It all soaks in...A year or two ago I came across Skin Deep, a cosmetic database that lists hundreds of different beauty and body products and how potentially harmful they are. Of course most of us know that there are a lot of nasty chemicals in hairspray, nail polish, sunscreen and even lipstick. But taking a look at this database will make you realize that just about everything we put on our bodies is potentially harmful. [caption id="attachment_660" align="aligncenter" width="258" caption="Simply Organic Hairspray "][/caption] I also learned that about 60% of what you put on your skin soaks in to your blood and gets metabolized by your liver. Some washes away and some just hangs out in your skin. That's kind of scary. I definitely watch what I eat, but now I'm doing more to watch what I spray/brush/lather onto my body. [caption id="attachment_662" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Organic Essence Cream"][/caption] You can also view a short blog post I did on The Knot's Green Wedding website, where I highlighted some products I found that are certified USDA organic. There's also more info on the Organic Consumer's Association about the relevance of certified organic and the potential misleading that may go on regarding the use of "natural" and "organic" when it comes to body products. In Green and Health, G&G
Non-toxic and Biodegradable Floral Foam, Where are You?I wrote a post a few months ago about the toxins found in floral foam and that it's essentially made of plastic that isn't biodegradable. I've gotten so many hits on my blog about it, and yet, I still don't have much in the way of another option. Until I dug up this information from Stanel Co, a bioplastics firm based in the United Kingdom. Here is an informational pdf about a new bioplastic technology that can allow someone to make biodegradable floral foam made from plants: www.stanelcoplc.com . This new polymer: bioplastic 2189 is both biodegradable and compostable! What a relief. Can you imagine? being able to throw the foam and the flowers into the compost bin? What's more, the bioplastic works in the same way as the fossil fuel plastic, so it can be switched out and used in the very same factories and machinery as the other stuff. I can't wait to go order this foam... But wait, who's making it? Well apparently one floral foam specialist company is using this polymer to make biodegradable funeral foams: www.valspicer.co.uk . They have wonderful foam shapes and molds, but I don't see any biodegradable options on their site. I've contacted them and hope to find out what they have available! I will share any updates as soon as I can. I would also urge you to write a letter or email to floral foam manufacturers suggesting they make a switch to nontoxic and biodegradable. Here's a couple of the top manufacturers: Smithers Oasis, Ultra Floral Foam. In the mean time, I totally avoid the stuff, and find creative and fun ways to display flowers without foam. Take a look at how Gorgeous and Green tries to stay sustainable: G&G Services. I know it means more work sometimes and possibly more cost, but to me it's worth it. And it's worth it to a lot of customers to, not to mention to the planet. Check out these two designs from Gorgeous and Green Events that are totally floral foam free: www.seandonnellyphotography.com In Green and Health, G&G
Sustainable or Not: IKEA (the big blue box)Now, I love the idea of affordable household goods, tools, dishware, furniture and plants all in one big store. I especially like to hear when big stores are selling items that are made from sustainable resources. But, you have to dig a little deeper than the tags on that couch to find out if it's really a sustainable purchase. Or maybe not, as in the case of the IKEA item of the month below. First off, if you've already got a couch, cups, plates, rugs, sheets, frames, etc. in your home, you probably don't need to go to Ikea. That is the first step is acting sustainably when it comes to shopping. Second, if you do need something, you probably don't need to buy the plastic candle holders and the cute scented candles that smell like fake gardenias. This step requires the most strict determination to avoid putting unnecessary items into your cart. This is probably the wisest of steps. Third, if you just want to see what Ikea has, because you're thinking of putting bamboo floors in your house, due to the fact that your current floors have either 1: completely disappeared beneath your feet, 2: have a complete termite infestation, or 3: the carpet has completely gone bald and you are mad that you still call it a shag rug from when it was first put in, in 1969. Then, don't bring your wallet. See above. The problem with IKEA, is that they sell a lot of items you would need when first starting up your home collection. Necessary and well priced stuff, that can be sustainable (see glass food containers and low-wattage lamps). But it also has a ton of stuff you don't need. Let's face it. You don't need a large stuffed snake made of plastic or a paper box to hide your overgrowth of office junk. Just recycle it already. Want to see some specific examples of what you don't need? Take the following items for example:
These, are plants. Plastic plants. Sure, they don't need water, but they are also made entirely of petroleum and probably led to chemical pollution where they were made, where they will hang for a few years and where they will be thrown away. Pretty much defeats the purpose. It's almost like the ironic opposite of an oxygen producing and air purifying, real live plant.
