If you are looking for ways to reduce the environmental impact of your wedding celebration, choosing sustainable floral is a great place to start!
Buying locally grown flowers is a growing trend, which is great! Still, about 80% of cut flowers sold in the US are imported, primarily from South America, Europe, and Mexico. In 2019, the U.S. was by far the world’s top importer of cut flowers, worth a net $1.87 billion. That’s billion with a b.
The environmental cost associated with transporting flowers is pretty amazing, and not in a good way. Flowers grown in Europe or South America are packed into refrigerated, humidity-controlled airplanes to be shipped to the U.S. Once past customs, they are put on refrigerated, humidity-controlled trucks to reach distributors. Many flowers end up wrapped in plastic to reach your home or office, where they will be enjoyed for a relatively short period of time and then put into the trash.
So, what can you do about it? Read on for some things to consider as you choose your sustainable floral designs, and what to talk to your florist about! And while this blog is geared toward weddings, the same principles can be applied to other special events and holidays!
Talk to your florist about eliminating single-use plastic with your floral arrangements. Many table designs use non-biodegradable plastic-based foam to set the flowers in place. Ask your florist to use other materials like chicken wire or moss to set floral arrangements, and to use vases made of natural materials like glass or terra cotta.
For bouquets and boutonnieres, ask your florist to use silk or twine to hold the flowers together rather than classic ribbon. These items along with the alternatives to plastic above are all made of natural materials. This means that they can be produced sustainably and will also break down naturally over time.
If a florist you are talking to cannot make a plastic-free design, find one who will! Does the florist already practice zero-plastic floral design? Great! You are telling them as a consumer that they should keep doing what they are doing. If not, you will be encouraging them to move in this direction!
Part of choosing sustainable wedding floral is choosing local wedding floral! When you are discussing your desired design with your florist, ask them where their flowers are sourced and what kind of growing practices are used. Are their flowers grown locally (within about 200 miles) or imported? Are the flowers grown with minimal fertilizers and pesticides? By choosing locally- and sustainably-grown flowers, you will drastically reduce the transportation impact of your wedding decor and you’ll be supporting your local economy of ethical growers!
A word of caution:
Buying locally-grown flowers is not all upside. The species of flower should also be considered. For example, if you intend to have locally-grown roses at your January wedding, those roses will have to be grown in a greenhouse with supplemental heat to withstand Minnesota winters. The cost to modify the environment for these locally-placed rose bushes can end up being similar to that of imported roses.
Instead, choose flowers and plants that are not only grown locally, but are seasonally appropriate for your area. Such species will require the least energy input to grow, and you might even be surprised at the variety from which you will have to choose! What about winter, you ask? Talk to your florist early in the spring prior to your wedding about dried arrangements!
Below are some examples of designs from Amber at Ediflorial made with nearly 100% locally grown seasonal arrangements for Minnesotans and Midwesterners! Notice the wide range of color options; according to Amber, whatever color scheme your heart desires, local and sustainable floral can make your dreams come true!
Amber at Ediflorial was kind enough to create a winter and spring wedding floral inspiration Pinterest Board, just for you!
If you must import for some or all of your arrangements, find a florist that seeks their flowers from socially responsible growers, where workers are paid fair wages and have safe and sustainable working conditions. Similar to certifications for Fair Trade coffee, there are organizations like FlorVerde in Colombia that promote environmentally conscious practices and taking care of workers. Again, if you find a florist that already does this, that’s great! If you talk to a florist that does not, you are letting that florist know that Fair Trade flowers are something that their consumers want. Over time, we can work to make sure that all imported flowers in the U.S. are from socially responsible growers. How’s that for impact?!
Your first instinct may be to simply compost your flowers post-wedding, but your flowers may have some life yet! Consider the following options:
Totally! You can have potted plants like succulents or leafy greens which your guests could then take home as party favors to keep in their homes or plant in their gardens! Just make sure you provide care instructions so the plants have the best chance of making it. For those Harry Potter fans out there, you could think of this like a horcrux situation. A piece of your marriage can be stored with each living plant in your loved ones’ homes or gardens!
One reason to use glass or terra cotta is that there are tons of places to obtain previously-loved vases and pots made of either material. For my and my husband’s 10 year anniversary vow renewal, I determined the number of vases I needed and found clear glass vases that were approximately the same size at local thrift stores. They were all under $5, and I promise no one noticed that each table had a unique vase! After our celebration, I re-donated the vases to be used by others. You can also search Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and garage sales to find vases or pots for your arrangements.
If your florist prefers to supply their own vases, ask them about renting them instead of keeping them – this way, another couple your florist serves will be able to love the vases as well!
Talk to your florist about repurposing your flowers throughout the day. They can design and execute a plan so that your ceremony floral later decorates your reception.
Spread the love! Do not underestimate the power of sharing your choice of sustainable floral for your wedding. Tell your guests about your designs and your lovely florist who created your dream decor! Post photos of your sustainable arrangements on social media and gush over your eco-friendly florist! By doing so, you will be helping others imagine what a sustainable wedding can look like.
As always,iIf you have any other tips or would like to share what you are doing for your wedding, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!