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RHS announces new sustainability award at Chelsea

by | 05 Apr 24 | Garden Design, News, Sustainability

In an effort to recognise the environmental ingenuity of its gardens, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is introducing a new sustainability focused award at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

‘The Environmental Innovation Award’ looks to celebrate “the examples of excellence in progressive environmental ingenuity” on display at the show, says the RHS.

Every garden that goes through the newly established Green Garden Audit will be eligible for the award.

All gardens in the Show and Sanctuary categories this year have been through the audit in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint and environmental impact.

Design changes implemented as a result of the new audit saw a reduction in carbon emissions of almost 30%.

Nicholsons’, the company who conducted the audits alongside RHS head of sustainability Malcolm Anderson, reviewed every garden’s design and build plans against a new sustainability criteria.

Audit criteria included material selection, waste, biodiversity and ecology, water and air. The team then worked with the garden’s designers and contractors to make workable changes in order to reduce the environmental footprint.

After introducing a sustainability criteria at the selection stage last year, Anderson says “the introduction of the audit this year helps us take this one step further, enabling us to better understand the carbon footprint of the gardens at the show and challenge designers and landscapers to consider ways they could further reduce their impact whilst also opening up the conversation within the horticultural industry on how we can create gardens more sustainability in the future.”

The biggest reduction in carbon emissions for a majority of the gardens was achieved by making changes to the building materials selected, as well as construction methods.

For example, Matthew Childs who is designing the Terrance Higgin’s Trust Bridge to 2030 Garden massively reduced his carbon emissions by removing block walling in his original design and replacing it with reclaimed timber.

Whilst Ann-Marie Powell designing The Octavia Hill Garden by Blue Diamond with the National Trust saved a large amount of Co2 by significantly reducing the use of cement in her garden.

Liz Nicholson, managing director at Nicholsons says: “Even these celebrated designers discovered one or two new opportunities and were open minded to tweak their designs.”

RHS Chelsea Flower Show runs from 21-25 May 2024. For more information, visit

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