And get this:Buy their plastic plants, and everything else you didn't need, and you can make up for part of the pollution by donating money to plant a tree. More irony please? Ikea, I love your low watt bulbs and your glass jars, but I can't forgive your plastic plants and other plastic crappola. Avoiding unnecessary plastic stuff, G&G
"Silk" or artificial flowers are NOT a
sustainable or eco-friendly optionNow I remember when I used to help my aunt decorate for weddings, we used silk flowers (actually plastic, but we'll get into that in a second) for decorating because we could use them over and over again, and couple's could save money on their decorations. That was back in the 80's, and I thought a lot had changed since then. Apparently not. I have noticed in one too many art stores that there are large quantities and varieties of plastic flowers. I have also noticed many brides and grooms desiring and talking about silk flowers on wedding chats and so forth. It scares me. Haven't we all been schooled in what's good for the environment? At the very least, aren't people concerned about all that plastic that's going to sit in our landfills for years to come in the form of a colorful plastic gerber daisy? But then I remembered the name: "silk flowers". Maybe it's throwing people off. So, here's a little background to artificial flowers and how they got their silk name. Many years ago, in some cultures (in Asia and in Europe and eventually in the U.S.) it was considered a beautiful art form to recreate flowers out of artistic materials in such a way, that these fakes looked almost real. Back in those days, they didn't have plastic. They probably used natural materials: cottons, wool and most likely silk. Some used clay, others used glass beads. The list may go on, but the point is, they didn't use plastic. And, it was all biodegradable. Some of the paints or dyes, may have been slightly toxic, as they are today, but hopefully less so. What did happen however, is that even back then, those who created these artistic representations were paid little and the work was tedious and hard. And, even at the turn of the century in this country (still before plastic) the factories where these artificial flowers were made were filled with women and children, often working long hours, using child labor and unfair work conditions. For more information about this time period and artificial manufacturing take a look at this book by Mary Van Kleeck for the Committee on Women's Work of the Russell Sage Foundation in 1913: books.google.com/books A hundred years have gone by, and in the mean time as in that famous line from The Graduate states: our future lies in plastic. And unfortunately so will many generations of people and animals on this earth as it isn't going away any time soon. Now, producing plastic can't be great for the environment. In one article I found, the author suggested that there was actually no byproducts of artificial flowers. Hmm. Not sure where they think the plastic comes from in all those beautiful colors. I Know a little bit about production, and I would assume that creating and melting and dying and forming those colorful plastic flowers and trees, there will be some leaching of that plastic, chemicals and dyes from that process into the environment, the soil, the air, the ground water, the oceans, etc. In fact, I did find another book that suggested that people who make artificial flowers come into contact with arsenic gas, apparently it's pretty harmful, every heard of it? And to top it off, a lot of these flowers, trees and fake shrubs are either doused in fire retardant chemicals or chemicals are "embedded" into the polyester or plastic materials so they are fire retardant. Not only do they live forever, but they might burn because they're made of plastic. You can't be too careful. You can check out why they want you to buy that here: http://www.commercialsilk.com But, not only does manufacturing the flowers probably affect people's health and the health of the environment in which it was made, it's also about who it's affecting. Where do you think all these plastic flowers and trees and fake grasses are made? Well, let's see. Their plastic. Their cheap. Oh, could it be China? Or maybe Thailand? Or, say India? Yes. Cheap labor. Unfair working conditions. Underpaid people or maybe even children, like this girl found by this photographer: a href="http://www.loupiote.com/photos/87750962.shtml"> These underpaid laborers working tedious jobs with chemicals, arsenic and who knows what else. And thankfully for the U.S., it's all being made in another country so the pollutants aren't directly in our backyard. But that's not the end of the story. Then it gets shipped thousands of miles over to us and trucks bring it to our homes or stores and we lovingly put the flowers in nice plastic vases and glue them together with some hot glue and styrofoam. How lovely for the landfills. And then we put those lovely fire retardant plastic flowers in our bedrooms and in our restaurants, and they collect dust while fire retardant and plastic off gases around them. And if you're lucky, they may have even been sprayed with chemicals to make them smell like real flowers. It just gets better and better. Now, I realize I may sound upset. And I am. And I know there are a ton of people out there who already