At Nicholsons have always been very conscious of our effect on the environment and this document highlights our current ‘Environmental’ position and shares our plans. We will always aim to improve, and set ourselves targets and goals for reducing our environmental impact.


We endeavour to plan purchases carefully to reduce waste and minimise errors. We measure accurately, buy exactly, seek the best specifications, target value-for-money, and reject goods if they are not correct. We store materials with great care to reduce damage and waste. We advise clients wisely, and endeavour to meet their needs exactly, with thought and consideration, and not to “sell up” at the risk of the environment. We will seek to rectify any areas of weakness and set targets for the future.


  • We re-use materials wherever feasible.
  • Pots – we wash and sterilise larger pots that come back to us.
  • Paving – during landscaping and renovation work, we frequently have paving and stone available which we donate to local schools or community projects.
  • Other reclaimed materials, including soil and hardcore, are re-employed wherever possible as in-fill on the sites where we are working, as part of the design process. We also minimise the unnecessary transportation of waste in this way.


  • Pots – all excess pots are sent to be shredded and become plastic pellets – used to create new pots or other plastic items.
  • Other waste is sorted by us into type and taken by a local firm to their recycling centre. They have facilities for recycling nearly every waste type. Even our skips are sorted through on their site to ensure anything we put in that can be recycled get found and recycled.
  • Wood – All wood chip arisings (from our Arb operations) and untreated wood that we get on site (broken pallet wood or cord wood) are sent for processing into biomass fuel or to make into chipboard. Good quality pallets are reused wherever possible.
  • Timber from tree surgery operations is returned to the yard to be processed into logs and kindling which is offered to staff or a local firewood merchant.
  • Green waste is taken to an Agrivert composting site. We also encourage our clients to consider composting facilities of their own and we can build these if required.
  • Food waste – our Yurt food waste and food waste from our offices is composted on site in our Ridan composter.


Our environmental initiatives are driven by a committee consisting of staff members and directors. Staff are actively encouraged to make suggestions as to how we can be a more effective, efficient, environmentally-friendly company.

At our quarterly whole-company meetings (when COVID does not prevent such), we update staff on any new initiatives and reinforce environmentally-positive behaviour and what is expected of staff.

In the Office

  • Office paper waste is recycled. We use ‘Print Preview’ and ‘Locked Print’ to reduce printing errors and waste. We avoid printing emails and our systems have become less and less reliant on paper.
  • All paper supplies are from FSC approved sources and we use recycled paper where possible for internal printing. Material is filed electronically on the central server when possible. Scrap paper is used for internal notebooks. We are always considering processes that might help us get closer to being paperless.
  • We have recycling stations in each office for dry mixed recycling, and our food waste is separated for composting.
  • We work with Terracycle to recycle some products that would otherwise be sent to landfill.
  • Most of our cleaning products are environmentally-friendly brands and are listed as ‘Cruelty-free’ products.
  • We continue to support our local organic dairy in North Aston who supply the dairy milk to our offices. We also supply oat milk for staff, which has a considerably lower carbon footprint than dairy, even taking into account that it is not created locally.
  • Our Purchasing Manager challenges our suppliers as to their environmental credentials, including the packaging material of shipments.


  • We source with quality in mind from local suppliers wherever possible. We only buy from continental Europe when there is no high-quality UK equivalent and, in such instances, we endeavour to achieve linked deliveries.
  • Year on year, we are reducing our reliance on continental purchasing.
  • We purchase in bulk to minimise packaging and transport miles.
  • We grow our plants under UK legislation, with particular attention to reduced pesticide input by crop monitoring.
  • We take issues of biosecurity very seriously and ensure updates are communicated throughout the company. We also extend our knowledge to clients and suppliers, with ‘Biosecurity Breakfast’ events to promote understanding and awareness. We are working with the HTA on the Plant Healthy scheme to ensure our nursery is growing and selling only bio-secure plants.
  • Our Plant Centre are driving a project currently to improve the biodiversity of our 23-acre site in North Aston, including increasing native hedging and creating habitats for wildlife.


  • National targets for bagged products are that they should achieve peat-free status by 2030 for professional (Reducing and phasing out the horticultural use of peat in England, DEFRA, 2010)
  • We have been reducing peat usage in our plant production nursery year-on-year for the last 15 years. We have trialled new crops in peat-free compost to ensure we grow healthy roots and top growth and that the growing media has sufficient nutrient and water retention. In 2019/20, all our crops except laurels were grown in 100% peat-free compost. We are trialling laurels in peat-free compost and the first year results were very encouraging. There is one more year on the trial – if it is successful, all our production will be completely peat-free by 2022 – 8 years ahead of the DEFRA 2030 target.
  • In 2005, our potting mix was 85% peat and this mix was used in all our plant production. We now use peat to grow only 8% of our total crop, using a 50:50 ratio of peat to other potting material in this mix.
  • All our bagged products for retail sale have been peat-free since 2012.


  • The pots that we use currently are produced from 98% recycled material.
  • We are trialling ‘Hairy pots’ and ‘Cardboard’ pots to see if we can be less reliant on oil based products.
  • We are gradually moving production over to the kerbside-recyclable taupe pots
  • We encourage all our customers to return their empty pots to us after use, so that we can either re-use or recycle them.

