Let's Change Floral Foam

I have had a lot of positive remarks from the community regarding the conversation I've started about Floral Foam on this blog.  Many folks don't even realize how wasteful it is or how toxic it is.  For thousands of floral designers, clients, workers and anyone else who come into contact with floral foam, there should be far greater transparency about what it's made of and how it's affecting our health and the environment. So, there are two items I would like to ask of the floral foam manufacturers.  And I need your help to get this done. 1. They need to immediately share the MSDS hazardous materials report online, and in print with every box of floral foam.  And,  there should be a warning label on the outside of the box that states some basic facts like: don't inhale, don't ingest, don't handle for prolonged amount of time and discard responsibly. 2.  They need to start making a floral foam that is not filled with hazardous chemicals and that is biodegradable.  Then, it's up to the consumer to make the switch to the less hazardous and more eco-friendly option. Now, there was a company in the UK that was offering a biodegradable floral foam.  So I know it's doable. Who would like to join me in demanding that floral foam manufacturers change their practices? In Green and Health, G&G

My favorite Recycled things #2

Snow, Winter Weddings and Wonderlands

I live in California.  So, I don't see much snow, and when I do, it's because I've decided to head to the mountains.  I have to admit, I'd rather have the option.  Blizzards, black ice, shoveling snow and drippy noses seem to come to mind when I think of snowy winters...  But so do snow days, snow flakes, hot cocoa and snow men.  I guess it's a yin and yang situation. Whether you dream of playing in the snow or just like to watch it on TV like some of us, you will probably love these gorgeous recycled snow flake jewelry pieces by Kumvana Gomani that are featured on inhabitat.com. snonecklace02 Picture-2-04 kumvana_profile They are delicate, light (I imagine) and could be the perfect adornment for a wedding ensemble, cocktail dress or just a day at the office.  I love the fact that they are made from plastic bottles.  I love it, I love it, I love it.  Can you ask for anything more? For those of you not sure why this is a big deal, check out this little story on the tremendous amount of plastic water bottles and other plastic waste floating around the oceans as we speak: thechicecologist.com Yikes!  Giant plastic islands floating around the oceans the size of texas!  If you read the full post you'll see that plastic is accumulating and turning up everywhere, including in that sushi dinner you just had. Kumvana's jewelry pieces are gorgeous, handmade and totally affordable!  I know they aren't diamonds or anything, but that plastic just might last as long! In Recycling and Health, G&G

Biodegradable Floral Foam?

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:

GG bouquet blue fuschia

GG fruit and veggie glass

Courtesy of www.seandonnellyphotography.com     In Green and Health, G&G

Vintage, Antique and Reused

Reusing Vintage Vases in Weddings and Events

I've started collecting vases for Gorgeous and Green customers interested in renting vintage collections of vases for their wedding or event.  It takes some time and dedication, but so far I have almost two collections ready to go and a couple in progress. Here is my current collection of white milk glass vases: milk glass reused

There are some really cool designs.  So far my favorite is the bubbled vase that actually doubles as a candle holder.

milk glass reused2 And my vintage green glass collection: green glass reused3

This collection is actually two-toned, a slightly brighter kelly green and a darker grass green.

green glass reused2

green glass reusedMy favorite is the long stemmed dish on the right, so delicate.

I have a huge collection of clear glass vases that I've been gathering from the last weddings I've done.  Although they aren't vintage, they will lower the price for customers and act as a truly sustainable way to add decor to their events.   I also just recently purchased some large vases that are made from recycled glass, which I plan to rent to customers.  Talk about a sustainable practice! Besides buying recycled and reused, I always go biodegradable.  Glass, rubber, wood or metal.  Never plastic.  It makes it a lot more difficult to find cool and updated styles on a budget.  But I hope by creating these vase collections, I can reduce the price for my customers by allowing them to rent. I've started a vintage red collection and a blue collection, but I'm finding it harder to get the really cool vase shapes in those colors.  Still looking... I hope to show you some pics when they're more complete. In green and reusability, G&G

IKEA is earth friendly, right?