know these flowers are not a good idea. But for those of you entertaining the idea, please think twice. If you're concerned about money, think about other ways to decorate that could be more forgiving to the environment and people's health. If you want flowers, think naturally. Why not buy some locally grown wildflowers? or get some organic roses? Find an organic or sustainable florist in your area. I know people are starting to understand that most live cut flowers are sprayed with toxic pesticides and fungicides, etc. as stated on this website for artificial flowers: fake flowers don't need pesticides. And you're right, but that in no way makes them good for the environment. If you are really on a budget and worried about toxins, make them out of recycled paper, some fair trade organic cotton, anything but plastic! You won't find a #2 recycle symbol on the back of that plastic rose, so you know where it goes when you're done. That's all for now. In Green and Health G&G
Since people are having a hard time getting the msds sheets, I am copying and posting the msds sheet for smither's oasis foam and linking it here.You can also contact the makers of the floral foam (like Smithers-Oasis) yourself and have them send you a copy of the MSDS sheets for their products, as many floral foods, dips, leaf shines and adhesives contain hazardous chemicals either for you or for the environment. I found a few msds sheets here: but not all were thorough or up to date. I did learn however, that some floral foods and cleaners are highly toxic to fish and sea and should not be disposed of in drains or sewers or anywhere where it can get into the water supply. Whatever you do, get the information you need and make healthy decisions for yourself, your family, co-workers and the environment!
Original post:Have you ever seen that green foam that shows up at the bottom of flower arrangements? You know, the green foam brick florists soak in water and use to model and water flowers?
Have you ever wondered what it's made of?Well let's talk about it. I searched on google and found someone who had asked the same thing on blurtit.com. Unfortunately the answer they were given left a lot to be desired. In fact, someone left a comment basically saying-just tell us what it's made of already!?!- I've long wondered the same thing; but at florist supply stores, I can never seem to find the ingredients. Why would we not want to be upfront about what's in this stuff called floral foam, what florists openly refer to as Oasis (the name for the most common version of this foam which is a registered trademark of Smithers-Oasis North America). Maybe they don't really know, maybe it doesn't come with an ingredients label, or maybe it's because it's not made of good stuff. The basic element of floral foam is plastic. It's not biodegradable and has chemicals that I would consider toxic. But what's more, through the openness of information (sometimes via laws that are created through our government) this information is made available on the public skyway called the world wide web, so we can actually find out more for ourselves. Go ahead and take a look: www.fdionline.net/Files/MSDS/SO-OasisFloralFoam6-05-06.pdf For those of you who just want it given to you straight, I'll abide. Basically it says that Oasis Floral Foam made by Smithers-Oasis of North America, is made of plastic that's not biodegradable and it has some hazardous components, namely: Formaldehyde, Carbon black, Proprietarty Acid Catalysts, Proprietarty Sulfactant and Barium Sulfate. The first two being known as carcinogenic. The document also suggests that this foam may be irritating to the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract. It also says that prolonged exposure to Formaldehyde and Carbon black may cause cancer. There are a few pages of information about the hazards and possible symptoms both short term and long term. Overall, it's a wealth of knowledge. It carries risks if dust from the foam is inhaled. Formaldehyde leaches into the water that the foam is soaked in and if it's kept in hot or stagnant enclosures this may cause the formaldehyde to off-gas. Some people get irritated by touching it. Hmm. What does this mean to the floral consumer? Well, you might want to ask your florist not to use it. If it is used, dispose of it properly and don't burn it. What does this mean to the floral designer and florist? I might suggest that if you are concerned about your own health, you would avoid using floral foam. If you are concerned about the health of your customers,or the health of the environment and our communities, and want to prevent the build up of our massive landfills and the leaching of toxins into our water and land, then you might consider avoiding this stuff. One green step I've taken in my floral business is to avoid plastic whenever possible, so floral foam is out of the question anyway. But, it does give me relief knowing I'm not putting my own health at risk or that of my community/planet around me by using floral foam. This is no easy task however, as floral foam makes it so much easier to make exciting and modeled arrangements. But there are methods that we can start practicing instead until someone out there starts selling the biodegradable and non toxic version. (which someone has probably already created and just needs to mass market) Curled up branches or balls of wire can be helpful in securing an arrangement. And I'm sure if you really put your mind to it, you can find other ways to display beauty without the foam. In Green and Health, G&G
