Or, "The caterpillar who doesn't care."
For about a year I debated with myself, my spouse, my dog, and other business-y minded family and friends about whether or not I should ask for the tubes and trays back (ex- the yellow tube that is holding this Zizia aurea being chomped up by a swallowtail cat).
It's such a hassle. There's no way to guarantee they all come back. "Just charge a container deposit," was a common refrain. That idea makes good business sense, but the impetus isn't business-motivated. Maybe it would encourage more people to return the tubes-- but how much more would I have to charge to make it work? And would that gouge the customer? I really want people to plant more natives, not inhibit them in some way. After all, it's not really about the monetary loss.
It's about the plastic. Our little nursery is flush with plastic, as all nurseries are. If you find one that isn't, please let me know, because I'd sure like to know how they are making it work. It's not just the containers you take home. It's greenhouse sheeting or panels, weed barrier, landscape plastic, hoses, polystyrene insulation, poly frost blankets, pvc, irrigation, rubberized everything, germination tools, shade cloth, and every other little or huge thing that needs replacing every year. Feeling a little less "green" about buying your plants, now?
Of course, to have that kind of buyers guilt, a person has to accept the premise that plastics are having a disastrous effect on our world. Especially terrifying are micro-plastics and the pervasive nature of their existence in air (!), water and, consequently, in the food chain. As they break down to microscopic levels they have the potential to negatively impact hormone function in organisms that inadvertently consume them. Those plastics have the potential to most significantly affect young women and children using polluted waters for washing and cooking.
Thank goodness for imaginary consensus! I knew you'd come around.
The problem isn't that I think our tubes are going to end up in our Pacific garbage gyre, or that they might crumble in my hands and blow right up my nostril. Or even that I think nurseries need to stop using plastics altogether.
I want the tubes back because they're still worth using. One of the biggest reasons I chose Ray Leach Cone-tainers (besides the cutesy name, obviously) is that they are made as single cells and are industry-rated to last at least 7 years. In my experience they last a bit longer. Also, they're easily sanitized, UV resistant, have less heat-gain, are easily recyclable, are made by some really friendly people, and they do what they're made to: help plants develop healthy roots.
Our material world edges ever closer to complete disposability. Everything is made just cheaply enough to be tossed, so you can buy another one tomorrow and make someone else more bottom line. I'm tired of being used this way. And I'm disturbed that my plants, which are grown to do the world some good, could play into that scheme. Using this propagation system is our mechanism for taking a step toward balance and equity.
There are a lot of other changes I could make in my personal or business consumption, but this is the only change that requires your buy-in. Hopefully, the reuse can not only help us keep plastic out of our local landfills, but also pass on savings to everyone we work with.
If you buy in containers from us (of any kind, not just the yellow cones) we'll take them back from you. In fact, we'll take them back in 3 days, 3 months or 3 years. We'll take them if they've laid outside in a bucket for the summer, or if they're cracked or nibbled on by a vole. If you have a whole bunch, we'll come pick them up. If you have 5, just bring them back whenever it's convenient or if you want more plants.
We'll trade-sies for them.
Of course, the caterpillar doesn't know or care about any of this.