Sustainability in Floral Design

Colorful dahlias, orchis, larkspur and gladiolas designed for an online floral design class

Sustainability in Floral Design

- Who we are -

- What we stand for -

- What we believe in -

- What impact do we aim to have on the community & planet -

Planning clear intentions, outlining guiding principles that pertain to the environment, our magnificent planet and sustainable floristry practices. Every little action that we take on a regular basis can have immense impacts when mapped out over extended periods of time. We often take our environmentally-friendly practices for granted, but we realize that by publicly sharing and spelling out what that looks like for florists, may enlighten and empower others to evaluate and potentially refine their daily practices for the betterment of all.

 

FLORAL FOAM

To start, floral foam is plastic-based and full of toxic & carcinogenic compounds that can compromise the well-being of humans. Even if you’re taking precautions to reduce topical or respiratory exposure to the foam, the fact that the foam breaks down into micro-plastics that are not bio-degradable makes the usage of this product inescapably detrimental due to it’s impact on the environment as a waste product. We have retooled our practices and can now confidently declare ourselves a floral foam-free operation. We are completely floral foam-free!

Up until now, we have intermittently used floral foam when we felt it was “necessary”, but this has been a form of lazy thinking on our part. We are completely floral foam-free! It takes some creative problem solving and we are excited to share the systems we've created! We will serve as a working example of “green” floral design practices for budding florists, since we operate on a publicly visible platform. We wish to use this platform to demonstrate how to flourish in the possibilities of setting hard and fast rules and boundaries (ethically-driven or not) within which your business is willing to operate. These parameters force you to think outside the box to discover new means of achievement. Reinventing the wheel to suit your modus operandi so that you can stand proudly behind your actions, rather than acquiescing under pressure, defaulting to the path of least resistance - designing with floral foam! It is our hope that our clients will value the purpose behind our environmentally-friendly methods and be flexible with crafting floral designs in the absence of traditional floral foam.

Our courses and workshops incorporate foam-free designing, so if you are interested in expanding your scope of knowledge on this aspect of design, please join a class! Being foam-free does take a good chunk of change to invest in enough floral frogs and chicken wire at first, but these elements can be reused for events. Since we will be designing a lot of our deliveries with floral frogs, they will be ever so slightly pricier. However, we will be offering a vase and floral frog recycling program where you can bring them back in exchange for flowers or cash.

COMPOSTING

We separate our green waste from our other waste. As a florist, we naturally have a ton of compostable waste, this is a huge perk! When processing flowers we place our green bin under the chopping block where stems will be cut in bulk. This will streamline the process and make composting and separating green waste relatively mindless. Evaluate the compost opportunities around you and find one that best suits your needs.

RECYCLING

Recycling is definitely something that we are a bit torn about, as arguments for and against city-wide recycling programs have seemingly rational points. It is inarguably preferable to re-purpose disposed of plastics rather to produce more. Some critics of large-scale recycling programs claim that the service ends up consuming resources and generating environmentally pernicious side effects with large carbon footprints that may or may not offset the programs’s proposed benefits. We don’t claim to have a comprehensive grasp of the macro-level cost-benefit analysis of recycling programs. Although, aiming to have a full recycling bin each week is definitely not our goal. We would love to eliminate as much waste as possible, recyclable or not…which means that we avoid consuming things that require the purchase of disposable and single-use containers. We try not to have all of our flowers wrapped with paper or put into boxes when those options are available. When we buy flowers from the market we often decline any kind of wrap and just stack the individual flower bunches on a cart to be placed directly into our vehicle. It creates more physical work when transporting flowers from one place to another, but eliminates the wasteful aftermath of boxes, plastic and paper wrap left after numerous trips to the flower market each week.

 

SOURCING BLOOMS LOCALLY

As a Portland florist, we are lucky to have so many local options for blooms. Throughout most of the year, we will be able to source 100% locally and we will do so happily! Our reasons for buying flowers locally:

  1. Flowers are generally not wrapped with plastic…and often they are not wrapped with paper! This is amazing and decreases the waste that we have to dispose of quite dramatically. If you are a flower farmer that happens to wrap product with plastic or even paper (specifically waxed paper, which isn’t recyclable), we urge you to research more eco-friendly alternatives. Let’s eliminate trash at the source, PLEASE! It’s much easier to simply stop producing or using a product which is inherently destined to become a byproduct waste rather than to hope that somebody down the line will figure out how to manage it’s disposal properly.

  2. Buying locally supports small businesses. Any time that we can support a local business we are excited to do so. We are thankful to live in an area of the country where flowers abound and supporting conscientious local farmers who adopt responsible flower farming practices ensures that these small businesses can remain competitive in an industry that doesn’t always promote or prioritize a preference for flowers which are produced by way of safe and sustainable practices.

  3. No major transportation footprint on the environment. This is HUGE. So many flowers come from South America, Holland, Kenya and beyond which requires extensive transportation logistics involving massive refrigerated warehouses, refrigerated cargo trucks and refrigerated airplanes. Every leg of the transport process consumes insane amounts of energy and generates a LOT of CO2 emissions. Buying locally bypasses ALL of these factors.

