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Why Sustainable Floristry Matters To Us

What is sustainable floristry

In short, sustainable floristry is a commitment to learn more, share knowledge, remove unsustainable practices, prioritise the health of the environment and people, respect the materials used, and reduce the environmental footprint.

When did sustainability become so important to our business?

If I think back and remember when I first became aware of the lack of sustainability in floristry, it was when we started using floral foam at Pearsons during my TAFE course (unfortunately still a mandatory part of the certification).

Prior to starting my course I was vaguely aware of what floral foam was having seen it in the past, noticing a block of it in the bottom of delivered floral arrangements, but hadn’t appreciated what it was, a plastic.

It wasn’t until using it, soaking it in water and having it crumble all over my hands, it felt incredibly unpleasant, watching it break into small pieces and pollute the water, that I wanted to know more about it.

The researcher in me decided to dig deep, research and read, and make the firm decision that it would not be a product I used in my business.

What is Floral Foam?

Floral foam is a firm yet spongy, lightweight material used to support the stems of cut flowers in arrangements. It is highly absorbent, allowing it to hold water and keep flowers hydrated for an extended period.

It was invented in 1954 by Vernon Lewis Smithers. Smithers founded the company Smithers-Oasis, which became the leading producer of floral foam. This invention became instantly popular due to the ease of use it provided florists and stylists. However, as is often said sometimes things are too good to be true, and that is certainly the case here.

Floral foam is made from phenol-formaldehyde foam, which is a synthetic material, a type of plastic. To better understand what this material is, let’s look a little closer.

Components of floral foam:

    1. Phenol: An organic compound derived from petroleum. A key ingredient in producing various types of resins and plastics.

    1. Formaldehyde: A simple aldehyde, derived from petroleum. It is used across a wide range of industries, including the automotive, agricultural fertilisers, cleaning products, preservation, and even the food industry.

Both phenol and formaldehyde are toxic compounds. Toxic to life, toxic to the environment generally. Phenol is considered a biodegradable compound at small quantities, however at larger quantities it is toxic, in particular to our marine aquatic life. However, formaldehyde is a classified carcinogenic (cancer causing) compound, which should raise eyebrows.

Some industries have put processes in place to minimise the risk of formaldehyde exposure and reducing the risk to health, not the floristry industry though. At present it is up to each individual florist to make the decision to eradicate or reduce the use of foam within their business.

This product is NOT biodegradable. Each block of foam will last forever! It breaks into micro plastics and toxic compounds polluting our water, soil and our bodies. Want to learn more? Follow this link.

What else should be considered?

Floral foam is not the only issue we need to tackle when we look at improving sustainability in floristry. As a fellow floral wrangler once said to me, floral foam is like a gateway drug to sustainability, and it’s true, it was the launching pad of my desire to learn and do more.

Apart from floral foam, we take other initiatives to improve our sustainability as a company and work to share, give back, or extend the life of the resources we use.

Read the next post in our sustainability series that talks about other elements of our business in the floral industry where we can incorporate sustainable practices.

Close up image of a rose bush. Big fluffy pink roses, fill the image. An overcast sky in the background

“Kris was recommended to me by a close friend for wedding flowers and she did not disappoint. The wedding process was a bit daunting for me and Kris took the time to have a chat about styles, flower sustainability and budget. Kris was amazing to deal with throughout the whole engagement, is sustainable and super understanding and smiley to boot. Love what Kris did for us on the day and would recommend Kris to anyone looking for wedding flowers.”