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

Organic or All Natural Beauty Products

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

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

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

Review: www.greenyour.com

Review of the site: www.greenyour.com

I'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 (pilar@gorgeousandgreenevents.com) , and definitely check out www.greenyour.com   In Green and Health, G&G