The heart of floristry is our love for working with nature. Hand-making beautiful floral designs that can make a difference in people’s lives.
Like other industries there is a growing trend for florists to work more sustainably, to protect our planet and precious resources for the next generation.
To be more sustainable a florist will make ethical choices in the flowers and constructions techniques they use as well of their use of resources.
The benefits of operating an eco friendly florist are both to the environment and to our businesses. Clients are looking to work with floral designers who have strong green and ethical credentials.
What is sustainable floristry?
“Sustainability looks to protect our natural environment, human and ecological health, while driving innovation and not compromising our way of life.” https://www.environmentalscience.org/sustainability
How can a floral designer work green and ethically?
A sustainable florist makes choices. A floral designer can make choices about the flowers they use, using eco-friendly materials to design their floral displays, who they buy from, reducing waste, avoiding toxic chemicals and pesticides, conditioning flowers to extend their life, to re-purpose and re-use. And a sustainable florist will take the time to educate their customer about ecofriendly, to spread the message that floristry can be viable and green.
Five tips to make your florist business more eco-friendly
- Buy local
- Embrace the season
- Use sustainable floristry techniques
- Re-use, recycle and minimise waste
- Educate your customers
In Sydney we are spoiled for choice. A florist can source a wide variety of flowers year-round through the Sydney Flower Markets as well as directly through growers and flower wholesalers. But are cut flowers sustainable?
But while all the market stall holders at the Sydney Flower Markets must be flower growers, many also wholesale other growers’ products grown across Australia as well as imported product.
Australia grows 80% of the flowers and foliage’s that are available to florists, importing approximately 20% of its flowers from countries like Kenya, Malaysia, Ecuador, Colombia, and other countries. About 25% of cut flowers grown in Australia are grown in NSW, with Victoria growing about 57%. (Source: Australian Horticulture statics Handbook 2019 – published 17/3/2020)
How do you know if the flowers on sale through Sydney Markets are locally grown?
Talk with the growers. They are a wealth of knowledge and passion about what they grow. Find out what is local and best in season. Talk to the growers about their sustainable practices and what pesticides they use? Whether flowers are grown under cover or in the field? What they pick under licence?
Benefits of buying locally grown flowers
- Lower carbon footprint as less resources are used to transport flowers.
- Less need for packaging (and its recycling) associated with transporting flowers over long distances. Flowers can be transported in water, which can enhance vase life and reduce damage associated with packaging.
- Flowers should last longer as they have travelled less distance
- When flowers are imported, they are fumigated with chemicals to reduce the risk of introducing live pests and weeds into Australia.
Imported flowers supplement the local supply of flowers on busy flower days like Valentine’s Day or in the cooler months and are a reliable and secure source of flowers for large events and weddings.
Embrace the season
An eco-florist would always recommend embracing flowers that are in season. When a flower is in season, it is at its most beautiful, you can be assured of supply and the price will be right.
Choosing flowers that are out of season means quality and quantity cannot always be guaranteed, and more valuable resources are used to source them.
It does take educating your client to trust you to choose the best seasonal blooms to suit their wedding theme rather than designing to a flower list!
Use sustainable floristry techniques
There is a growing trend in floristry to avoid the use of Floral Foam especially in wedding and event design.
Floral Foam was developed in the 1950’s and revolutionised floristry. It is super absorbent and can keep flowers hydrated with water for days, holds them securely in place improving design and transportation of floral arrangements.
Floral foam makes creating floral arches and wedding arbours, table centrepieces and large funeral sprays so much easier and allows for great creativity.
However wet floral foam is formaldehyde-based, is not biodegradable and will not break down in landfill. When we use it in our school, we leave the floral foam to dry out before we dispose of it to reduce the environmental impact.
A sustainable florist must be creative and clever and chooses to use alternatives to floral foam where possible. It may take more preparation and cost the client more for the end design, but the end result will be worth it.
Alternatives to floral foam could be:
- Chicken wire can be used in a vase to create a base into which a florist can place flowers securely. It can easily be moulded into shape and it’s netted structed make it perfect to hold flower stems.
- Sphagnum moss can be added to a chicken wire frame to provide a water source for large wedding arches and arbours
- Re-usable glass or ceramic containers are ideal for table arrangements and for floral gifts. A clever designer has no need for foam
- Japanese Kenzan or Flower Frogs are popular in Ikebana design. A Kenzan is a weight with sharp pins that sits on the base of a container and flowers are secured into the pins.
At Pearsons Florist most gift bouquets are delivered in glass vases with minimal wrapping paper and packaging. The vase becomes part of the gift and the flowers last longer because they are always in water.
Extending the vase life of flowers to minimise waste
There is a lot to be said about good flower handling. It really can make a huge difference in how long flowers last. And the longer they last, the less waste!
The key to extending the “vase life” of flowers is managing water uptake, temperature, and careful handling.
The most important thing you can do is ensure that you cut the stems of flowers so they can get fresh water, keep the buckets and containers clean to reduce harmful bacteria and storing flowers in the appropriate environment. Most flowers will last best stored in the fridge unless their natural environment is tropical (think a tropical flower like Anthurium) in which case they are best stored out of the fridge.
Flower knowledge is an essential skill in the fight against waste!
Recycle and reuse and minimise waste
Much of waste florists create when designing is easily recyclable as Green waste. This can go in the green recycling bin or be composted. One tip would be to separate waste into different bins as you work. Have a bin easily accessible for the left-over stems and leaves and a separate bin for cardboard products are compostable and recyclable.
Bump out, recycle and re-purpose
As part of their wedding proposal a professional eco-florist could charge a reasonable bump out fee. This would cover the cost of collecting the flowers (yes… sometimes very late at night) separating and disposing of the waste, re-using, re-cycling, or re-gifting the flowers to those in need.
Educate your customers
Clients need to be aware of why you are using seasonal and locally grown flowers, why you choose to create the designs using certain containers and techniques, and why you need to charge a reasonable bump out fee to manage the waste.
The challenge for florists is to manage client’s expectations, especially around wedding flowers and seasonal availability. If the bride trusts their floral designer to use the best blooms to create the look they want, while using the freshest blooms in season they won’t need to be bloom specific.
What are the benefits of being an eco-friendly florist?
Build your eco-friendly credentials into your business model and share this with your clients. It can be a great marketing edge as customers do want to support businesses that are supporting the community.
Being sustainable makes sense. The more we use the natural resources of our planet, the less there is for the next generation and to share with other species. It is up to all of us to play a role in environmental sustainability to ensure that our use of our natural resources is balanced with protecting the environment for future generations.
At Pearsons School we do use Floral Foam for funeral work and for basic designs but also teach sustainable alternative techniques.