"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
Local, Sustainable and OrganicIn November, we did a wedding for Heidi and Dave, who had chosen to do local and sustainable flower design for their wedding. The wedding took place at the Chaminade, very close to their home in Santa Cruz. I don't live in Santa Cruz, so I stayed at a local beach cabana with my husband under the guise of a surf weekend. We brought our dog and all the materials I would need to craft 21 large table centerpieces of orchids, some cocktail arrangements, a table card arrangement and the wedding party's flowers. Heidi originally wanted orange and purple flowers, but when we talked with Dave about his needs he asked that we not use very much purple, as in his Italian culture it was considered bad luck. So out went the purple and in came the green, white and orange color scheme that I suggested. I had seen some beautifully decorated rooms where the floral designer used potted orchids as the centerpiece, so I suggested we do the same because the plants could also be used as gifts for those who wanted to take one home with them. I used willow branches, moss and glass vases with rocks to pot the orchids, and they looked beautiful in the room. Around the centerpieces I added some moss and branches I had found from the sea and that had dropped from trees in the mountains. We decided a slightly mountain-y feel would go well for where the Chaminade is located (in the Santa Cruz mountains). The ceilings were bare and we needed some height in the design, so the tall orchid centerpieces did the job wonderfully. We also wanted to add some color to the tables but didn't want to have to buy tablecloths or order special cloth so I found some elephant dung paper (paper made from elephant poo, tree free, recycled and biodegradable) that came in a dark orange that Heidi was fond of. We used the paper at each place setting and used if for the tablecards and table numbers. I snuck in a little purple with some of the green flowering kale for the cake table. Throughout all of the tables we used floating candles and votive candles for ambiance. The dinner was in the evening, so to create an atmospheric light without turning up the electrical lights made it feel very romantic. There were a lot of windows in the room, so we also strung up some hanging glass votive holders in the windows, which also added a soft light and twinkling. For the Bridal party's flowers, I used what was in season from some local flower growers. Heidi wanted Calla lilies and flowering kale matched the color scheme, so we used them for the bouquets. I also used veriflora certified roses for some of the boutonnieres and for the Bridal Bouquet. Overall, the wedding looked beautiful and the atmosphere during dinner was very romantic. Using local and fair trade flowers made the wedding a conscious wedding, that matched the lives of the bride and the groom. For more information about green wedding planning and floral design, visit us at www.gorgeousandgreenevents.com 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 (email@example.com) , 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
Details of a Green WeddingThe small pieces of an event or wedding are always the most tedious and possibly some of the most important. Flower colors, number of birthday candles, seating charts, the 1st song, etc. etc. And when it comes to a green event, making some of these details green and sustainable can get overwhelming. Yet, people have been celebrating green for centuries, and really it just means we have to go back to our roots to find our sustainable ways. At Gorgeous and Green Events we believe green design and event planning start with what's available in your area and what can be made and planned for without a lot of out of town materials or out of town vendors. It's rather simple to do, but we've made it more difficult for ourselves in the US because we use cars, trucks and airplanes to transfer people and objects all around the world with the swipe of a credit card. Not to mention all the chemicals we use to make things grow and appear in new ways and at different times of the year. With our wedding in Baja, my fiance and I decided to make even the small details green. My mother and I contacted local flower growers in Baja (about 5 miles away from the wedding site) and ordered flowers that could be used in bouquets and arrangements for the wedding. We picked those up the day before the wedding, so the florist, who also came down to Baja to work, could include those flowers in the arrangements.
Bouquet by Heavenly Florist, San DiegoWe chose to print our own maps and invitations at home. I illustrated the map using information about mileage and freeways for guests I could find on the internet. Since I had driven down Baja many times, it was helpful for me to add some additional driving pointers. We just scanned and printed them at home. Very cost-effective. The Invitation papers we bought from www.invitesite.com . A great place to get invitations sets for printing at home, and they offer sustainable designs that include tree free paper, recycled paper and raffia.
Invite Site's Hampton'sIf you have a chance, however, you can find recycled paper and envelopes in different colors from art stores and paper stores in your area, and print out your own invites at home. You might even find a local printer who can do them for you sustainably, and cut out the extra travel carbons.
Here are some sustainable invitation vendors or companies that provide eco-friendly options:
I chose to decorate our cocktail napkins and table cards using some rubber stamps that I had bought at a local art supply store. Rather than send out for printed napkins with our names or logo on it, I felt the stamps gave a festive and personal touch. The place cards were printed on recycled cardstock and they were attached to small shells that sat in sand at the entrance to the reception.
Table CardsI made the ceremony programs by sewing sheets of printed vellum and recycled cardstock together and then adding a cutout from a piece of design paper I bought at the art store. They were very special and were made at home! Less travel carbons and a bit cheaper than having them done elsewhere. We had a lot of space to decorate, and really no amount of flowers would have added to the magnificent decor of the beach and beautiful blue sea. So we opted to stay light on the table flowers and added some decor in the sky such as some paper flowers I made from tissue paper and tree-free paper that were strung up at the reception entrance. Not only were they compact and pesticide free, we could recycle them when we were done.
