Habitat Aid is a Somerset based business founded in 2008.
We think the local origin and distinctiveness of plants isn’t just important for biodiversity and sustainability, but also culturally.
Over the last century in the UK we have destroyed swathes of our most important and attractive habitats, including almost all of our wildflower meadows. Orchards, ponds, wetlands, hedges, woodland - these should be beautiful elements of our landscape, teeming with life. This is a terrible - and continuing - loss for all of us.
We also think we spend too much time worrying about small numbers of charismatic fauna, and not enough on the nuts and bolts of our ecosystems. We should be concentrating on reversing destruction and fragmentation of habitat.
It's difficult for many of us to know what to do to reverse this decline. It can seem overwhelming, but we strongly believe that individual actions - however small - are a critically important part of the solution.
People just aren't aware of the collapse in biodiversity associated with the continuing loss of these habitats. Over the years media coverage has improved, but compared to climate change - a related isue, of course - it has been a small story until recently. Part of what we do is to get this message out.
It can be difficult to understand where plants and seeds come from. Pricing pressure and lack of consumer understanding has driven many UK growers to the wall over the last 30 years, in a situation in many ways analogous to the food industry.
Sometimes plants for sale are grown using pesticides which then harm the insects feeding from them. The wildflower seed business is opaque and unregulated; quality and provenance vary enormously. “Native” trees and hedging are routinely sourced from Europe, as are British fruit tree varieties. Native pond plants are often contaminated by invasive non-native weeds.
We sell people the right plants and seeds, from the right suppliers. We're now a significant customer for some of these typically small, family run businesses, some of whom we've been dealing with for over a decade.
We have close links to a number of specialist science based UK conservation charities too, who we also help promote. Their work is as important as it is underfunded, and we try to amplify their messages about good practice whenever we can. We donate some of our profits to these kind of NGOs, amounting to £53k from 2016-2021.
None of our growers use peat based compost.
None of our plants, bulbs or seeds have been anywhere near a neonicotinoid ; we have lobbied for a blanket ban of these pesticides since early 2011.
No pesticides or fungicides are used in the production of our wildflower plants, aquatic plants, native trees and hedging, and wildflower bulbs. Fungicides may be used on our fruit trees. Herbicide may be used to clear seedbeds for seeds and trees, and to selectively manage some of the sites from which our seed mixes are harvested. Our suppliers are moving to replace chemical with mechanical weed and grass control, and we are hopeful that over time more of them will become organically certified.
With the exception of some ornamental bulbs and shrubs/trees, all the plants and seeds we sell are grown in the UK from UK stock (we're hopeful that there might soon be no exceptions). This has always been one of our core principles - for many reasons - and significantly reduces our carbon footprint, as does our busines model, in which suppliers ship directly to customers. We heat our administrative office with a biomass boiler.
I guess given the quantities of trees and plants we sell we could claim to be massively carbon negative!
Some of our higher profile projects have included landscaping over 70 solar farms. The two largest of these were each over 200 acres. We've supplied the plants for projects like Earth Watch's Tiny Forests, and other NGO clients include various Wildlife Trusts and Friends of the Earth. Our corporate clients have included Charlie Bigham, the Co-op, Good Energy, Hillier’s Nurseries, Nestle, M&S, and Noble Foods. We also supply and advise a number of government organisations and garden designers.