When I was writing my mission statement a few weeks ago (which, let's be honest, was as much for myself as for anyone else!) one of the things I felt most emboldened by, was my commitment to do what was right in terms of the environment, and my health, and to be noisy about it where I felt necessary...
At the end of the Summer, I had the pleasure of freelancing for the supremely talented Aubriana Kasper Macniven, of The Bloomery Co. on a wedding at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin (she had been flown over with her team from San Francisco). During our week together, I had my eyes opened to how BEHIND we are in the UK at understanding the hazards of our job, working with flowers. They were working gloved, to protect themselves from the chemicals and pesticides that are on imported flowers (the ingredients the vast majority of UK Florists use!). That's the standard practice for them, because they're aware that flowers are coming in from countries that use chemicals banned in the EU, or the States, to spray the flowers with. Scary, right? We absorb so much through our skin, so it made me even more determined to seek out locally grown flowers, respond to the challenge of the seasons, educate my clients and protect my long term health in the process.
Next up is a big one! Floral Foam.
Commonly referred to in the industry as Oasis (but I am not talking about any one brand), Floristry Foam is BAD news. I've been working on researching more and more about it as I knew it was a petro-chemical, and didn't break down in landfill, which meant bad things for the environment. I was committed, even on that point alone, to be as close to oasis free as possible... loving the challenge of arranging in different (traditional!) ways. This informs and defines my work stylistically, so it's no hardship.
But come Christmas, floral foam is EVERYWHERE. From wreaths, to centre-pieces, it's the quick and easy way to create floral designs and keep them temporarily hydrated and easily transportable. That's what it's designed to do after all.
What I didn't know - and think everyone should, especially florists - is that floral foam is full of seriously bad stuff. From my research, that list includes Formaldehyde, Carbon Black, and Barium Sulphate to name but a few...
When dry, floral foam breaks down in to dust that is labelled harmful to the skin, and if inhaled, harmful to your respiratory system. Florists work with this material daily, and it's essentially a carcinogen. Completely toxic, and we have no idea about the long term health implications of working with it. One of the reasons why I don't want to!
When in use, floral form leaches these chemicals in to the water, so it's not great for plants and flowers, and our water system when disposed of - they last much longer in normal water, where possible, anyway. Not only that, but in land-fill, where it doesn't break down, and can't be composted, it leaks toxic gasses in to the environment... how horrendous, right? An online safety sheet advises to 'avoid prolonged or repeated skin contact' - this is something that's handled *daily* by florists.
Now, it's an exceptionally useful tool and the vast majority of the flower industry use this stuff, BUT, should we? Not only for our own health, but for our customers and the environment, maybe it's time to cut down, or eliminate it entirely from our practice and educate customers to ask for FOAM FREE designs!
That's what I'm doing today, and hope this post reaches as many people as possible.
Stay safe, eco-friendly and environmentally responsible this Christmas! Check out our Wreaths & Wreath Classes (to learn how!)...
This book, Flower Confidential, is also a must on the reading list of anyone who wants to know the dark side of the industry, and how to shed some light on it!