Labels for Eco-Friendly Growing Practices

Will Customers Pay More for Eco-friendly Plants?

People are worried about pollinators and homeowners want to do what they can to help. Some are planting pollinator gardens, taking up beekeeping or choosing organic foods to try to help save the bees. Yet, few ornamental plants are sold with information conveying production practices. Organic is rare in the ornamental plant industry, and if plants have been treated with neonicotinoids, homeowners might accidentally kill the bees they are trying to feed when they bring home a plant.

Many plant growers are increasingly using biocontrols to manage plant damage. Biocontrols are a method where predatory insects are introduced to eat the pest insects. This method for pest control is often more effective than insecticides and limits secondary pest outbreaks. Plus, while pests tend to grow resistant to insecticides, they can’t grow resistant to getting eaten by other bugs!

So how do producers convey—and monetize—their environmentally responsible practices? Few are using labels to convey production practices, but we wanted to know if eco-labels might be the answer.

NCAP partnered with Oregon State University Extension and Woodburn Nursery and Azaleas to conduct a survey of shoppers in several Oregon retailers. We surveyed 162 customers face-to-face by showing them three eco-labels and asking how the labels would affect what they are willing to pay.

See how consumers responded to our questions in this video:

The three eco-labels tested were:

  • Pollinator-Friendly
  • Pollinator-Friendly and Grown without Pesticides that Harm Pollinators
  • Pollinator-Friendly and Grown with Biocontrols

The Results

Around two-thirds of the Oregon survey respondents said they’d pay more for a plant if the label indicated that the plant was “pollinator-friendly and grown without pesticides harming pollinators.” This was similar to the number who indicated that they’d pay more for a plant labeled as “pollinator-friendly and grown with biocontrols.” In contrast, less than half of respondents would pay more for a plant simply because it was labeled “pollinator-friendly.”

We found that the term “grown with biocontrols” was less effective in eliciting a price premium than the phrase “grown without pesticides that harm pollinators.” Many customers were unfamiliar with the term “biocontrol.” Attempting to gain a price premium by promoting use of biocontrol practices may require additional public education.

We are excited about the possibility of more nursery growers reducing pesticide use in favor of biocontrols. While more exploration is needed, this is a good first step towards increasing sustainable ornamental plant production.

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