The toxic problems with wedding flowers, and what we can do about it!

Ahhhh flowers!  One of the most beautiful and romantic aspects of any wedding is also one of the greatest sources of environmental harm in the wedding industry.

Wait.  WHAT? 

Yep, it’s true.  There are quite a few reasons that your gorgeous florals could be the most toxic part of your celebration.  Isn’t that weird–and sad? But the good news is that there are easy things you can choose to do that will make your flowers inspiring and sustainable. Let’s dive in.

You know that old saying “Never say never”?  Well, it’s not always right.  Because there’s one thing I will never do and that’s use floral foam.  There, I said it.  I’ll never use floral foam. I promise.

What am I even talking about and why is it such a big deal? Read on!

A seafront picnic set up for two. Wicker picnic basket, metal bucket with a bottle of champagne, quilt and scatter cushions, a small blush pink table, wicker placemats, clear glassware, white vintage crockery, sage green napkins and summer floral bouquet as a centrepiece

Floral foam is that squishy green Styrofoam type stuff that you may have seen in the bottom of a flower arrangement or at a craft store and it’s a big deal because it’s super toxic to the planet and to the people and other animals who live here. 

Because it is a plastic product, floral foam causes environmental damage at every stage of its life:  from production, to exposing humans to carcinogenic chemicals, all the way to breaking down into microplastics which harm aquatic life and end up in our soil. Some companies will say that it’s “Certified Biodegradable” but that just means it breaks down over time.  It’s not the same as a product that’s compostable and actually adds nutrition to the soil as it biodegrades. 

Another problem with floral foam is that it works really well so it continues to be used in the floral industry even though its dangers are well documented.  Its job is to retain moisture and stabilize stems in flower arrangements and it is truly stellar at both! But the environmental cost is not sustainable. 

The good news is that there are plenty of safe ways to accomplish both of these objectives and many brilliant floral designers who use alternatives like chicken wire, twigs, and reusable water tubes to give flowers what they need to perform beautifully on your big day! 

One last thing about floral foam:  what should you do if you have some at home, work at a venue and have to dispose of it, or you’re a florist that’s been using it?  It should definitely be disposed of according to your local regulations and here is some important information from a blog by Meghan Campbell, owner of Twisted Bramble

“Floral foam is a plastic that cannot be recycled.  It needs to be sent to a landfill and cannot be placed in the compost, garden or any natural environment. Additionally, any flowers, foliage or natural products used with floral foam should never be composted and put with green waste.

Water containing floral foam should not be placed down the drain.  Pouring water that is contaminated with floral foam directly into a storm drain is the same as putting it straight into the ocean.”

For more information about how to dispose of floral foam, and all aspects of sustainable floristry, definitely check out resources at the Sustainable Floristry Network.

There are a few more ways that flowers can ironically become the most environmentally harmful part of your wedding/celebration.  The way flowers are farmed, how they’re packaged and how far they’re transported, plus the ways that people who work on flower farms are treated can all have a negative impact.  The common act of importing flowers from thousands of miles away creates a carbon footprint that is problematic and unnecessary. 

We're inspiring greener weddings with emerald hour, co-founder logo badge

Here in the PNW we are so lucky to have access to many flower farmers who grow gorgeous flowers and also prioritize sustainability. You can find locally grown flowers at farmers markets all around the region and mindful floral designers through organizations like the Slow Flower Society and Emerald Hour who can make your flower dreams come true in a sustainable way.  By choosing locally grown, seasonal flowers you can support local farmers and decrease the carbon footprint of your florals. 

When searching for a floral designer, ask them if they use floral foam or not.  If they do use it sometimes, just ask them to not use it in the designs for your celebration.  Ask them where they get their flowers and tell them you’d like to have locally grown, seasonal flowers in your bouquets.

For my clients, I promise you this:

  1. When creating floral designs for you, not only will I never use floral foam, I will always forage my own organic flower garden first.
  2. After that I will buy from PNW flower farmers through Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, prioritizing growers in Washington and Oregon.
  3. I’ll use thrifted vases, floral frogs, chicken wire, reusable water tubes, and twine in my designs to keep your flowers fresh and in place.
  4. Afterwards, I’ll deconstruct your florals, save and reuse what I can, and put everything else into my home compost.

You can trust that your flowers will be one of the most beautiful and romantic aspects of your wedding celebration—just as they should be!

Smiling woman sat at a wooden table wearing a pale pink jacket and white top with pink florals

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top