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Knightshayes estate, a property within the National Trust, has become their first property to grow their sponges in aim to cut down on plastic waste. The gardeners at the Knightshayes estate, which is located in Devon, have decided to grow loofah plants. These loofah plants have been grown to create the sponges to supply the kitchen with zero-waste cleaning utensils.

How are the sponges grown?

With most sponges being obtained from the sea these home-grown loofahs are grown from a vine in the cucumber family called Luffa Cylindrica. The National Trust has said, “these are very easy to grow and suitable for any garden, the same as growing courgettes”. At the estate, the team grew 30 and once they were cut into segments it created around 50 washing-up sponges. Any extra sponges that were not required by the team were retailed at the onsite shop on the estate.

How are they better for the planet?

They eliminate the need to litter the planet with unnecessary waste compared to a standard throwaway plastic foam sponge. Kitchen Garden Supervisor at Knightshayes, Bev Todd, said: “We know people are looking for ways they can live more sustainably. We hope what we are doing at Knightshayes will inspire others to think about creative, simple ways they can reduce their everyday impact on the environment.” Todd also said “You need to grow them up some kind of supporting structure, but there’s nothing more complicated than that involved. You simply grow them as you would grow courgettes.”

The National Trust and the Environment

In the aim to become more environmentally friendly with the help of the home-grown sponges. The National Trust also has plans to almost eliminate all single-use plastics from its sites by 2022. In the past few years, the trust has replaced all disposable hot food and drink packaging with friendlier compostable packaging. The National Trust also have developed plans to remove single-use plastic drink bottles. As well as plastic packaging from shops and everyday operations. Becoming more sustainable doesn’t stop at growing sponges and removing plastic, they have also begun research into finding alternatives for a large range of products such as name tags, stationery, tree guards and plant pots.

Will you be growing your own sponges in aim to eliminate plastic sponge waste?

How to grow your own loofahs:

  1. Sow seeds in April or May in a warm, sunny spot. A sunny windowsill or frost-free greenhouse is perfect.
  2. Transfer to a large pot undercover (in a greenhouse or similar) for growing on. Fruit won’t achieve ripeness outdoors.
  3. Ensure plants have support they can scramble up.
  4. Once the fruit has matured and withered, squeeze to loosen the skin and then peel skin off completely to reveal the fibrous inner ‘skeleton’.
  5. Wash the peeled fruit well to remove the seeds and flesh from the ‘skeleton’ and hang to dry.


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