Review of the site: www.greenyour.comI'm always on the lookout for helpful eco-conscious sites that have good and easily accessible information about weddings and wedding planning. Well, I happened upon www.greenyour.com and was excited. First of all, being in green business, it's hard to find people or places that offer up good and deliberately hearty information such as this. Looking under what they had to say about greening your wedding flowers, the facts were strong and depressing, and highly motivating. I was really impressed that they talked about the flower industry so clearly and without remorse. 70% of all cut flowers in the US are from Latin America, where we have no control over how much pesticide they use on those flowers. Then they are shipped to us and we put them in our hair and on our dining tables. What do you think happens to all those chemicals, at some counts more than 120 that are used on flowers and greens in out of country flower production? Not only are they poisoning both adult and children who work as flower farm workers in Latin American countries (and probably Thailand, China and wherever else flowers are being grown these days), but you guessed it, it's all ending up right in our homes, in our lives, in our water and in our dirt. So much for beauty. Now, being a florist, I knew this, and I know most people out there buying flowers don't. I know some of us do know this and choose to look the other way. But when facts are flown in your face, so clearly and without apology as on this website, you almost have to pay attention. One downfall to the site, is the lack of pizazz. Now, I know knowledge and truth go far and empowering people to make a difference shouldn't require marketing and flourishing design elements, but for many people on the web, pizazz makes people stop to watch. Overall, the site is clean. A nice medley of green and white with symbols everywhere so you know where to go. It's easy and simple. The also have a whole section under lifestyle on events, from birthdays to weddings. Fantastic. But still, a little plain for being so fantastic. So my only comment would be, to add some design elements, especially if you're talking about weddings and events and such. Not too much, just a nice flower pic here or cute dress there. I smell a letter to the editor. This site also included information about other wedding decisions in their 15 ways to green your wedding, from finding a green event or buying a vintage dress to carbon offsets for your event and travel. I would definitely suggest this site to anyone looking to know why these decisions are important ones and a few steps in how to actually make those decisions happen. Thanks greenyour.com! Now, if I could only get you to list more local resources in the Bay Area, I would be a happy camper. Many engaged couples don't have a ton of time, so sometimes the best thing to do is list where to go. But then again, I guess that's why I'm in business, to make it easier for those of you interested in planning and/or decorating a green event or wedding. So look me up (firstname.lastname@example.org) , and definitely check out www.greenyour.com In Green and Health, G&G
Simply Green Parties
by Danny SeoThis book is set up in a way that really stimulates interest. There are a lot of colors and pictures and the layout is simple to follow. It includes directions and material lists to allow the reader to reproduce the ideas and projects that Danny creates with ease and comfort. Many of the ideas are very simple and easy to duplicate. It's a fun book to look at, however I felt that there was still something missing from the projects and ideas he presented. I think most readers probably won't reuse as many ideas as are presented in the book, but use it rather as an example of some fun and exciting and "oh, isn't that creative" projects that are available to the eco-conscious event planner and lay person. I would have liked to have seen more ideas that are more tangible for the reader. For example, how to reuse and decorate old paper grocery bags for wrapping presents or how to convert those toilet paper rolls into something fun like party favor holders. I know that some people do have access to tree stumps, forest moss, excess makeup compacts and oyster shells, but at my house those items are a little harder to come by. Adding a few more easy to find materials that we might actually have at home (rather than having to go out and buy craft supplies) would have touched more people's lives. Over all, I know it's a good start, and I have not seen an eco-friendly event idea book as easy to pick up and get ideas from as this one. I just wish it offered a few more ideas that were in my range of possibilities and those of so many folks who live in big cities and urban environments, those with less financial access to craft supplies or possibly less time to create or gather up materials, and those who may be new at sustainable living. Some highlights that enjoyed from the book include:
- The storybook birdhouse project, which would be a fun activity to do with kids who've grown out of a few of their children's books.
