Sustainable Floristry Best Practices
Let’s work together to improve the floral industry! If everyone makes just a few small changes to their floral design practices and businesses, we could together make real change in our industry! From something as big as going foam-free, to as small as using compostable ties to wrap your bouquets, to using 100% post-consumer recycled paper products in your office and printing – there are lots of ideas one can implement. Let’s truly return a floral arrangement to being a celebration of nature’s beauty, instead of a mascot for a lot of pollution! To help us all move forward, my pal Becky Feasby from Prairie Girl Flowers and I put together this free download on Sustainable Floristry Best Practices. Together our small changes will add up to big impacts!
Read on for more detailed ideas!
A foam-free hanging installation from the 2019 Whidbey Flower Workshop features Oregon-grown Cherry and Washington-grown Tulips and ferns. The centerpieces on the table are also made with no floral foam.
In an ideal world, we all would follow all of these Sustainable Floristry best practices. But any “better than” choice is a step in the right direction! Small changes add up to big impacts. Doing any of these things is better than doing none of them. Every single piece of single-use plastic avoided is a win! Every sustainably grown stem is a contribution toward a healthier planet and healthier farm workers!
SOURCING & DESIGNING
Buy local and in season– this preserves farmland and soil, creates jobs, fuels the local economy, prevents carbon emissions, lowers waste, typically enhances habitat and water quality, and provides enhanced beauty and a true sense of place and time. It might also provide pollinator habitat, cut down on waste, and improve air quality. Plus it’s fresher and there’s a more interesting array of material to work with!
Source “Certified Sustainably Grown” if you can’t find it locally. Look for Veriflora, Rainforest Alliance, Fair Trade, and certifications. These agencies each have their own set of regulations that ensure things like sustainable agriculture practices, fair trade, etc. Ask your wholesaler to start carrying flowers with these certifications. They won’t if no one asks!!
Forage responsibly – don’t pillage an area and don’t transport noxious weeds.
Don’t use foam – look for reusable or compostable options, including but not limited to sticks, chicken wire, Holly x Syndicate Sales Pillows, EcoFresh Bouquet Wraps, water tubes, moss, excelsior, etc. Read my Foam Free Installations posts (parts one and two) for lots of ideas to work without foam.
Don’t paint your product – explore this post to see why. If you must, must, must – try using water based paints.
Avoid bleached products – read this post by Linda D’Arco to see why.
Educate your customer – tell them WHY local, foam-free, etc. is better. Instruct them how/why to compost their blooms. Ask them to return the mechanics or vase for a refill/discount/award. HELP BUILD THE DEMAND for eco-friendly floristry! It is a basic human desire to do good – leverage this – it will likely create customer loyalty!
Use jute, hemp or cotton string instead of tape – these are compostable materials!
Use silk, cotton or muslin ribbon instead of polyester. Again, these are compostable!
Assess your own delivery packaging – substitute waxed tissue for cellophane. Consider re-using packaging from other packages in your own deliveries.
Instead of the plastic pic for your delivery tags/cards, use a stick, or a piece of wire, or just nestle the card inside.
WASTE & DISPOSAL
Compost your trimmings! Green stuff/vegetative tissues in the landfill = methane gas = Greenhouse Gases = BAD. Make sure you are matching the stuff in your compost bin to the type of composting operation available to you (don’t put Industrially Compostable materials in your own home pile).
Recycle – but do it right. Take the staples out of the cardboard, rinse your cardboard, separate out all the bits. Don’t be the bad apple that spoils the bushel!
Reuse – give those single use plastics from other parts of your life a second life! Pack your personals in clamshells from the produce section! Use a wrap from a grower on your own cash & carry bouquets! Use dry cleaning bags or salvage linen delivery bags for re-use – I use mine as a step in my hydration process!
Do a trash audit to see where you are generating the most trash. What can you change about your practices to reduce what you are finding the most of in your trash can?
Ask your farmers to skip the packaging – do you really need sleeves?
Save and return the packaging – give your farmers their elastics & cellophane wrappers back to reuse.
OFFICE & BUSINESS
Buy 100% post-consumer content paper towels, toilet paper, printer paper. Refill your soap containers instead of buying another bottle. Even the office coffee can make a difference: skip the keurig machine and use a french press – no filters, no garbage. Compost those grinds!
Go paperless with your recordkeeping
Encourage zero waste among your workers – ask workers to bring refillable water bottles instead of plastic; pack lunches instead of buying take-out
Charge your worth – so you can afford to make choices, stay in business, and have the energy to care
Pay a living wage – so that your employees have a reasonable quality of life. And I include YOU in this – make sure you are paying YOURSELF!!!
Buy carbon offsets for your emissions from your cooler, delivery vehicle (this is controversial, I know, but maybe it counts as a “better than” choice?)
Install solar panels to power your studio, cooler, business
FOR THE EVENT PEEPS
Reclaim your mechanics – Event pros! Pick apart your installations and get all the good stuff back! Save that chicken wire, those tubes, eco-fresh wraps & bags!
Match your mechanics to the situation – if you can’t get them back at the end of the night, try to create something fully compostable! Or offer your customers a reward for returning their vases, frogs, chicken wire, pillows etc.
Use non-paraffin candles in your events. Consider sustainably sourced palm or soy, or even beeswax candles.
Offer your customers rental items. The fewer things your customer buys, the fewer resources consumed, the less manufacturing pollution, packaging, delivery pollution, etc. Plus, it is money in your pocket!
FOR THE RETAIL PEEPS
Consider what you sell in your own store: help your customers be part of the solution, not the problem. Sell cards that are not packed in a plastic sleeve. Sell cards that are made from recycled paper. Sell sustainably sourced Palm- or Soy-based candles instead of petroleum based paraffin. Use paper bags instead of plastic.
Offer an “upcycled” section – instead of a new vase, perhaps your customer would like to help reduce waste and save the earth by using a recycled/upcycled vase?
Offer a deposit on reusable mechanics – maybe your regulars would be perfectly happy to bring back that kenzan or Holly Pillow. Start a special club in your store, and create an incentive to create less waste!
FOR THE GROWERS
Use soil blocks instead of plastic pots (or reuse them!)
Don’t use herbicides or pesticides
Mulch! Build your soil and conserve water
Listen to the Sustainable Flowers Podcast!
Practice Sustainable Agriculture methods! Since I’m not a farmer, I won’t talk much more about this, but there is a lot to learn out there!
These are just a few ideas from me. I would love to hear from YOU!! What sustainable floristry best practices do you implement in your business? Comment below or drop me a line!