and ranges set to be launched at Glee 2008:
Cutting energy consumption is a key aim of Solargrow, a soil-less growing kit that uses solar power to automatically feed and water plants. It pumps water and nutrients directly to plant roots, which grow in clay pebbles and capillary cubes. Manufacturer Greenhouse Sensation claims that yields can be three times greater than that of standard soil, growing bags or irrigation kits. Solargrow, which has a recommended retail price of £94.95, can be used to cultivate edibles, exotics and ornamentals. Sales and marketing director Emma Lowther-Wright says: "The Solargrow planter and reservoir are made from recycled material in the UK. No water or nutrient is wasted. It makes self-sustainability viable in a small space."
2. Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Potato & Vegetable Gro-Sac
The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company is set to boost its Organic Choice range with the introduction of this extra-large planter for potatoes, onions, leeks and garlic. Retailing for around £4.99, the sack contains sufficient natural nutrients to feed plants for up to six weeks. Launched in response to the grow-your-own trend among consumers, packaging has been designed to inspire novice gardeners to grow potatoes for the first time. Retailers will be urged to take delivery of stock this autumn and encourage consumers with greenhouses to cultivate their own spuds for Christmas. Surrey-based Scotts will also launch Miracle-Gro Organic Choice Fruit & Vegetable Liquid Plant Food. One litre of the concentrated chemical-free fertiliser makes 180 litres of plant food and retails at around £3.99.
3. Gardman Fairtrade Peanuts
With high consumer awareness of Fairtrade products such as fruit, tea, coffee and chocolate, Gardman is focusing on ethics and claims to be the first to introduce Fairtrade-certified bird feed to the UK market. Its Fairtrade Peanuts, which come on a display pallet with point-of-sale information, are offered in 1.5kg and 3kg bags, carrying recommended retail prices of £5.49 and £9.99 respectively. Gardman points out that the Fairtrade Foundation, an independent, not-for-profit organisation that was set up in 1992, guarantees producers get a fair price while products are sourced ethically. It also says the peanuts meet strict standards set by the British Trust for Ornithology.
4. KingsGrill barbecue charcoal
New eco-friendly KingsGrill barbecue charcoal claims to be a 100 per cent organic, biodegradable, economical alternative fuel. It is said to light within a couple of minutes and offer a heat source lasting up to 80 minutes. The lightweight charcoal is made from coconut shell, a byproduct of the coco-oil industry. UK sales manager Stephen Smith says: "Coconut shell is a non-fossil fuel, unlike petroleum or natural coal. Briquette charcoal made from coconut shell does not contribute to global warming. Because we use coconut shell as our raw material, we do not participate in tree cutting or exploitation of coal, as in coal-based briquette charcoal." The product will have a recommended retail price of £2.99.
5. Jute Naturally
Haxnicks will target environmentally conscious consumers with the launch of Jute Naturally, a range of plant protectors and bags made from 100 per cent biodegradable natural vegetable fibres and dyes. The product line-up includes frost-protection jackets for tender patio plants, sacks for storing harvested vegetables and loose-weave composting sacks. Haxnicks says that Jute is "one of the strongest natural vegetable fibres available" and has excellent insulation properties, making it a practical alternative to fleece for general winter-plant protection.
6. Ligniveus garden furniture
Mercer Leisure, based in County Armagh, will take the wraps off its new Ligniveus range of hardwood garden furniture. Grown in the South Pacific, the eco-friendly hardwood is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), an independent organisation that aims to promote responsible management of the world's forests. The timber is promoted as strong and lightweight with a smooth teak-like finish. Company owner Ian Mercer explains: "The benefit for the consumer is weather-proofing. The range has a bonded finish, where water sits on the surface rather than being absorbed, so there's no splitting, expanding or cracking." Marketed as "virtually maintenance-free", Ligniveus furniture will be offered with a five-year guarantee against splitting or warping.
7. Wolf-Garten hybrid mowers
Wolf-Garten unveiled a prototype hybrid lawnmower at Glee last year and the response was so positive that the company has pressed ahead with the production of two new hybrid models for this autumn. The mower can be operated from the mains via a conventional cable, but when in use it simultaneously charges a battery. This power pack allows a tennis court-sized lawn to be cut without the mains cable attached, while the mowers are also claimed to be "extremely quiet", so cutting down on noise pollution. Marketing manager Karina Wysom said: "These are the first hybrid mowers and they're unique. We have even started them up in garden centres to prove how quiet they are."
Wolf's hybrid mowers will feature its cut, collect and mulch (CCM) facility, which offers an option of cutting and mulching grass clippings into the lawn, thus reducing the amount of garden waste for disposal.
8. Beekeeper starter kits
Consumer concern over the UK's dwindling bee population and its effects on plant pollination is at an all-time high. Vectis Apiculture, based on the Isle of Wight, will launch its Beekeeping Starter Kits at Glee and aims to have the products in garden centres by spring 2009. Proprietor John Jones says: "Virtually every garden is potentially suitable for a beehive and their environmental benefits include better pollination of flowers and crops." The starter kits have recommended retail prices of around £300.
9. Bamboo tool range
Threesixty Innovation, based in Nottinghamshire, is marketing its new bamboo-handled tool range as "a planet-friendly product". Bamboo handles had previously been launched on the company's Garden Angels gift packs, but it has now evolved into an 18-strong product line-up of tools for 2008, also to be sold under the firm's Garden Angels brand. The range includes hand tools, weeding tools, spades and forks, with all products featuring bamboo handles instead of wooden ones. Marketing manager Maureen Thomson explains: "Bamboo is the largest of the grass family and the plant regenerates itself. It's a renewable, abundant natural resource." The firm says that bamboo-handled tools are superior to wood because of its added water resistance. It claims bamboo handles will not warp or crack, while offering added strength and durability.
Border Stone, based in Powys, is reacting to a garden centre market where customers are demanding an extensive range of ecologically sound products with small carbon footprints. The firm plans to launch an environmentally friendly paving range at Glee. EcoPave is manufactured using recycled aggregates. Available in six sizes, plus a 1.7m circle pack, it follows in the footsteps of the firm's Eco-Granite range, which is claimed to have sold double its annual forecast in the past six months alone.