- The naturally flavored water with cucumber or grapefruit, however I think it would be important to add that using plastic water bottles aren't the greenest option. Using tap water or filtered tap water is not only a greener option than water in plastic bottles, but is often healthier as water in plastic bottles isn't regulated like tap water and may result in contamination by Pthalates and other chemicals found in plastic.
- The idea of having socks at the door for folks to be welcomed to take their shoes off. Not only does taking your shoes off a great way to keep your floors and carpets clean, it also prevents a lot of toxins your shoes come into contact with out in the world from making their way into your house. I would have liked for that comment to have been made to suggest that this is something we might all want to start doing. But, I did learn from Danny that putting rolled up newspaper in the shoes you take off can absorb moisture and odor.
A Green Wedding that saves you green (money)?What if I told you as a flower designer and event planner, my real skill is saving you money as well as the planet? It's the inheritance of working sustainably. It makes perfect sense. Use less materials, less shipping, less new things, and you're going to lower costs somewhere. When I work on an event or project I'm thinking sustainablility. What can I get nearby that will work perfectly for this theme? What could I decorate with that is biodegradable or I can find used? Who is growing those flowers nearby, rather than overseas. Yes, it takes a little more work and a different way of thinking, but once you start viewing the world through the sustainable lens, it becomes very common sense. So here's an example of a wedding I did on a budget. And I didn't skimp on beauty and feeling. The location was perfect. An outside venue in September, wonderful weather for a late summer/early fall day. The couple chose to have the ceremony in the redwood grove in the Berkeley Botanical Gardens and the reception outside on a patio near succulents and greenhouses. We had two small areas to decorate, but luckily those areas already came full of beautiful colors and ambiance. The Redwood grove was so lush and magical, we just added a few special touches here and there to add a romantic and bright feeling. The patio already had large succulents and plants around, so just a few splashes of color did the trick to enhance the atmosphere. We focused on beautiful bouquets that matched the bright bridemaid dresses and a blossoming and bright bouquet to enhance the bride's simple column dress. It turned out beautifully, and the flowers cost under $1,000. Amazing at best.
For more information about Gorgeous and Green Events and our sustainable practices visit our website: www.gorgeousandgreenevents.com
All the beautiful pictures are taken by local photographer Cara at Cara Mia Photography www.caramiaphotography.comWe used organic and fair trade roses and locally grown hydgrangea (I grow myself) as well as locally grown hypericum berries, bells of ireland and amaranthus from flower growers who bring their goods to the local flower markets. They didn't travel far, and I use recycled vegetable oil to power my vehicles, so gasoline usage was at a minimum.
Using organic, local and fair trade flowers means less toxic pollution for the special events we enjoy with loved ones and the rest of the world. It also means supporting local businesses and helping small businesses thrive. More people and families are supported, less harm is done to the world around us. All that great energy and care shines through the event, through the flowers, the people and the environment that is taken into consideration. Buy local and organic, think sustainably, care for the world.
In Green and Health, G&G