  4. No chemical-ladened blooms. Turning the spotlight back to importing floral products from international flower farms: flowers from, say, Columbia, are COVERED in very toxic pesticides. Many of these pesticides have actually been banned in the USA, but since they aren’t being applied to food crops, developing countries are still permitting their application in specific industries. Therefore, depending on where the flowers are grown, we florists are potentially being exposed to very toxic stems, which we then unknowingly pass along to our customers. Our skin is a very absorbent organ and exposure to these chemicals on even a semi-regular basis, let alone a DAILY basis, could be very detrimental to your health. By sourcing flowers locally you have the ability to speak candidly with the farmer about the pesticides that they may use and, consequently, make more informed and safer decisions. The widespread use of pesticides in the flower farming industry and the associated toxicity is a massive subject that we’d like to write more about some day as it’s an aspect of the floral industry that hasn’t received much attention other than a few research studies in Europe. Evidently, the purported consequences of peddling toxic flowers on a daily basis could include a whole host of health complications like reproductive issues and cancer! Kind of a big deal and definitely worthy of further research and investigation!

  5. Flowers are fresher!! If we are buying locally then the blooms don’t have to be shipped to us by airplane, where they lie compressed in a box for 1-2 days after they are harvested. Avoiding the hardships of transportation means that the flowers are going to have a few more days of life in our customers’ homes. The local flowers we provide will be fresher and live longer. Can’t be mad about that!

FLOWER DONATIONS

Most of this post is about waste and this section is no different. When flowers don’t sell at the peak of their freshness, many flower shops throw them away or take them home. Flowers are generally enjoyed by most, but not affordable for all. Flowers brighten a room and bring a sparkle to the eyes of many and we want to share this love in Portland. We will be donating flowers on a weekly basis (rather than composting perfectly lovable flowers) to a variety of places such as hospice care centers and youth shelters. 

PLASTIC AND WASTE-FREE

We have been fairly free of plastic for many years and plan on extending these behaviors to our Portland flower shop. It’s fairly easy to do when you aren’t interested in consuming packaged foods and products, in general. It seems that if you value living toxin-free that you are most likely leading a fairly waste-free existence. We have long made use of re-usable containers at grocery store bulk bins, avoided single-serving packaged products, and DIY’d our own health and food products using glass, wood and stainless steel containers. We will continue to do this. Some other ways we will continue to be plastic & waste free in the shop are:

  • Liquid (soap, cleaning agents, etc) contained in glass dispensers, refilled from bulk. No one-time-use containers will be purchased.

  • Stainless Steel Berkey Water Filter - no plastic bottles

  • Vase recycle incentive program - stay tuned for details once we open!

  • Washable cloth rags only - no paper towel use

  • No trash bags will be used except for biodegradable trash bags for our non-compostable, non-recyclable waste, which we will keep to a bare minimum.

  • Coffee maker with reusable filter only

  • Bouquets will be wrapped in minimal recyclable paper and tied with raffia

  • Reusable dish scrubbers and “toilet'“ scrubbers will be used made out of WOOD and natural fibers, not plastic. We use a toilet scrubber for cleaning buckets, which is why we are mentioning this detail. We use a SEPARATE scrubber for the toilet…don’t worry.

  • Reusable gloves - no disposable gloves here

CHEMICAL AND TOXIN-FREE

For some time now, driven by concerns for our own personal health, we have strived to eliminate chemicals and toxins from our workspace…barring the occasional use of floral foam. We are relieved to move forward knowing that this harmful product has been phased out of our floral shop and that we are able to provide a better work environment for our team and a safer product for our clients.

Toxic things you will NOT find in our shop with the corresponding safe solution:

  • Floral foam | Instead: Flower frogs and chicken wire

  • Quick Dip (used to facilitate hydration of flowers after initial processing) | Instead: Maintaining a sharp and clean edge on cutting tools so the stems of your flowers do not structurally collapse when cutting. Fill buckets with tepid water and do not put in the cooler for at least an hour. For some specific woodier stems, flowers hydrate better if the bottom of the stem is crushed or burned - another topic for another day.

  • Flower food | Some flower food is not toxic, however we are not a big fan of either packaging options: numerous small individual packages OR huge plastic containers. The benefits DO NOT outweigh the amount of container waste that is produced. Instead: Keep your buckets and vases bacteria-free using vinegar and wash between each use. A little bit of sugar can be sprinkled into the vase as “food” and this can perk up the blooms.

  • Toxic Cleaning Agents | Instead: Use vinegar, a thieves oil-based cleaning spray (make it yourself and spray from a glass container), and Bon Ami when you need a deep scrub.

  • Bleach | Instead: Vinegar

  • BPA-Ladened Receipt Paper | Instead: Source BPA-free receipt paper and be sure to disable the function of printing a receipt with every sale. Very few people will want a receipt - be sure to offer a receipt by email instead.

CONCLUSION

Any informed discussion regarding consequences stemming from humankind’s activity within our terrestrial eco-system is immense, complex and multi-faceted. We aren’t pretending to have all of the answers nor are we taking a fixed, agenda-backed stance (i.e. political, religious, etc…). We shall remain flexible in our position and willing to change our minds when presented with new data. Regardless of what the “data” seems to indicate, the only legitimate way to start making a difference is to be the change that we wish to see. This requires action. We aim to take action aligned with the best possible sources of knowledge that we currently have access to. There are no bite-sized, 144-character silver-bullet statements of wisdom that can define for every human, in every walk of life, what it means to be living in harmony with the surrounding environs. What we DO know, is that instead of pointing fingers, we need to look at ourselves and ask, “how can we do better?” Determine what we have the ability to change…and then take the necessary steps to implement those changes.

Let’s support each other’s journey forward in re-engineering the best versions of our daily practices. Please feel free ask questions, challenge the ideas presented here, or share any other tips that you think would make the floral industry more eco-friendly!

Alyssa x
 
 

You are worthy of being wildly successful in your floral design business. Step into your worth and start learning what you need to do next. 

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