After more than two years of preparation, Growing Media Europe (GME) announces the publication of the first sector-wide Growing Media Environmental Footprint Guideline. Developed in accordance with the European Union LCA standard “Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) Methodology”, the guideline combines the impact of 19 pre-defined environmental impact factors into one environmental footprint. The new LCA standard enables all growing media producers to calculate their product´s environmental impact using the same calculation rules.
The project was brought to success in close collaboration with Blonk Consultants and several GME members. “The guideline is a milestone in assessing the environmental sustainability of growing media across Europe and a huge achievement for the sector”, says GME chairman Juha Mäkinen. “It also shows that there is no “good vs bad” components for growing media but that their environmental impact depends on several factors along the production chain”, he added.
Key finding: Peat environmental footprint scores are similar to those of non-peat components
When only considering carbon emissions, the PEF-conform cradle to grave calculations show a higher score for peat than for other materials. However, the total environmental footprint of peat is lower than the one of certain non-peat components. In addition, the carbon footprint of peat is partially offset by the fact that peat is only harvested from previously degraded peat bogs. Degraded peat bogs emit almost 1.000 tons CO2 per hectare before the groundwater table is reached and emissions stop. European growing media producers extract peat in accordance with the ‘Responsibly Produced Peat’ standards. This means peatlands are restored after extraction and turned into net carbon sinks again. The restoration is not reflected in the PEF-methodology, but the 1.000 tons of CO2 are released in the atmosphere in any case. If extracted, the harvested peat is transformed into valuable products used to grow food, flowers, and trees benefitting our environment and society.
Growing media´s contribution to the overall environmental footprint of a plant is minimal
While the growing media sector is constantly investing in lowering its environmental impact, it is important to keep in mind, that growing media are responsible for only a very small part of the overall carbon and environmental footprint of growing a plant. The selection of a growing medium should therefore not only be based on the impact of the growing medium itself, but also on its recyclability and the environmental footprint of the plant that is grown in it.
The full guideline can be found here. The next step in the LCA project is the development of a sector database and an IT tool, that enables users to calculate the environmental footprint of their products in accordance with the PEF methodology
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