Meijer Enlists Scientists Help Shoppers Pick Enviro-friendly Plants

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - In a bid to help the environment and arm its shoppers with better information about outdoor plants, Meijer Inc. based here enlisted scientists from Michigan's Nature Conservancy to help it recommend non-invasive plants that are best suited for Midwest backyards.

The chain will label 16 percent of its plants, trees, and shrubs with a special icon indicating scientists determined them as "recommended non-invasive" for the local ecosystem. Species that will receive the special icon on plant tags include purple coneflower (flower); white pine (tree); big blue stem (grass); and flowering dogwood (tree).

In addition, Meijer said it will remove from its inventory two species known to be invasive: Norway maple and Lombardy poplar. Both species are known to be invasive in parts of the Midwest.

An invasive plant is one that has negative effects on the economy, environment, or human health. Experts estimate that all invasive species (aquatic, plants and insects) cost Americans approximately $137 billion annually in loss of agriculture, fisheries, forestry and infrastructure maintenance.

"We chose to work with The Nature Conservancy, a world-class organization, to help protect our environment," said Hank Meijer, the family chain's co-chairman and grandson of Meijer's founder, Hendrik Meijer. "By combining the power of their scientific expertise with our reach to consumers, we have a chance to make a real difference, literally on the ground."

"Whether you're a gardener, hunter, or just someone who cares about the world we live in, you've been affected by the spread of invasive species," said Helen Taylor, state director for The Nature Conservancy in Michigan. "People want to do the right thing, but they don't often know how. We hope this tag and the incredible informational effort Meijer is developing will help people better understand how they can make a difference in their own backyard."

Meijer will also train all its Back Yard employees on the new plant tags and invasive species, so they can talk to shoppers about the dangers of invasive plants and the benefits of using recommended non-invasives.

The supercenter chain will also educate consumers using materials both in and out of stores via brochures, its Web site, email newsletters, audio and other media. The campaign will include a video using Machinima technology that will Meijer will play in stores and on the Internet.

In addition, Meijer said it will donate $450,000 over the next three years for stewardship work to reduce invasive plants and help save Lake Michigan shoreline, part of the world's largest freshwater dune system.
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