Staff on the Como campus are constantly brainstorming ways to have a positive impact on the environment. Como even has a team of staff called the green team that does just that. The following is the result of one idea that came out of this group.
The horticulture department at Como go through lots of plastic pots, cell packs and trays. In the greenhouse behind the conservatory, horticulture staff grow plants for display in the conservatory, the zoo grounds, the carousel, como town, the butterfly garden, and even the water gardens in front of the visitor center. You may not know that we also grow annuals for other portions of the city of St. Paul including, but not limited to, Como golf course, Midway Stadium and downtown St. Paul. In the process of growing all these plants from seed, cuttings or plugs, the plants are often times transplanted from one pot to another, from a pot to a flower bed or moved from a pot to the compost.
Aren't you curious what we do with the pots when we are done with them? I'll tell you. The short answer is that they are reused but since the soil that remains in the pots potentially harbors pathogens and other pests that could damage future crops, our used pots are routinely washed and sterilized by volunteers before they are reused. Reusing pots reduces our costs and saves space in the landfills since plastic gardening pots cannot be recycled through the regular plastic recycling programs. All pots at the conservatory do not get washed however. After a while some pots and are inevitably broken and must be discarded. A year ago the conservatory was still throwing all the extra pots into the garbage. Como's green team was still looking at ways to reduce waste and one team member found that there was in fact a recycling program for plastic gardening pots through the Minnesota Nursery and Lanscape Association. The information for this program was posted on the MNLA website and in the Star Tribune in 2007. The recycling program continues this year and today gardening staff loaded up the van with plastic pots for the second trip this year to have our plastic pots recycled instead of putting them in the trash. Homeowners can do this too. A handfull of garden centers accept the pots so its best to find out before you go.