It has never been more vital to think - or re-think - the way we live our lives and how sustainable our habits are to ensure our children live in a world where man and nature live in harmony. Sustainable lifestyle is becoming more and more practiced and popular, however are we really considering all our daily choices? Have you ever thought about how sustainable is your choice of flowers?
I adore flowers, I really love being surrounded by them as they bring me much delight and positive vibes. What I didn't know was what lays behind the fresh flowers industry, especially when it comes to carbon footprint, pollution and sustainability. Some of the painful discoveries:
Around 90% of fresh-cut flowers are imported from other countries or continents. Keeping the increasing demand for cut flowers involves a significant supply chain of farmers, wholesalers, airlines, cargo ships, traders, florists and supermarkets. Getting something as delicate as a bunch of flowers from one continent to another without wilting or crushing them is a daunting challenge. As soon as the flowers are cut, a race against time begins. They need to be kept in refrigerated facilities traveling through farms, lorries, planes, boats and then again lorries and trucks until they're delivered within 24-48 hrs. All these transport means would also need to provide air-conditioning and refrigeration facilities to keep the freshness of the flowers. Even once delivered, the flowers need to be kept in refrigerated rooms. This massive process involves huge greenhouse gas emissions which are getting worse with the increasing demand for freshly cut flowers around the world.
With a massive global trade volume - with the Aalsmeer flower market in Holland trading approx 20 million flowers per day - the fresh flowers industry has significant active interests in preserving the investment made in growing these delicate botanicals. Also, as flowers travel through continents, they need to pass strict inspections to prevent fungal and insect infestations. As they're not considered a consumable, flowers get heavily sprayed with numerous fungicides, herbicides, and insecticides throughout their growing season and prior to shipment. Pesticide residues remain on the stems, petals, and foliage of the flower bunches, which represent a risk hazard also for floral designers (final consumer is less likely to get affected because they would buy pre-designed arrangements).
As you can imagine, the cut flowers that end up in a florist shop are the result of multiple, significant sorts and selections that start at the farm and end at the florist shop, where a part of them would inevitably be damaged by the transport. All this is on top of the waste of unsold flowers that would naturally start wilting and therefore going straight to the compost - which also involves the waste of cellophane and other materials used to wrap them in bouquets ready to be sold.
So what alternatives are out there?
Valid alternatives would be flowers that are sustainably sourced or produced and that last considerably longer than freshly cut ones.
In recent years we've have seen a significant improvement in materials and textures of faux flowers. Not sure how you feel about it but I just have a natural repulsion for them. Even their best-in-class range, despite may seem natural from a distance or in a picture, a closer look reveals a "fake" appearance and is far from giving an authentic feel to the eye and to the touch.
This is the solution that keeps me completely addicted and that I believe meets the practical needs of decorating our houses with beautiful flowers with the sustainability factor, not to mention they're maintenance-free! Let's see their carbon footprint in comparison to fresh flowers:
The industry of preserved flowers is blooming as so many professionals have discovered the advantages of preserved vs. fresh. The biggest industry producers can be found in each continent and the preservation process is made on-site, this means that the flowers can be bought directly from the producer, which already minimizes the transport involved. Moreover, preserved flowers do not need to be refrigerated, nor stored in certain conditions, they do not require time-sensitive deliveries, they can travel at their own pace, greatly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. They arrive safely, fresh and as beautiful as at departure.
In order to guarantee the success of the stabilization process (more info in our post on preservation techniques), the original flowers must be as healthy and clean as possible. This means that the use of pesticides is not even an option.
Only natural elements are used in the process: food coloring, water and a preservative of vegetal origin. The production of a stabilized flower uses only natural elements and therefore makes it a 100% biodegradable product.
Their non-perishable condition makes preserved flowers significantly less subject to waste. As they stay fresh for years, their lifecycle is way longer than fresh flowers and therefore the impact on the environment is way better and definitely checks the sustainability factor.
All the above reasons show how preserved flowers and botanicals definitely are a sustainable choice! Very popular amongst interior designers, wellness coaches and many discerning customers looking for beautiful, natural and sustainable decor... and they're maintenance-free!
Feel free to leave a comment or question on preserved flowers, I love to help people discover and appreciate this fascinating world. Ninfa Studio also has a collection of preserved arrangements, commissions welcomed.