Building and Hard Landscaping, Tools & Materials

  • We aim to use only local quarries for as many of our aggregate needs as possible, such as Smiths of Bletchingdon. Where materials cannot be sourced locally, we strive to minimise fuel-miles.
  • We have reduced our use of Indian sandstone greatly. In 2010, Indian sandstone made up 75% of all paving in our gardens. We have worked to reduce this through offering high quality alternatives that are locally sourced, and in the past 12 months we have only built Indian sandstone into two Nicholsons gardens, both of which where it had been used in another part of the garden years ago and was needed to complete the existing designs. We use reclaimed / freshly quarried York stone as an alternative where possible.
  • We aim to buy locally, where at all possible. We will purchase sustainable products where we can, and seek to obtain quality products that will be more durable, appropriate to purpose, and fulfil our needs more effectively.
  • We work with an external sustainability consultant who has liaised with our suppliers to source the most environmentally-friendly options for aggregates and concrete, utilising higher percentages of recycled material where possible.
  • We have created an Ecological Rating Award scheme which assesses the environmental credentials of the gardens we design and build. Designers work with clients to encourage environmentally-friendly choices throughout the process and this is built into designs where possible.


All tropical hardwoods timber we use is FSC, or an equivalent national standard. When using softwood, we tanalise for strength and longevity. Where timber needs to be long-lasting whilst in contact with the ground, we utilise ‘redwood’ not ‘whitewood’ to ensure appropriate uptake of the wood preservative treatment. Exceptions to this are made only where a short effective life-span is acceptable or desirable, such as in tree stake use.

Such timber is sourced, wherever possible, from UK forests, ensuring suppliers provide ‘non spruce’ where Hazard class 4 material is required. Where this cannot be relied on, and where timber is to be imported, it is always from certified forests.

Vehicles & Deliveries

  • The majority of company vehicles are low mileage examples, offering best possible mpg with low CO2 Our vehicles are regularly serviced to ensure optimum running capability.
  • We have purchased 2 electric vehicles over the past 2 years and have a charging point in our customer carpark. We are keeping abreast of advancement in vehicle technology and are considering alternatives when they are viable in terms of business need.
  • All fuel consumption is monitored per vehicle and action taken if vehicles are not running efficiently.
  • We do have some Land Rovers on our fleet but have been taking steps to gradually replace these with more economical vans where possible.
  • Many staff have had driver efficiency training and AA training on cold weather driving.
  • With good planning and support of our clients and suppliers, we should strive for long lead times and ensure that deliveries are linked and more efficient.
  • Where possible, we try to schedule teams near their homes, avoiding excess mileage to and from site.


  • We run an 85kw chip fired boiler for heating our offices, Orchard Barn and one residential building.
  • All filament bulbs have been exchanged for low-energy / LED wherever possible and we have worked with Oxford Brookes University on a site energy audit, which is resulting in many small changes across site to our energy use practices. Exterior lights are on timers to achieve best compromise between security/safety and energy consumption.
  • Almost all the water used for irrigation on the nursery is from our own 6500m3 reservoir. The water is collected from the site roofs, including the barns and polytunnels. Plants on the nursery are checked daily for watering requirements and only watered as required. The past 3 years have seen unseasonably long, hot summers but these have been the first years that mains water has been required to irrigate the plants since the reservoir was installed.
  • In 2012, we installed 264 Photo Voltaic (PV) cells which will generate over 40,000kWh per year. In 2019-20, we doubled this number by adding another 260 panels to a different barn building, and also installed a transformer for better energy monitoring. This will ensure our consumption can be analysed and help move towards our aim of self-sufficiency.

Wildlife & Statutory Requirements & Habitats Directive 2004

  • We adhere to Natural England guidelines relating to the protection of European Protected Species.
  • Nicholsons Forestry specifically adhere to Forestry Commission (England)/ Natural England Guidelines relating to European Protected Species in all their operations.
  • This legislation protects all seventeen Bat species found in England, as well as Dormice, Great Crested Newts, Otters, Sand Lizards and Smooth Snakes.
  • We are compliant with the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 with regard to Nesting Birds. All those who will work around nesting birds are trained at induction as to the correct protocol and this is included in refresher department training sessions annually.
  • All vans carry an ‘Endangered Species’ booklet for reference.

Forestry Act 1967 (as amended) & Town & Country Planning Regulations

  • The above regulations are the primary means by which tree felling is controlled. We secure the necessary permissions and licences prior to our felling operations whenever they are required.

Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations (Forestry) (England & Wales) 1999

  • Whilst this is not a well-known piece of legislation, it does regulate new planting, deforestation (the clearance of woodland to other uses), and the development of forest roads and quarries. The regulations apply to all such operations, whether grant-aided or not, and thresholds are used to guide foresters on when to seek permission under this legislation.
  • We will consult with the Forestry Commission where the thresholds are likely to be exceeded, and apply on behalf of our clients to secure their consent.

UK Forest Standard & Forestry Commission Guidelines

  • The UK Forest Standard outlines the Governments vision for sustainable woodland management. Standard Notes contained within it give a helpful overview to best practice, which draws heavily from other Forestry Commission Guidelines and Practice Guides. We follow these in our business; specifically those relating to the protection of water and water courses, landscape, archaeology and management of ancient and semi-natural woodlands.
  • We are aware of the Environment Agency’s Legislation on Bonfires and have the statutory D7 Exemption Certificate, which we are happy to display if requested.
  • We follow good practice procedures in the event that we encounter Japanese Knotweed during the course of our work.
  • We always stop work if any change in profile in the soils we are working with looks to be man-made, and we seek the advice of the County Archaeologist, with clients’ permission, if we ever encounter material or finds of archaeological interest.

Net Zero: The UK’s Contribution to Stopping Global Warming (2019)

This government report identified the need to sequester existing carbon from the atmosphere as well as reducing the emissions created. Nicholsons are working with other companies in the Forestry sector, audited by Grown In Britain to deliver planting at scale to sequester carbon and offer stacked environmental benefits.

If you would like further information about our Environmental Policy, or wish to discuss any aspect of our plans, please email hello@nicholsonsgb.com