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:

plastic plants

plastic plants2

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:

ikea plant a tree 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

Local Community Center Wedding

Lavender and Sage Wedding

Community Centers are great places to have a local wedding.  Not only are they in your neighborhood, they are generally a lot cheaper than other venues.  And some come with some great amenities like parks for children, gardens and even swimming pools.  Why not book one for your local wedding?  It is a great way to stay green and save some green too.   Here are some I-Phone pics (Sorry, I forgot my camera) of a small and quaint wedding I did at the Piedmont Community Center in Oakland a week ago.   peony lavender cake

This is a lovely small cake they had for show, there were delicate cupcakes for guests as well.  The layers were so beautiful, that I decided to focus more detail around the base of the cake.  All local and organic blooms of course, so they food safe.   I grow my own white roses, lemon branches and lavender blooms.  

 

gg large purple

There are two large metal urns in the reception room, so I filled them with as much lavender, blue and purple as I could find to add color to the room.  

Delphinium are nice and tall, so I relied heavily on them to add height.  

 

scabiosa

And of course scabiosa blooms, so lovely and soft.  They are paired here with some weeping eucalyptus and cornflower.

For the Reception, I decided to do petite glass vases filled with cut and living flowers.  Here are some examples of how cute and delicate these flowers looked and how nicely they would add to a more modern banquet display.    tiny vases   tiny pepper vase   Not only was it a lovely sunny day for an outside wedding ceremony, the reception was held in a very cute building surrounded by lovely gardens and trees.   I used locally grown flowers and greens as usual, and recycle my glassware.  I recycled some ribbon, used some cotton ribbon and didn't use any floral foam (of course).   In no way did I use plastic for this wedding, as I continue to strive not to do.  It's a challenge, but I find ways around it.  Just this week I got a new watering can (my old one was lost) and it's steel, ready to be recycled when ever I'm done with it! I don't have any pics of the bouquets, although I may post those when I get them from the photographer.  They did turn out beautifully.  I used a lot of locally grown peonies, which I can't get enough of.   G&G    

Branches are a GREEN designers best friend

Branches are Blooming

The past few weeks you may have noticed something opening amongst the bare branches around you.  Yes, it's blossom and leave bursting time.  And those little blooms look so sweet and colorful, especially to a winterized eye.  So why not include them in your green floral design or event?  One of the perks of throwing a soiree during the late winter/early spring months is that these lovely blooming branches are available, and almost at no other time during the year, in this hemisphere at least.  So if you forgot to prune in the fall, give that blooming tree or bush or little help and trim a few of those beautiful branches.  Remember to leave some behind, so the tree can gain strength, reproduce and make energy with it's flowers and leaves. Here is a lovely large local green and white arrangement I created recently that includes dogwood, with cute and clever star flowers.  Very whimsical and hardy.   dogwood-branch In a larger arrangement like this one, I enjoy letting go and giving in to the feel of plenty and softness.   gggreenwhitelarge The branches balance it out and provide a nice amount of free air space that doesn't feel like I forgot a part.  I also love being able to include green goddess callas.   Branches are also wondrous when they include fruits, or fruits getting ready to ripen as in the case with these figs.   gggoldlilacbuddha They are such an interesting shape and the color is a nice bright green, so they add a real special touch to this arrangement with lilac and chrysanthemum.  The fig's large shape and smooth texture offsets the small petals from both flowers, and it doesn't hinder the effect of the gold and purple color combination. And, of course, the cherry blossom.  It is so lovely, it still hasn't grown old hat just yet.   ggcherrybranch This small and low arrangement is easy on the pocket book and on the environment if you make sure to use local products and glass containers (no plastic for Gorgeous and Green).  It's simple and requires less time to create, so it's a good option if you don't have a large budget or have a lot of tables/areas to decorate.  Here I added just a few pink and white ranunculus which are in season at the moment and blooming in my front yard.  I would definitely surround this centerpiece with votives or tea lights for an added bonus during an evening event. (All of these flowers are from local growers, and of course in the end, they go in the compost.  The glass containers are recycled or reused, and the earth is happy.) Remember compost and recycle what you can't reuse. This is a cheery welcome to spring, with all it's new colors and new growth.   Hopefully you can find a little of the same in your life. In Green and Health, G&G

Silk or Artificial Flowers are not the option

"Silk" or artificial flowers are NOT a

sustainable or eco-friendly option

artificial-flowers Now 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 artificial-tree1 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"> artificial flowers - child labour - vietnam 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

Floral Foam: Not so green

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? gg-floral-foam

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