As florists, we adore nature, but the widespread use of floral foam, excessive packaging, flying-out-of-season blooms worldwide, and the gallons of water used are just a few of the problems modern floral design still faces. As it stands, many modern floral traditions are unsustainable, that's why we introduced our sustainable floral supplies.
It can be challenging to think that fresh-cut flowers are an issue; after all, flowers are from nature, aren't they? It isn't the flowers and plants so much as the floristry industry that creates environmental problems. Many of these issues stem from the fact that flowers are delicate, perishable products and need much care to ship in good condition.
Packaging and WasteFrom flower growers to florists, many materials are still being used to preserve plants that are less than ideal. Since the 1960s, plastic floral foam has been the go-to medium for professional and home decorators. Yet, manufacturing floral foam and its incorrect disposal has had detrimental effects.
While floral foam has only trace amounts of carcinogens such as formaldehyde in the finished product, the biggest concern remains in what happens when floral foam is thrown out. Floral foam cannot be recycled. While technically biodegradable, it breaks down into tiny particles known as microplastics that can remain in the environment and water supply for hundreds of years!
Scientists are increasingly alarmed at the health risks of microplastics in the air and water to humans and others. Several scientific studies have found microplastics pose a significant problem, from the top of Mount Everest to the deep ocean. Almost 80% of microplastics originate from land, with less than 20% from water. (1)
With many single-use plastic trims and decorations, from wraps, cellophane, ribbons, vessels, and bags, the packaging volume around the flowers can be excessive, contributing to the microplastic issue.
Fresh-cut flowers must be kept cool during transport and refrigerated. Airplanes and freight transportation leave a large carbon footprint on their own, add in refrigeration, and that carbon footprint can double or triple. Additionally, farming methods such as monoculture planting, where only one crop is grown at a time, deplete the soil's nutrients. Therefore, more fertilizer is used, contributing to the ever-increasing carbon footprint.
Flowers are exposed to all chemicals at any stage of their life cycle. The most environmentally problematic are pesticides, which are used to protect crops from pests. However, pesticides vary in chemical composition, and regulation outside the U.S. is complicated. Some pesticides are highly toxic to animals and humans. Occasionally, flowers can be exposed to chemicals after being harvested, as some countries require flowers to be fumigated before they are imported to ensure they do not bring unwanted pests or diseases.
Planting, maintaining, fertilizing, harvesting, and processing cut flowers in the supply chain most often require people. Not every business within the flower supply chain guarantees their employees safe and fair working conditions. If purchasing extremely affordable flowers from a country very far away from where they are grown, then we need, as consumers, to question why these flowers are so inexpensive.
Like many industries, the cut flower business is attempting to improve its systems, but the process is slow and still evolving, and there is so much work to do.
What changes can we make to help influence others toward sustainable floral supplies?
The first step we can take as consumers is appropriately disposing of floral foam and switching to more natural and reusable options.
Properly disposing of your floral foam is an excellent first step toward preventing more microplastic contamination. Many florists and home decorators admit to disposing of it down the drain after flowers die or add it to their garden and soil. Unfortunately, this is not the way to discard of it. Your best means of removing floral foam is placing it in the garbage to go to a landfill instead of washing it down the sink or adding it to your garden soil.
Replace the Foam With Alternatives
What is Agra wool? Agra wool or natural floral foam is created from basalt and sucrose from beet or sugar cane. It is all-natural and utterly biodegradable until nothing but the basalt flour remains. Agra wool can be cut into various shapes to fit planters, pots, and boxes and, like floral foam, can hold water well for live arrangements.
Agra wool is also more spongy than traditional floral foam, meaning the material is much more forgiving if you accidentally place a flower where you don't want it or change your mind. Agra wool can be reused repeatedly. You can use any 'leftovers' from cutting or shaping as a replacement for potting or garden soil, as the composition of basalt meal and sucrose is excellent for all plants to grow in. In the case of artificial florals, you don't need to worry about a watering step either, which means your Agra wool can last for years longer.
Reusable Floral Arrangement Tools
For smaller arrangements or another fantastic, long-lasting alternative to holding your artificial florals in a perfect place, there's the Flower Hairpin Frog, dried Angel vine, chicken wire, and Easy Arranger Flower holders—all specifically designed to be reusable or biodegradable and environmentally friendly.
- Floral Hairpins have shockingly been around since the 1930s. They are straightforward to use and have been created specifically to last a lifetime. They can be affixed to the bottom of a vase, compote bowl, pot, or any vessel you'd like to place your florals into. Secure it to the base with some floral tape, and that's it. You can begin to arrange your flowers as you like. The floral hairpin frogs are also exceptionally sturdy and won't damage genuine or faux stems, so that you can play with weightier structures.
Angel vine, sometimes called wire vine, is a fast-growing tropical foliage plant with thin, bronze-colored stems and glossy, green, oval leaves that can be grown trailing from a basket or wrapped on a topiary frame. Dried angel vine creates a wonderfully versatile base to hold stems and create a natural structure for your arrangement. Fill your vessel with angel vine, tape a grid, or use an Easy Arranger Flower Holder and begin designing.
Easy Arranger Flower holders are metal creations that can be easily bent over the mouth of vessels to hold faux or genuine stems alike. As it is galvanized steel, they last for years and can be reshaped to fit over many different containers for your arrangements.
- Chicken wire is another reusable alternative excellent for creating a stable base in any container to begin placing your stems in to arrange. Remember to use gloves when cutting it to shape and ensure all sharp points are curved toward the bottom of the vase or vessel to protect your hands.