A question that I get asked more and more these days from couples is how they can make their wedding flowers more 'green'. No, not as in can we have all foliage or are there any green flowers available, although I do get asked that too at times, but more how can they ensure that their wedding flower choices have a low environmental impact. The great news is that there is plenty that we can do for an eco-conscious couple, and here at Goldfinch we try to use sustainable methods in our weddings where we can to minimise our environmental footprint. If you would like to approach your flowers in a more conscious way these are my suggestions:
Ask for seasonal flowers: Yes, this probably sounds very clinche, however there is a reason that most florists will advocate for seasonal flowers. For a start they will just look better when used in their natural season, they will echo what is happening around you naturally and they will be stronger and longer lasting if they haven't been forced to grow outside of their natural timing. But also if we are buying seasonal flowers then we have a better chance to source these flowers from local growers and not through the Dutch market wholesalers. Buying locally means that the flowers won't have travelled great distances and we are super lucky in Somerset as we have several amazing flower growers on our doorstep meaning the most they will have travelled is 10 miles in a car to the studio. Buying from local growers allows us to support other small businesses in the area and well, and that creates a warm and fuzzy feeling in my stomach as most of these growers are also now my friends and I want them to thrive alongside me. Small flower farm growers also are less likely to use pesticides and chemical fertilisers on their crops, and although they might not be registered as organic, they are probably as organic as you are going to get in this industry.
2. Request or inquire about how to avoid floral foam use: Right now the use of floral foam (or avoiding it) is a hot topic amongst florists with many now trying to avoid it completely. Floral foam is used for many reasons, its a great water source for flowers meaning that they last longer and it makes it pretty simple to create arrangements as you just poke the stems in and they stay put. However the effects that it has on the environment and health is potentially devastating. Floral foam doesn't fully biodegrade for hundreds of years, its made up of microplastics and breaks down into microparticles which get into waterways and soil, and the effect of these microplastics on humans and animals is still unknown. You only have to empty a sink after soaking floral foam to see all these little particles rushing down the plug hole. These microplastics are also inhaled as dust when the foam is dry, the advice is to wear a mask when using foam (although I have never witnessed a florist doing so), and again we do not know the effect that this will have on lungs until further research is done. Oh and one more thing, it contains carnigenic chemicals such as formaldihyde, which although only trace, is not something I would feel comfortable handling on a regular basis. So what are the alternatives? Thankfully there are loads of methods that can be used in place of floral foam, and funnily enough a lot of these are seen as 'old school' floristry methods. I won't go into all of the details here, I'll save that for another blog post, but if you are looking for a way to up your wedding's green credentials then speak to your florist about arrangements that do not need floral foam to look great.
3. Planted flowers: A great way to prolong your enjoyment of your wedding flowers is to opt for potted flowers and plants rather than cut stems. Yes, this might limit you somewhat on what you can have, but if you are having a bespoke wedding designed then incorporating potted plants can certainly be done. Last year we designed two weddings where live plants were a big feature. For one wedding we made meadow trough arrangements, but instead of using cut flowers we planted the troughs instead with flowering plug plants. After the wedding the Bride's parents used the flowers to replant part of their garden so they would have a lasting memory of the wedding that they hosted for their daughter at home. For another wedding we made kokedama's (plants with the root balls wrapped in moss), with the help of the hens at a workshop prior to the wedding, and used these as table centrepieces and as a hanging backdrop installation. After the wedding all of the guests got to take a kokedama home with them instead of a traditional wedding favour.
4. Use dried flowers: Now, there are two points to make on this, the first I'll cover more in the next point which is about flowers that have been dyed, bleached and sprayed, as these are most certainly not eco-friendly, but for now I will focus on the just concept of using dried flowers, especially those bought from a local flower grower and why this can be more eco. The great thing about dried flowers is, as you probably know they last. Dried flowers have (often) been naturally dried out in the right conditions and more crucially, at the right time of blooming to ensure that the natural colour is preserved and the flower remains intact. Personally I love using dried flowers in my arrangements, and often I will mix these in with fresh flowers to create our (as I'm told) signature look. Because the flowers are dried they will last a lot longer than a fresh flower which will as we know eventually wilt, and maybe also dry out, but often just go a bit mouldy. Dried flowers can last for years if kept in the right conditions (dry, away from direct sunlight and being knocked or damaged), so you can take your dried wedding flowers home after your event and enjoy them in your home for years to come. Now, I'm going to let you into a little secret, at Goldfinch we will reuse dried flowers for events! Each wedding where we have dried flowers in our installations I will keep back anything during the breakdown that still looks great (provided the couple don't want to keep it) and store it to use at another wedding. Last year I had a box of bits that got recycled maybe four or five times before the damp in the autumn got to it and I had to chuck the contents away. I didn't do this to rip my clients off, in fact what it meant is that they got bigger and better installations than they had paid for as I was able to dive into my box o'bits and 'top up' their displays with extra pampas and palm fans that they effectively rented from me. Doing this has inspired me to offer a dried pampas basket arrangement to hire in our A La Carte collection, as I have seen how effectively dried flowers and grasses can be reused. There is a lot on the internet now to say that dried flowers are not an eco alternative due to the processes that they go through (covered in more detail below), even those that are not dyed or bleached are often heat treated and treated with anti-mould chemicals, however I would argue that some of this is off-set if the stem is being used multiple times and not being thrown straight in the bin after one use.
5. Avoid dyed, sprayed and bleached flowers: So this follows on from point 4 as a lot of dried flowers are either dyed, sprayed or bleached to an inch of their life to create unnatural (but very fun) colours. Bleaching in particular is a rather nasty chemical process, which isn't suprising when you consider that popular bleached foliage such as ruscus starts off as a very hardy almost evergreen leaf. If you want to be really purist about the flowers that you are using then avoid anything which is for instance, an unnatural shade of white, pink or gold. Dyed fresh flowers are normally dyed using a colourant in the water that the flower absorbs when it drinks, I'm fairly sure I remember science projects at school where we did this to demonstrate how the water travels up the stem? I honestly don't know what harmful chemicals are used in the mass production of dyed fresh flowers, but I would hazard a guess that there's probably some used that your not going to mix into a cocktail and drink. Sprayed flowers (whether that is fresh or dried) are coated with a spray paint like colour that is formulated for flowers, again, its using aeresols which ain't great for your health or environment, and sometimes the finishing is using some sort of sprayed on plastic, like in the case of flocked flowers. And as I previously mentioned bleached foliage is only that unnatural shade of white due to the very harsh chemicals used to strip all of the chlorophyll out of the stems and leaves. But given the amazing NATURAL rainbow of colours that flowers come in, you could argue why we would need to resort to using any artificially coloured flowers anyway?
So there we have it, 5 points to consider, if you want to have a 'greener' wedding. Did anything mentioned surprise you? Or are you planning a green wedding? I would love to hear in the comments below.
Please note that we do not make any claim to our weddings being 'fully green', however we do try to implement the tips above where it makes sense for us and our clients.