Eco, Environmentally Friendly and Green are words that seems to get thrown around a lot these days. I think the vast majority of us want to do our part to help the environment, but with all the Greenwashing that goes on, it’s hard to know who to trust and what it really means.
Personally, I find those terms pretty unhelpful these days. Let’s be real, for any modern business (or household for that matter) to be truly Environmentally Friendly in today’s modern world is pretty out of reach. That’s why we prefer to use the term Earth Conscious Floristry when we talk about our approach to sustainability. But what does it actually mean?
Being an Earth Conscious florist means we are thoughtful on how our practises impact on the environment and take actions to minimise our impact.
The way we approach our Earth Conscious practise is continually evolving, when you know better you do better. But as of today, here are some of the ways we work to reduce our environmental impact.
Avoiding Single Use Plastics
Although it may look green, floral foam is actually just made of plastic – about 10 plastic bags worth of per brick. When floral foam is soaked in water it leaches micro-plastics into the water, which then make their way into our waterways while the bricks end up adding to landfill as they cannot be reused.
So why is it still used so much? To be honest, it’s easier! For weddings and events, florists can prepare their designs off site and easily transport them for a quick set up at the venue, without worry of the designs shifting and splashing water everywhere during transport. For gift bouquets, foam can keep flowers fresh for transport and are super convenient to help designs hold their shape. Designing in foam is still the norm in floristry and is the main technique taught in mainstream floristry courses and certifications.
But with all the moves we ALL have made in recent years to let go of convenient yet problematic plastics (think shopping bags, straws etc), can we really still justify defaulting to floral foam simply because it’s convenient?
Being a “self taught” florist (ie, I’ve not completed formal certificate training), I consider myself a little bit blessed that I never learnt to design in floral foam as I haven’t had to “unlearn” anything, I never really worked with it to begin with.
I know from talking to many florist friends, who I know really aspire to use more sustainable approaches, how hard it is for them to step away from what they were taught and have used for many years for their designs. It really is a completely different approach to designing and requires a lot of preparation, planning and creative thinking, especially when it comes to those Pinterest worthy wedding designs.
What we use instead:
For flower bouquets we wrap our stems in paper towel made from bamboo fibre (a more sustainable fibre for making paper), soak it in water then pop into a home compostable Hero mailer bag to keep the water at the base of your blooms for transport. We’ve tested our flowers in these bags and they’ve held up perfectly for over 12 hours (which was as long as we left them) without any noticeable difference to the longevity of the flowers.
For installations and centrepieces, which can be huge users of floral foam traditionally, we use chicken wire with reusable water vessels (including water vials, repurposed takeaway containers and cups). When we pack down an event or wedding, we wash all our chicken wires and containers to reuse them over and over and ensure all green waste is either repurposed or sent to the Green Bin – avoiding as much landfill contribution as possible.
Designing for wedding and events without floral foam does generally mean we need to do most of our designing on site, so we typically need a bigger team or set up time, but we think it’s worth it.
Focus on Wrapping
While actual Cellophane is biodegradable, the “cellophane” used for flower wrap is actually made from plastic (BOPP).
What we use instead:
We wrap our flowers in Kraft Paper which can be recycled in your Yellow Bin and secure with either a paper based packing tape or twine. Occasionally we will add satin ribbons to our wrapping (notably in vase arrangements) but we keep these at a decent length so that the recipient can reuse the ribbon. For our business blooms, we deliver our flowers in vases which we then recollect and wash each week.
Waste Handling and low Km blooms
Waste can be a huge problem in the flower industry, as it is with any perishable product. Many flowers that are farmed actually never make it to the consumer, but die either in transport (especially for imports), at the wholesalers or with the florist.
You may be surprised to know that between 40 and 50 per cent of flowers sold in Australia are actually imported, typically coming to Australia from China, Europe and South America, which adds a huge amount of air miles to that bunch of blooms. Not only are these flowers grown in Countries with questionable human rights/working conditions, they are also then dipped in Glyphosate (the same active ingredient used in Round Up) as part of the Australian Import conditions (this is to devitalise the flower making sure it can’t accidentally reseed here). Gross.
What we do to help:
We take the time to separate out our waste (Green Waste, Soft Plastics, Recycling etc) to ensure as little goes to landfill as possible.
We try very hard avoid using imported flowers in our arrangements, focusing instead on in season Australian Grown flowers (we say try because flowers are excluded from Country of Origin labelling that is required for other imported goods so sometimes it can be difficult to know for sure). We also work with our growers to use flowers that are abundantly in season to help them avoid waste rather than on the edges of the seasons. We work closely with our local farmers (many of whom grow their flowers right here in the Hills) to bring not only the freshest of blooms but to support their small businesses.
There’s some other subtle choices we have made as a business that play a part in our sustainable approaches. These include:
– Preorders only: we don’t hold stock and only buy to the exact orders we have so there are no leftovers or wasted blooms. If we do have occasional extras, we sell them as our Yay bunches for a discounted price or donate them to charities, friends or strangers to ensure each and every flower we buy goes to a loving home.
– Online Business: by not having a store front we do not have to have “display flowers” which often end up going to waste. We also have minimal electricity and water impacts by only using our studio as required.
– Limited range: only having a small range to choose from also limits waste from needing to buy many different flower varieties to cater for the different designs. Flowers come in bunches from the wholesaler, so we ensure the whole bunch gets used across our designs.
There is always more to do and more to be done, being Earth Conscious is always a work in progress. What do you think of our approach to Earth Conscious Floristry? Let us know in the comments below.