Sky paper flowers
We also needed more light on the patio where the reception was being held so we needed to buy or rent lighting. I made some lanterns out of jelly jars and wire and hung those around and we opted for turquoise paper lighted lanterns around the space that looked magnificent by day and glowing at night. Not only beautiful, but these lights were made of paper and old jars, recyclable or reusable materials for another event.
Lanterns at NightFor wearable details besides my dress, I opted to go vintage. I began looking for the perfect necklace months before, and found it close to home at a local jewelry shop that specialized in antique Native American jewelry. I found a wonderful necklace of full turquoise, which not only is a favorite stone but also was one of our wedding colors. I also found at a local vintage store a beautiful vintage hair comb with blue crystals. It went perfectly with my dress and overall look, which had a special Spanish/Mexican Colonial feel.
Vintage Hair Comb and NecklaceThere were many more details that I could go on and on about, but the take home message is really about simplifying and keeping things local and free of toxins. If you can buy it near you, if it was made or grown near you, if it was grown and made without added chemicals and toxins, and if it was already used by someone else, you've made quite an attempt at keeping your event and your life green. All the beautiful event photographs were taken by Erin Beach at www.erinbeach.com
The most toxic environment in your life might be your home.Yes, you may in fact be surrounding yourself with toxic chemicals, cancer causing agents and hazardous waste. From the carpet right on up to the paint, there may be toxins leaking into our everyday and night, without a second thought. So what can you do about it? First off, you may want to think about switching out the chemical cleaners you use to wash your home, dishes and clothes with. I have taken a vow of avoiding chlorine bleach in my home, which of course is linked cancer. But, for some, a change like this can take some adjustment. My whites are not as white, but they're still clean and less toxic for my body and my mind. What cleaners are better for you? Well, generally any cleaner that is said to be safe for the environment will probably be safe for you too. Overall, if the ingredients on the back label have a bunch of chemical words you can't pronounce, it's probably not very healthy for you. In the flower and art business, avoiding chemicals can be pretty difficult, but there are some measures we can take to reduce the amount we depend on. Using clean and fresh water for flowers, finding earth friendly paint stripper and turpenoid (similar to turpentine), and natural dish soap for washing. The list of course goes on. I'll probably write more about this in another post. From glass cleaner, dish soap, scrub powder, to all purpose cleaner; there are many makes out there that purport to be safe for both the environment and you. They often come in recyclable containers and have essential oils and scents, which can be an added bonus. For the most part, they work pretty well. I have some favorites, of course, for a few different reasons. The line of products put out by Method is pretty cool looking and smells good, plus it's easy to find. Target carries many Method varieties. I really appreciate the cleaning power of Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day, but it's a little pricier. I have also been able to find Meyer's at Target as well as Whole Foods and Elephant Pharmacy. If you have a favorite natural cleaner: please share! And don't forget to be sustainable with your sponges and rags! Pictured above is a Natural Value sponge made from post-consumer recycled materials. Rags make a great reusable cleaning material (way better than paper towels). Just cut up an old t-shirt or towel you're ready to give away, and voila! When it gets dirty, throw it in the dirty clothes and wash it for future uses. In clean times and health, G&G
Green Chic Saving the Earth in Style by Christie Matheson
Although this book is not a "wedding" or "event" book per se, it is filled with helpful hints and smart remarks, making it an easy and intelligent read, to say the least. It's also filled with great ideas that can be used in the wedding and event arena, as well as every day of our lives. So why not?Over all, I would say it's worthy of being picked up if you are looking for some green motivation. It may also be helpful if you are fairly feminine. As the cover suggests, it's probably written for women. However I think it's readable for just about anyone. If a section dives into nail polish and you're not digging it, skip it. There's some good info in there about cleaning toilets and I think that is both a male and female issue, or at least it should be. Despite the title and the occasional inclusion of girlie info, the book is written very smartly, succinctly and it's pretty compact. There are a good amount of suggestions as well as scary statistics to promote behavior change. This, of course, is the whole reason you might be reading this type of book anyway, to change your behavior. There were some occasional steps I thought Christie could have taken to be slightly greener, but maybe that would have been pushing the envelope. She does give a whole-hearted try for some of the more "hippie" products out there like natural deodorants and she does mention the menstrual cup, but I think there could have been a little more pushing in some areas or at least mentioning of the many options available. I know just reading the book has influenced me and I think of myself as pretty well educated about green living, health and sustainability. But, sometimes we forget the everyday actions we take that can have such a massive affect on our world and the people around us, not to mention our own health. So, getting a little reminder is good for even us greenies. One piece of knowledge that I have heard before but was happy to hear again was about Bottled Water. I know you've probably heard, drinking from the tap is way better for the environment and possibly for you. It's also cheaper. But did you know that we go through 70 million of those pesky bottles a day? Think of it. Families across America buying 24 and 48 packs of plastic water bottles at Cosco each week and how many of those bottles end up in the landfill, or better yet, in the ocean floating around as a giant island of plastic trash. Not to mention that 1/4 of those bottles don't hold special water from fijian springs, but plain old tap water. So why are we spending so much on this special bottled tap water? Well for some more insight and suggestions, try the book. It might just change the way you behave around plastic. And paper. And cotton... until next time, G&G