This is how Gardena wants to "go green" - and you have it in your hands
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This is how Gardena wants to "go green" - and you have it in your hands

Martin Jungfer
Zurich, on 23.05.2022

I don't have a green thumb: my lettuce in the raised bed is eaten by slugs. That's sustainable at best for the slimy creepers. Can I at least contribute to saving the earth with ecological Gardena tools in the future?

A huge wave of sustainability is sweeping through the sea of consumption. At Galaxus, too. Everything wants to be organic, natural, fair, and ecologically produced. And is marketed accordingly. Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the greenest in the land? And yes, we ourselves also look in the mirror from time to time in this respect and have therefore switched to brown packages.

The fact that the garden tool manufacturer Gardena has also recently introduced a first range of new products to our assortment, which are intended to make a contribution to saving our earth, comes as little surprise. When you think about gardening, it's easy to think about environmental protection. If you grow your own zucchini, you save the environment transport distances. If you pick tomatoes from your own bush, you may not have sprayed them with poison beforehand.

But it is often a long way to the harvest. Paved with all kinds of necessary equipment. Have you ever consciously thought about the materials that make up the flower shovel, garden sprayer or joint scraper that you use?

How much is there to the marketing blah?

As editors at Galaxus, we have a nice privilege. We are allowed, indeed we should and must be critical, investigative. What's written in product descriptions or on flowery notices about new products makes us skeptical at first. After all, the manufacturers' marketing people are merciless when it comes to these things. No superlative is safe from them. But what is the substance behind the marketing gobbledygook?

I am convinced by the new Ecoline series from Gardena. And that's how it came about: Gardena was kind enough to send me a few samples of the equipment in question. To be more precise, these:

Additionally in the package were the previous products, which are made of fossil plastics. This should make a direct comparison possible.

After unpacking, I am initially surprised. The Ecoline series hardly differs from the Classic series. The test is completed quickly and easily. The lawn sprinkler leaves no blade of grass dry in both versions and does not differ in operation. Shoveling soil or scraping weeds out of joints is just as fun as it can be with tools from both series. Depending on whether you are a creator or destroyer type, more or less. Not even the feel or the weight differ. Everything would be the same if it weren't for the advertising message of ecology on the packaging.

Fugen kannst du wahlweise mit einem Ecoline- oder einem Classic-Linke-Kratzer von Unkraut befreien. Diese Tätigkeit  bereitet mir keine Freude. Der Test zur Funktion des Geräts dauerte deshalb nicht lange.
Fugen kannst du wahlweise mit einem Ecoline- oder einem Classic-Linke-Kratzer von Unkraut befreien. Diese Tätigkeit bereitet mir keine Freude. Der Test zur Funktion des Geräts dauerte deshalb nicht lange.

But I don't want to waste your time with this insight alone. That's why I contacted Gardena at nachgehackt. On my question catalog by E-Mail I receive a telephone call as answer. In the conversation Susanne Drmota, Public Relations Manager, does not owe me an answer, although I really have a lot of questions. Okay, yes, that's her job, too, of course. But it's also just part of my research.

Ms. Drmota, green-dark gray instead of orange-gray - is this Gardena's big eco-throw now?
Susanne Drmota: No, of course not. Yes, at first glance the product is not spectacularly different. But for us, the Ecoline series is actually a milestone for our sustainability strategy.

A milestone? Didn't you just change the plastic granulate so that you can now just print "made from recycled plastic" on the packaging?
Unfortunately, it wasn't that simple. Years of research have gone into our new products. After all, a garden tool like this should remain stable for many years. That's why we had to find the right materials that meet our high demands for quality and durability.

How do you find that out?
Through extensive tests: How does the material react to pressure, to UV radiation, to different temperatures? Can we use the recyclate, i.e. the raw material, in the same machines as before? Does it behave in the same way? These are all questions that took time to answer.

If you were able to clarify all this - why aren't the devices now made of one hundred percent recycled plastic?
There are two main reasons. Firstly, certain parts of the equipment cannot be made from plastic, for example the metal arch with the holes in the lawn sprinkler. Secondly, there is currently not enough recycled plastic on the market for us to buy.

