"Silk" or artificial flowers are NOT a
sustainable or eco-friendly option
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
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:
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