Late spring and early summer is traditionally a season full of weddings, anniversaries and other special occasions that call for bouquets and flower arrangements. The conventional method for growing flowers includes a considerable amount of chemical pesticides, and fresh-cut blooms are often flown in from South America or other warmer climates.
Greener alternatives do exist, says Sara Jenkins-Sutton, co-founder of Topiarus Urban Garden and Floral Design in Chicago. She usually tries to gauge clients’ level of interest in going green.
“The more serious you get, the less options you have,” said Jenkins-Sutton.
Like just about any other such choices, eco-friendly options are usually a tradeoff. Flowers grown with less harmful pest control methods generally have a large carbon footprint from being flown in. Opting for locally grown flowers limits your selection, especially in colder months.
Michael Haschek, the owner of Philadelphia-based florist shop PURE Design, says his shop takes care to go green in other ways, such as using natural raffia and eco-friendly paper for wrapping bouquets and composting leftover cuttings. Ask your local florist about specific sustainable options and practices.
Just like the agricultural guidelines for food, flower growers can be certified ‘organic’ by the USDA if they meet certain standards and eschew chemical pesticides. However, Haschek says these stringent guidelines make it difficult to produce the type of blooms people expect.
“It’s not the kind of flowers you want to see in a flower shop,” Haschek said. “They’re very weedy.”
But, according to Haschek, the industry is working with growers in places like The Netherlands and South America to improve the selection.
Global flower-delivery giant FTD has a separate “Go Green Living” collection that includes plenty of bouquets that are fair-trade certified, or grown using sustainable techniques by workers who receive a living wage. However, most of these were flown in from afar, leaving the small matter of the carbon footprint. Many florists also rely on the VeriFlora sustainability certification system, said Jenkins-Sutton.
A locally grown bouquet may not have the pizzazz of a giant arrangement of roses, but you can’t get much greener than this. Hit up your local farmers market, specialty grocery store or ask a florist about local blooms. However, most parts of the country have a limited growing season, says Haschek, which is usually just July, August and part of September.
Although they are often brought in from warmer climates, potted plants are a simple and affordable way to get some longevity out of your purchase. These plants come in containers made out of a plastic that’s not usually recyclable, says Jenkins-Sutton.
Did you know?
– According to the Society of American Florists, one-third of Americans buying fresh flowers do so for themselves and not as a gift.
– The green foam used to secure arrangements is made from toxic chemicals. You can request a bouquet without the foam, but the arrangement may not be as tight.