YES, YES, WE KNOW, EVERYONE IS GREEN NOWADAYS…
This should be a positive thing, but it can make it hard to see beyond the greenwashing and marketing strategies to find products that really make a difference. That’s why we encourage you to take a few minutes and find out about our ideas.
Some of our clients want to be 100% organic, fair trade or local. Others already have a vision of what they would like and just wish to incorporate some eco-sensitive choices into the mix. Our goal is to help you achieve your vision while making it more environmentally friendly, not to limit your possibilities. For that reason, we offer a wide range of products, ideas and strategies, ensuring every client finds a solution that fits their needs. Our in-depth knowledge of both floral design and environmental practices enables us to guide clients in their choices, from the early stages of planning through to the final product.
THE BIG PICTURE
Buying flowers should be nothing but uplifting but sadly, if you look a little closer, you’ll see that this is rarely the case. Each bloom, from the moment it’s sown to the time it’s placed on your living room table, is taxing on the planet on many different levels.
Industrial flower production is known to have a very negative impact on the environment and on the people who work in the horticultural trades. Flower farms are notorious for using huge amounts of chemical products and for having poor working conditions for their employees. The effects of transportation associated with delivering the flowers to North-American markets are also important, which means that even organically grown blooms have a heavy carbon footprint. Finally, refrigeration is a part of the picture we often forget about, as flowers must be stored in cool rooms, airplanes and trucks, consuming high amounts of energy and freon gas.
1. Local & organic flowers
The closer the better. This is by far the best way to “green” your flowers. Small farms produce amazing produce from May to October, with an original selection of blooms that wholesalers don’t import. Tired of gerberas? Local growers tend to experiment and produce interesting varieties of flowers that are often ignored by the mass markets. During winter, evergreens and branches are widely available.
2. Foraging & nature-harvested products
Taking advantage of Mother Nature’s gifts is a great way to be planet-friendly. These include branches, wild flowers, fruits, berries and vegetables, moss, stones, carnivorous plants, bark and many other surprising things. These treasures bring an authenticity and warmth to arrangements that perfectly grown imports just can’t replicate. All the products we use are harvested responsibly, insuring that colonies don’t get depleted, trees don’t get injured, and animal and plant life goes on undisrupted. In many cases, careful and regular harvesting can actually have a positive impact on the ecosystem.
3. Certified imports
Although it’s possible to use only flowers from the first two groups, most designs will incorporate some imported flowers. In those cases, Eco Sierra and other certifications insure that a limited amount of chemical products were used during production, and that fair trade working conditions for the workers were respected.
Judging the sustainability of any given flower can sometimes seem complicated that it’s tempting to just forget about it. Even for us! For example, a flower produced in Holland will probably contain few pesticides and you know the workers who took care of it were treated fairly. But the climate in Europe is far from being ideal to grow plants, and so great resources were needed to make sure the flowers got all the heat, light and water they needed. On the other hand, flowers grown in African countries are likely covered with chemicals that are banned in industrialized countries, and the employees at the farm probably make pennies a day. But the plants practically grow themselves, wasting very little in terms of energy since the daylight cycles and the temperatures are perfectly suited to their needs. So which is better? Sometime it can be hard to decide… We make sure we keep on top of all the relevant information so you don’t have to.
Even when chosen wisely, flowers will only last a few days and cannot be reused, generating waste. Replacing them with live plants or incorporating live plants in arrangements is a fantastic way to minimize your footprint. You can opt for groupings of plants in individual containers, or you can choose larger containers planted with a mix of specimens. The live plants can also be mixed with cut flowers, for the best of both worlds. And afterwards, the plants can then be taken home by you or your guests… We love to use saplings, herbs, succulents and cacti, as well as small flowering plants.
VASES & CONTAINERS
Vases and containers made with recycled glass or other recycled materials are a great option. Once a specialty item, in the past few years the variety available on the market has grown exponentially and there is now a wide range of prices and styles to choose from. Repurposing objects is a great way to be eco-conscious. Antique tea cups, bottles, tin cans, mason jars… If it can hold water, it can be used. And the result doesn’t have to look like a flea market (unless of course that’s the style you’re going for!). Repurposed objects are a conversation starter, and will help your guests or clients realize the effort that was put into being planet-friendly. If you prefer classic vases or containers, we can source them for you, with special attention being paid to where they come from and how they were made. On a simpler note, sometime just buying a vessel you truly love can be the best choice of all. Buying containers because you really like them insures they won’t end up in the trash, and that is the definition of sustainability!
To insure freshness, flowers must be kept at a cool five degrees. Most flowers spend about three days in giant cold rooms at the farm, two more days in refrigerated trucks and planes, and a week or more in cool warehouses waiting to be delivered. All in all, most blooms spend between 12 and 15 days in energy-wasting cold rooms and refrigerators. And that’s just before they land in the one at your neighborhood flower shop! Through careful planning and organization, the length of time the flowers need to be cooled can be diminished, and the size of the fridges can be reduced. Choosing locally grown flowers goes a long way in accomplishing this, since they can be picked at the last possible minute. Details like this one all add up to reduce the amount of raw energy necessary to keep the flowers looking their best. At Atelier Carmel, we mostly function without a fridge. A strategically placed air conditioner and well-insulated cold room are sufficient to obtain our desired temperature. With this method, we only use energy when necessary.
Although using sustainable products will always have the biggest impact on how “green” your flowers are, we feel it’s also crucial to incorporate responsible practices wherever possible. We put a lot of thought into how to package things, what to clean with, and what tools we use. This also includes composting waste, recycling materials, limiting water use to what is really needed, and several other small details that all add up to limit the ecological impact of our business.