Welcome back to the Ecopotter series. This month’s Ecopotter is the incredible George Davies, founder of For Peat’s Sake, a pioneering force in the peat-free movement with their ethically sourced coir compost! We discuss George’s mission to educate and engage with the public to increase awareness of this important environmental issue, whilst simultaneously offering a solution to the problem…
We know how important community is. Through the simple act of storytelling, we aim to create an online space where like-minded individuals can connect and inspire one another. There are a million ways to live more sustainably, and this is just one story.
How is 2021 treating you so far?
2021 has been brilliant, especially for the peat-free movement. I’m really glad to see so many more influential figures and businesses taking part in peat-free pledges.
Not everybody knows what peatlands are, let alone understands the negative impact of digging these areas of land up. Can you explain a little bit about the problems caused by human activity in peatland areas?
I could go on about this forever - there are so many benefits to peatlands - but I’ll keep it brief! Peat is made from plants that have died in water-logged bogs, so are partially conserved instead of decomposed; this locks all of the carbon previously absorbed by these plants safely underground. Unfortunately, humans use peat in composts, and also burn it as a fuel. When you dig up peat, it’s exposed to oxygen, so it starts to decompose; this releases a load of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Not only does excavation release CO2, it also destroys a super unique habitat, drains the bogs and diminishes their natural water management qualities.
How did you first become interested in the topic and how did this interest develop into you starting your own business?
I completed my degree in Environmental Geography at Cardiff University last year, so I’m really into the Earth and ocean sciences. Graduating during the first lockdown was pretty boring and dispiriting - so, whilst working as an Eco Consultant, I decided to start my own business, to create something which would engage people with an environmental issue, whilst simultaneously offering a solution to the problem!
What are the benefits of using coir instead of peat-based soil?
Where do I start? Aside from the practical differences between our hand-held, dry and plastic-free compost as opposed to lugging big, wet plastic bags of peat-compost around, there are a huge amount of technical benefits too. Coir is by no means a second choice - it’s actually a far superior growing media to peat. The coconut fibres are specially graded, washed and buffered to create the optimum air-to-water ratio in a sturdy soil structure, encouraging healthy root growth.
Where is the coir supplied from?
My supplier is actually a really good friend, based in Sri Lanka. Their family-run business has been making coir for about 15 years, and they've invested so much time and effort into making the business sustainable and beneficial to the local community. The part of the coconut we use for our compost would otherwise be a waste-product of the coconut industry, so it’s really great that it’s being put to good use in plant pots!
How do you ensure sustainability at every step of production and delivery?
It starts with our supplier, who implement many practices to keep the manufacturing process truly sustainable. They were the first in the industry to implement a waste water recycling system, and they have numerous certifications and organisations auditing the process including SEDEX, LEAF, ISO14001, ISO9001, Soil Association and OMRI. Our supply chain is also very short, so it’s all very easy to control and maintain to a high standard. Our products are plastic-free, and we use DPD’s carbon-neutral delivery. To give back, we make monthly donations to Forest Carbon, who specialise in woodland and peatland restoration.
Do you supply to outside of the UK?
Yes, we can ship to outside of the UK easily (that’s the beauty of our coir’s compact, lightweight form!). We’re only stocked in retailers in the UK and Ireland at the moment, but definitely looking for the right opportunity to expand elsewhere.
Are there any sustainable companies you would like to give a shoutout to?
What do you think is the most important thing people can do to lower their emissions and their negative impact on the environment?
Grow your own produce. We usually focus on houseplants, but we’ll definitely be encouraging more people to grow their own fruit and vegetables going into next spring - our coir is amazing for this. The benefits are endless - great for your wellbeing and for gut health, it’s cheaper and available straight from your garden, balcony or window sill!
What is next for your company?
There are a lot of opportunities popping up now; we are connecting with more and more like-minded people, and people are realising the benefits of growing in our coir! We’re constantly looking for new platforms to get the word out on how peat-free compost is better than peat compost. Also, spring is just around the corner; so, we’re developing innovative ways to encourage people to grow more plants and continue the conversation about conservation of peatlands and other fragile ecosystems.
Keep the conversation going – follow @for.peats.sake on Instagram, share this blog or tell your friends about George’s work! Or how about grabbing some coir soil to give as a sustainable gift? Visit forpeatssake.co.uk to find out how.