Time for some truth-telling on the blog this week. Our industry has a dirty little secret.
Of all the environmentally responsible businesses in the world, you might think working with plants is especially earth-friendly. But in reality, there is waste associated with our business. Clients want their plants to look perfect. Living things are rarely perfect. We often swap out old plants that get too big for the space or aren’t doing well for some reason. Since we don’t want to spray anything inside your home or office, we always remove plants with disease or pest issues.
We provide beautiful living art pieces that contain orchids and other flowering plants. They will go through their bloom cycle just fine indoors, but it’s exceedingly difficult to get them to rebloom in less than the ideal environment of a greenhouse. Unfortunately, try as I might, it has never made economic sense to get them to rebloom and use them again.
Why not rescue plants?
I hate putting plants into the dumpster. While we can’t repurpose used plants for our paying clients, they’re suitable for finding new homes once they are rehabbed and cleaned up. It’s a little like rescuing household pets. Some of them come from rough backgrounds, have their behavior quirks, or need a little extra care and training to become beloved members of your household.
I always wanted to run my own nonprofit plant rescue operation. I started the process some 20 years ago. I worked with the San Diego Foundation to create a business plan a mission statement, and all the logistics were in place. Then my coach asked me for my fundraising plan. Say what? Nonprofit fundraising takes talent I don’t have, and while running my full-time business, I realized it wasn’t feasible.
Whenever we could, we held greenhouse sales of used plants. We also gave plants away to community programs and volunteers who were happy to get them. We’re currently scheduled to provide succulent cuttings for a horticultural therapy program. We’ve donated plants as a thank you to the UCSD Volunteer Doulas program for many years and love our partnership with them. We support the Alpha Project for the homeless with plants and free service.
About ten years ago, we started our Plants with Purpose program, offering a way for nonprofit groups to get in touch with us to accept donations of used plants. It’s working, and we’ve been able to benefit many groups, but it’s still not enough.
New partner in our mission to enrich peoples’ lives with plants
Recently, I ran across Paige Kries. She’s concerned like I am about wasteful practices. A couple of years ago, a simple incident caused her to take action and became the start of her operation, called Plant It Again.
“One day in January of 2020, my teenage daughter witnessed me literally throwing away my succulent cuttings I had just trimmed from my yard. Anyone that grows succulents knows that they can grow like weeds,” said Paige. “She asked why I wasn’t composting them with the rest of the yard clippings. I told her succulents weren’t allowed to be thrown in the green composting bins. The extra water and aloe in the leaves will “gum” up the machines, so the city doesn’t want them composted.”
Paige said her daughter asked why she didn’t donate them – and like me, said if she could find a place to do it, she would. But she couldn’t find any. Her daughter asked why they couldn’t start a plant recycling place for succulent gardeners to donate their plants.
“Once we decided to start the process of opening a plant recycling facility, I suggested we hire adults with disabilities to process the plant donations. Working with plants is very therapeutic, with lots of calming properties. Offering these jobs to individuals with disabilities just seemed like a great fit,” explains Paige.
Then the coronavirus pandemic struck. Paige found herself out of work with time on her hands. She used it wisely to learn about nonprofits and about drought-tolerant plants. Fundraising was challenging during a pandemic with no track record and nowhere for potential supporters to visit. But Paige didn’t give up. She found a retail location to help springboard her nonprofit a year ago and opened Plant It Again to the public last September. Then opportunity knocked.
“In October, The San Diego Regional Center approached us to inquire if we’d be interested in becoming a licensed vendor with a tailored day program for them. In January 2022, we received our certification from SDRC,” said Paige.
When I found Paige and Plant It Again, it was exactly what we needed: much better and much smarter about executing this idea. I hate the waste our industry produces, and Paige is part of the solution. Good Earth Plant Company is 100% on board!
Paige’s goal is to educate people about the benefits of drought-tolerant landscaping for sustainability in our arid climate. Through her day program, she’s also empowering people with disabilities by creating meaningful career opportunities using plants and up-cycled household items turned into new art.
“We hire and train our team members on how to process the plant donations, create plant art, and other various customer service skills. Through our new day program, Plant It Again will mentor adults with disabilities and help them find their talent or passion and turn that into a business of their own,” explains Paige. Her long-term goal is to open more locations, serve more communities, and train more people – but stay small, so team members receive the care and attention they deserve.
Good Earth Plant Company now helps supply Plant It Again with plants needing a little rehabilitation. They’re only a few blocks away from the Good Earth Plant Company headquarters, which is ideal. I’m thrilled to see these plants get new life.
“The plants Jim has graciously donated from Good Earth Plant Company will get rehabbed into healthy new plants,” said Paige. “His contribution will not only help the environment but also create jobs for adults with different needs to create a more diverse workplace for all.” Try and find a partnership more of a win-win, I dare you. Our plants get a new life, deserving individuals get job opportunities, Paige is growing her business, people get cool plants for home and work for a great price, and we’re all benefitting the environment. How many wins is that?
Find Plant It Again at 8555 Balboa Avenue, Suite A in Kearny Mesa (between I-163 and I-15). The storefront carries unique handcrafted gifts along with plants. There is also a monthly hands-on art class which is a fundraiser. Hours are currently Tuesday through Friday, 10 am to 6 pm, and Saturdays 10 am to 4 pm.
Do I mind if you can buy our “used” plants for someone else’s benefit? Heck no, please do.
The more ways we can enrich peoples’ lives with plants, the better for all of us. Welcome to the mission, Paige!