**It's hard to believe with the amounts of waste we produce every day....

Right, but for our devices we need high-quality and pure granulate. This is only possible if households separate their waste as cleanly as possible. In addition, the manufacturers of raw materials should ideally be close to our production facilities. After all, it doesn't make sense to ship recyclate from Asia, for example, to our European production sites first.

Consistent down to the carton

After the interview, I take a closer look at the test products. My appreciation for a simple flower shovel is now significantly higher. Gardena is following a larger plan here, which they also inform about on their homepage. However, I am not satisfied with the information provided by the PR spokeswoman and the information on the homepage. I investigate further.

It depends on many supposed little things to make a product a sustainable one. The packaging of the Ecoline series, for example, is made of recycled cardboard. Instead of colorful glossy, the instructions are printed in black with water-based ink. You can read about the benefits of adapting the packaging in this way in our own example.

Links die neue Verpackung, rechts die alte. Gardena verabschiedet sich zu Gunsten der Umwelt von der Farbe.
Links die neue Verpackung, rechts die alte. Gardena verabschiedet sich zu Gunsten der Umwelt von der Farbe.

The verdict on the use of recycled plastics is less clear. It is a long way from waste to pure new plastic granulate. The different types of plastic - polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) are just a selection - have to be separated, cleaned and shredded. They can't all be thrown together and melted down, because that would just result in low-quality granules. All this costs: Time, energy, water - and releases CO2. That's why the "waste hierarchy" says: avoidance is better than reduction, and reduction is better than recycling.

In Switzerland, the focus is often on "recycling", specifically: In this country, 780,000 tons of the one million tons of plastic waste generated each year are simply incinerated, "thermally recycled", as at least a few apartments are heated with the waste heat. Separate collections, even for different types of plastic, exist only in rudimentary form, such as the plastic collection bags of some Migros cooperatives.

For the sake of the environment, Gardena even dispenses with the color orange.

The EU is more ambitious here. By 2030, all plastic packaging should be part of a circular economy. One goal of the system change program is to make recycling a profitable business model for industry.

So Gardena is a few years ahead of the policy with its use of recycled plastic, but it has a similar goal. It may have been a strategic decision to change production now, before political coercion arrives. To that end, Gardena also seems willing to say goodbye to the iconic color scheme of its own products. The orange disappears from the products in the Ecoline. Keeping it would mean that the proportion of recycled material would drop, because orange granules are only newly available with the addition of colorants.

Neu und alt (links) im Vergleich im Hochbeet. Dass hier nichts oder wenig wächst, ist den Schnecken zu verdanken, nicht Gardenas Schuld.
Neu und alt (links) im Vergleich im Hochbeet. Dass hier nichts oder wenig wächst, ist den Schnecken zu verdanken, nicht Gardenas Schuld.

Gardena received the German Sustainability Award in the "Design" category for the Ecoline at the end of 2021. The competition is the largest competition of its kind in Europe, is held in cooperation with the German government. The jury also consists of independent experts. In short, this is not one of those prizes that a company can pocket for cheap money and then stick on their packaging in the form of a fancy label.

Classic and Ecoline cost similarly

The Gardena people seem to follow a holistic approach, i.e. not just cheap greenwashing. To me, this also fits in with the fact that the Ecoline products are priced pretty close to the level of their previous Classic counterparts. In terms of recommended retail prices, Ecoline products are between ten and twenty percent higher. So unlike organic products in the supermarket, where I have to pay for my eco-conscience, I have a real choice - and can opt for sustainability without having to take out a small loan.

And if the tools last as long as promised, I'll be able to avoid using new plastic. Because if the joint scraper lasts until 2030, no new petroleum will be needed for the successor model. Secretly, however, I hope that in my advanced age I will have found another way to keep weeds out of joints. Or I have become meek with age and live with it.

In einer früheren Version des Artikels hiess es im Zwischentitel am Ende, dass die Preise «dieselben» seien. Das war nicht korrekt. Die Preise liegen zwar auf vergleichbarem Niveau, jedoch kosten – Stand Mai 2022 – die Ecoline-Produkte etwas mehr.

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Journalist since 1997. Stopovers in Franconia (or the Franken region), Lake Constance, Obwalden, Nidwalden and Zurich. Father since 2014. Expert in editorial organisation and motivation. Focus on sustainability, home office tools, beautiful things for the home, creative toys and sports equipment. 


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