ADVICE - Flowers for Sustainable Weddings – Essential Elements to Look Out for and Key Questions to Ask your Florist, by The Petal Emporium

18th March 2020

Sarah from The Petal Emporium, an independent wedding florist in North Somerset, shares you all you need to know about low waste wedding flowers and the questions to ask your florist to ensure they’re the right supplier for you! 

Without care and attention, weddings can end up becoming quite wasteful occasions. There are many ways to be conscious of this in all areas of your wedding but I’m here to help you make the right decisions when it comes to your floral arrangements! 

Flowers are a massive part of many weddings, bringing joy and colour to the day, acting as the perfect backdrop to your celebrations. They have the power to evoke memories and tell stories, casting you back to childhood moments, and in years to come the power to bring back feelings from your big day at the simple sniff of a bloom. From the outside it’s easy to assume that flowers are already ‘green’ – they’re a natural product and easily compostable, right? Well, yes and no. 

Single-Use Plastics in Wedding Flowers

Flowers for Sustainable Weddings – Essential Elements to Look Out for and Key Questions to Ask your Florist, by The Petal EmporiumFor years now, a green block by the name of floral foam has become the go-to tool for the majority of florists, for putting flowers into arrangements (you might know floral foam better as Oasis – a trademark version). It provides a reliable alternative to water across all sorts of designs and it’s everywhere from centrepieces to staircases, to archways and even bouquets!

There are many problems behind these green blocks. First and foremost, they are a form of single-use plastic. They are used once to hydrate the flowers for a short time and then they end up in the bin. There is no way to recycle them.

The breakdown into tiny microplastics. The most disturbing part of floral foam for me is seeing it go into the water, watching the dusty particles fall and watch them go down the drain.

If that wasn’t enough to put you off, it’s also toxic! It’s a petrochemical that’s doesn’t break down. They are full of horrible ingredients including formaldehyde and sulphur dioxide among many more which leaks into the water supply as well as the microplastic dust. When dry it’s a skin and respiratory irritant, there’s even a warning on the box to avoid repeated skin contact – prolonged exposure may cause cancer but there’s no clear research on the long-term usage. All I can say is a big fat no thank you from this florist!   

Eco-Friendly Wedding Flowers 

Flowers for Sustainable Weddings – Essential Elements to Look Out for and Key Questions to Ask your Florist, by The Petal EmporiumThere are alternatives! Lots of compostable and reusable alternatives from wet moss to pin bases in water, even planted displays! There are many more products available to florists that are not foam! Floral foam is only between 60–70 years old, so there are years and years of historic arrangements and traditional approaches that didn’t even touch foam' it’s certainly a place we can get to again. 

If you’re hiring a florist for your big day with a sustainable business ethos then you can be sure they’ll have a number of tricks up their sleeve to ensure the quality and sustainability of your arrangements. If you’re not sure don’t be afraid to ask whether they use single-use plastics and if it’s important to you that they don’t - tell them that, or find someone who doesn’t use them. 

Watch out for the term biodegradable! There is a variety of floral foam that is ‘biodegradable’, unfortunately, this simply breaks down quicker than regular foam, it’s still made up of small plastic particles so it is equally as damaging. 

Seasonal Local Wedding Flowers

Flowers for Sustainable Weddings – Essential Elements to Look Out for and Key Questions to Ask your Florist, by The Petal EmporiumAnother important element to consider is where the flowers themselves are coming from! Many flowers have an enormous carbon footprint associated with them, predominantly due to the demand for them out of season. As a florist here in the UK, roses at the local market come from as far as Kenya or Ecuador. Those air miles that come with them are incredibly damaging. 

The VERY best way to reduce the environmental impact of your flowers is to go seasonal and to go local. Ask your florist for seasonal recommendations and where they are going to source the elements from. Not only does local produce mean that you significantly reduce the air miles and carbon footprint associated with them, but it also cuts out on the plastic wraps that every bunch comes in from abroad plus in many cases the pesticides that are involved in growing them. When it's farm-grown it’s simply from the ground, into a bucket then into your arrangements. 

Everlasting Wedding Flowers

Flowers for Sustainable Weddings – Essential Elements to Look Out for and Key Questions to Ask your Florist, by The Petal EmporiumThey’re stunning any time of year but this particularly applies if you’re having an autumn or winter wedding where fresh bright blooms are in shorter supply, and you still want the bright and colourful look – go for dried wedding flowers. After your big day, you can keep your bouquet in a vase in your home for the perfect everyday reminder of your wedding day. Whip out your fabulous hairband for special occasions, or just whenever you fancy! Keep your dried meadow arrangement on a bookshelf, on your mantlepiece or in the hearth for a stunning display all year round. They’re truly a treat, a wonderful keepsake and one of the best low waste options for your florals

3 Key Questions to Ask Your Florist!

Never be afraid to ask questions! It’s your day, your flowers and it’s important they’re right for you. I’m always delighted when my couples ask about where things come from and how they come together for their day, and your florist should be too!  

1. How do you source your flowers?
Ask them if they are able to source from British growers and local farms for your day.

2. Do you use single-use plastics?
Find out if they using floral foam or are they using other techniques. At the very least are they minimizing the use of it wherever possible.

3. How do you dispose of wedding flowers and materials?
Ask what happens to the flowers after your big day. Do they compost themselves? Do they recycle elements? If you’re taking them home where can they go, in the green bin or compost?

Above All Else, Be Flexible! 

If there’s one thing to take away from this post that is to be flexible! If you’re after a truly sustainable day state this from the get-go so your florist can make realistic suggestions that are going to make for the perfect backdrop to your day. They can guide you to the very best approach for you. This might be planted elements you can take home or gift afterwards. This might be ensuring your flowers are directly in water instead of floral foam. Or this might be dried flowers. Also be flexible in your demands for varieties to ensure they can come locally rather than be flown in - ask for colours, shapes and textures instead. For example, if you want peonies you may not get them outside of May/June, you could say ‘I love peonies so I’m after a fluffy, pink, plush flower’ – your florist can then advice alternatives to these that will give you a similar look for the time of year where possible. 

For the love of flowers, The Petal Emporium uses sustainable floristry techniques. That means beautiful locally grown, British flowers wherever seasons allow and no floral foam, plus reusing and recycling throughout the whole process. I also take the petals from leftover blooms to create confetti to give them another life and everything else ends up on the compost heap, to grow more gorgeous blooms and greens in future. 

If you are based in Bristol, Somerset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire or the Cotswolds and you’re getting married then do get in touch and let’s make floral magic together for your big day! 

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