Shows sustainability

What we are doing to make RHS shows more sustainable

As a registered charity, shows provide a vital source of revenue so the RHS can continue to inspire everyone to become gardeners and explain the benefits it can bring to people and the planet. We believe having a platform to educate and inform the millions of people who visit our shows, or tune in to the BBC coverage, justify putting on the events each year. The shows also give the horticultural industry, which will be worth £42 billion to the UK economy within the next 10 years, an essential boost for business.
 
As part of the RHS Sustainability Strategy and Planet-Friendly Gardening Campaign we are committed to improving our sustainability practice and have established an internal Shows Sustainability Working Group. Since 2018, our Shows team have been working with A Greener Festival which helps event organisers to be more environmentally sustainable. In 2021 we launched the RHS Sustainability Strategy with a target to be net positive for nature and people by 2030 and the shows play a big part in this.
 

What we are doing now and our future targets:

 

Plastic and other materials

 We are working alongside our exhibitors, partners and contractors to attempt to remove all unnecessary single use plastics from our operations for 2023 and back of house by 2025.

From 2022 we have banned the use of plastic carrier bags at all our shows.
 
We restrict the use of certain materials by contractors and exhibitors such as floral foam, and from 2022, plastic and artificial grass and flowers are banned entirely, including as a floor covering and stand dressing.

Over the next couple of years we will work with our stakeholders to further reduce the use of virgin materials, in particular timber (which has to be FSC certified), plastic and concrete, in favour of recycled and environmentally-friendly alternatives.
 
We use canned water in a number of units and all water bottles that are plastic are made from recycled material.
 
Visitors, exhibitors and contractors can bring their own reusable bottles to fill up from our drinking water stations.
 

Recycling and waste

 Currently no waste from RHS Chelsea Flower Show, RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival and RHS Flower Show Tatton Park goes to landfill.
 
We are working to provide better waste separation at our shows to improve the quantity of high-grade recycling that we are able to achieve.
 
We hope our increased focus on reuse and recycling will enable us to reduce total waste produced onsite by a further 5% annually.
 
At RHS Chelsea and RHS Hampton Court we work with City Harvest to redistribute food waste to charities across Greater London.
 
Show gardens are encouraged to live on beyond the shows, with many relocated in their entirety or plants and materials donated to various projects, making new homes for wildlife, benefitting individuals and local communities across the UK. We will be announcing where the 2022 gardens will be going to throughout the shows. At RHS Chelsea 2022, we are pleased to be working with Project Giving Back who are funding 12 gardens connected to good causes, several are being relocated to permanent homes including a children’s hospital, a homeless charity and RHS Garden Bridgewater.

Where living on is not possible for gardens or installations, we work with a reuse partner, House of Wayward, to rehome any remaining plants and some hard landscaping material. In 2021, 5,100 plants and 53 trees from RHS Chelsea were donated to 63 schools and gardens.  From RHS Hampton Court around 2,000 plants, 30 bags of compost and 25sqm of meadow turf went to 30 schools and gardens.
 

Energy and water

Due to the nature of the greenfield sites on which we operate, we have to use generators for our power supply. In 2021, we switched to biofuel generators which significantly reduced our carbon emissions, saving over 200,000kg of CO2 across all of our shows. RHS Chelsea’s mains power is also supplied from renewable energy sources; we are looking at ways to increase our substation capacity to run even more of the show from this, reducing our need for generators.
 
We have switched all lights to LED and we will continue to monitor power usage onsite and encourage exhibitors to reduce power use where possible.
At RHS Chelsea and RHS Hampton Court we have upgraded our toilets to vacuum systems that reduce water use by up to 90%. At Chelsea we also use a borehole to supply water to all our toilets and for garden watering to reduce reliance on mains water.
 

Travel and vehicles

In the RHS Sustainability Strategy, we set a goal of becoming climate positive by 2030. We are committed to reducing our CO2 emissions by providing sustainable travel options and access to our shows.
 
With the transport sector being the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the UK, and its biggest contributor being cars, we are working to promote greener modes of transport to our shows and hoping to be able to provide more green transport options in the future. To help achieve this, we have appointed a Sustainable Travel Executive to liaise with public transport providers and identify active travel options.
 
We have switched all of our site utility vehicles to electric in 2022 and are actively looking into how we can switch to electric plant machinery.
 

Exhibitors and suppliers

We ask exhibitors at application stage where their plants are sourced, what materials they’re using and whether their garden will live on. Their environmental credentials are extremely important and if we have concerns we would decline their application.
 
From 2023, we are introducing robust criteria for garden applications to ensure they are making every effort they can to create sustainable designs and if needed, we will offer guidance to applicants on cost neutral solutions.
 
We restrict the use of certain materials by contractors and exhibitors such as floral foam, and from this year plastic and artificial grass and flowers are banned entirely.
 
We only procure goods and services from responsible suppliers who share our sustainability aims. Our selected caterers locally source their ingredients, only use recyclable packaging, minimise their waste and keep water use to a minimum. At RHS Chelsea and RHS Hampton Court, we work with City Harvest to redistribute unsold and unused food to charities across Greater London. At RHS Hampton Court visitors can take away waste coffee grounds to use in their compost and at RHS Chelsea all of the compostable food waste from Jardin Blanc is used to make compost in which the fruit and vegetables are grown for the following year.
 

Peat

 We require exhibitors and designers not to use peat on the mulching and dressing of beds. Many exhibitors have made the switch to peat-free growing already, while others are currently trialling growing their plants in peat-free media.  Read more about the RHS peat policy.
 
We aim to be completely peat free across all of our operations by 2025 where our suppliers, designers and exhibitors will be asked to confirm that their plants will be peat-free and environmental horticultural scientists from the RHS will work closely with them during show builds.
 

Biosecurity

 We have worked with industry to improve plant health and biosecurity awareness and measures across all of our shows and regularly review our policies to minimise any risk of spreading plant pests and diseases.

We offer training in RHS plant health policies and good biosecurity practices to all of our show exhibitors.

RHS biosecurity staff together with the government’s Animal and Plant Health Agency attend the shows to check that all plants brought in are healthy and adhere to the policies. We also ask all visitors not to bring any plants or samples to the shows to avoid contamination.

For RHS Chelsea 2022 we have introduced a more stringent biosecurity policy aimed at reducing the risk of the bacterial disease, Xylella fastidiosa entering the UK.
 

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.