RHS Chelsea Flower Show Gardens Reduce their Carbon footprint

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RHS Chelsea Flower Show Gardens Reduce their Carbon footprint Image © Shutterstock/photographer Prettyawesome
  • All large gardens at this year’s show have undergone a Green Garden Audit to reduce their environmental footprint.
  • RHS Announces NEW ‘Environmental Innovation Award’ to celebrate sustainable innovations adopted in Show and Sanctuary Gardens at RHS Chelsea.

For the first time in the history of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has introduced a Green Garden Audit, which all gardens in the Show and Sanctuary categories this year have been through to reduce their carbon footprint and environmental impact. Design changes implemented as a result of gardens going through the new audit process had a significant impact, reducing carbon emissions across the two categories by 28%.

Nicholsons, the company commissioned by the RHS to carry out the audit alongside RHS Head of Sustainability Malcolm Anderson, reviewed the garden design and build plans in terms of a broad range of sustainability criteria, including material selection, waste, biodiversity and ecology, water and air and then worked with the designers and contractors to make workable changes to their plans to reduce the environmental footprint of the gardens.

Malcolm Anderson, RHS Head of Sustainability, said: ‘As the UK’s leading gardening charity, we have been making positive changes across the organisation and at our shows to make our practices more sustainable and this is just one example of the progress we are making this year as we continue to make changes to reduce our environmental impact.  Last year, we added sustainability criteria at the selection stage to ensure, where possible, that designers have thought about the environmental impact of their gardens at the design stage; the introduction of the audit this year helps us take this one step further, enabling us to understand better the carbon footprint of the gardens at the show and challenge designers and landscapers to consider ways they could  further reduce their impact whilst also opening up the conversation within the horticultural industry on how we can create gardens more sustainability in the future.’

The biggest reduction in carbon emissions for many of the gardens was achieved by making changes to the building materials selected as well as construction methods.  For example, Matthew Childs, who is designing the Terrance Higgin’s Trust Bridge to 2030 Garden, massively reduced his carbon omissions by removing block walling in his original design and replacing it with reclaimed timber, whilst Ann-Marie Powell designing The Octavia Hill Garden by Blue Diamond with the National Trust saved a large amount of Co2 by significantly reducing the use of cement in her garden.

Liz Nicholson, Managing Director at Nicholsons, who was instrumental in the delivery of the audit, said: ’All of the designers without exception have welcomed the audit and embraced the learnings and worked incredibly hard to adapt and tweak their gardens to reduce the impacts. Many design with the planet in mind and very few changes were necessary. But even these celebrated designers discovered one or two new opportunities and were open-minded enough to tweak their designs. Designers felt that this process would affect how they design in the future and were keen to take what they had learned back to their practices. A significant impact in conversations with contractors was how the use of low carbon cement and alternative construction methods were welcomed and knowledge was shared in the round.’

This year, to recognise and celebrate the examples of excellence in progressive environmental ingenuity at the show, the RHS is introducing a new award, ‘The Environmental Innovation Award,’ open to all gardens that have passed the Green Garden Audit.

Sarah Poll, Head of Shows Development, said: ‘We have introduced this new award in order to recognise and celebrate the fantastic ways designers and contractors are embracing the need to reduce their impact on the environment. The RHS has a responsibility to take a leading role in encouraging everyone to progress and drive environmental innovation, and collaborate with the industry to make positive, sustainable changes.  We hope by celebrating successes through this new award at our world-famous flower show and showing how small changes can make a big difference through the new Green Garden Audit; we will help continue to encourage positive change.’

RHS Chelsea Flower Show runs from 21-25 May 2024, and tickets are available online at rhs.org.uk/chelsea


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