by Maréa Janae of Dream Catcher Weddings
I Love Flowers
If the wildflower tattoo sprawling across my right arm and the fact that I’m more often than not seen clothed in a floral-print fabric aren’t a dead giveaway, I’m kind of in love with flowers. I would argue that, in their full blooming glory, flowers and love are two of the most beautiful natural phenomena on this gorgeous green earth. Thus it only makes sense that sustainable flowers and weddings are an inseparable match, dating back as long as can be remembered. The desire to adorn yourself and your festive space with bright blooms seems an intuitive way to portray the love blooming inside of you.
Why Sustainable flowers?
While at first glance, it may be hard to imagine how something as natural as flowers could have negative environmental impacts, unfortunately that’s not the case. Between heavy use of harmful pesticides, carbon emissions created by refrigerating and shipping fresh flowers halfway around the globe, and plastic waste created by packaging and displays, the harm caused by the floral industry quickly adds up. But don’t lose heart! You can have an earth-conscious wedding bursting with beautiful blooms! When it comes to options for sustainable flowers, there are many ways to go green and no single “right answer”. If you’re choosing to be mindful of the planet, you’re doing it right! Let’s talk about what a few of those options are…
What kind of sustainable flowers will you use?
You may have assumed that live cut stems are your only option for wedding day floral arrangements given their overwhelming popularity. However, there are several other options, each with their own environmental and aesthetic benefits.
If you’re looking for the wedding flower option with the lowest carbon footprint, wood flowers are your best bet. They are usually made from a plant grown in Southeast Asia, harvested and processed by hand, and shipped across the ocean by boat. Due to their renewable sourcing, the lowered emissions from transit, and the fact that they’re completely biodegradable, a wood flower bouquet may produce 90% less emissions than one made from imported fresh flowers! (1) Just be sure yours are colored with natural dyes and attached to wooden stems to avoid unwanted waste and ensure their compostability.
Wood flower arrangements, like those crafted by Denver-based florist Perennial Posy, provide a different look and feel for your wedding bouquets and centerpieces. They are a great way to change things up and give your event a unique, natural aesthetic. Another major plus is that you can display the flowers in your home for years to come!
“Silk” flowers, which are typically made not of silk but rather synthetic materials such as plastic and latex, may not seem like an eco-friendly pick, but just hear me out. Like wood flowers, carbon emissions from transportation of silks are greatly reduced since they’re able to make the journey in boats instead of airplanes and refrigerated trucks. If you were to purchase faux flower arrangements new, use them only once and then dispose of them, the carbon cost would be around 2.5 times that of fresh flowers. (2) However, if you rent them from a florist who will arrange the stems into unique bouquets for your wedding, and then disassemble and reuse them for many more events, that carbon cost gets split between every couple that uses the same faux flowers.
Kristin Mach of Flintwood Floral, a silk flower rental company based in Parker, CO, told me that she is able to clean and reuse the same flowers hundreds of times, making the carbon footprint per use a mere fraction of that for live flowers with their single use. When you also consider their significantly smaller water usage and the lack of toxic chemicals and pesticides needed, the scales certainly start to tip in favor of silk stems. Flintwood Floral provides impressively real-looking arrangements – so real that people often can’t tell the difference! They’re also a very budget-friendly option, renting out at less than half the cost of traditional flowers. And when they finally do reach the end of their life as wedding decor, Kristin donates them to a senior living home where they can continue to bring beauty and color to the world.
While you can’t exactly replace your bridal bouquet or groom’s boutonniere with them, potted plants can be a great alternative for your ceremony decor and reception centerpieces. Purchase some potted succulents, house plants, or even flowers from a local garden center, replant them in pots that match your color scheme, and use them to add life and color to your wedding decor. Afterward, you can decorate your home with these beauties, which is about the most eco-friendly decor choice you could make!
Freshly Cut Stems
I get it – if you’re a flower lover like me, you know that nothing can truly replace the sweet aroma of freshly cut flowers on your wedding day. If having live flowers to adorn your celebration is a non-negotiable for you, there are plenty of ways that you can put the planet first with your big day blooms. Let me share a few key lessons I’ve learned from the florists I’ve interviewed and worked alongside.
Fresh Flowers Gone Green
Shopping local is always a good choice, and your wedding flowers are no exception! Not only does buying from a local farm give back to your community, but it significantly reduces the carbon footprint of your flowers. Rather than being cut continents away, doused in preserving chemicals, packaged in plastic, flown across the ocean, and hauled in refrigerated trucks, you can opt for stems that were grown in your own state and cut out so much unnecessary waste!
Additionally, smaller flower farms tend to be more intentional about sustainable growing practices, such as eliminating the use of chemical pesticides and using regenerative farming techniques to invest in healthy soil. And if all of these wonderful benefits aren’t enough, the cherry on top is that locally grown flowers are the sweetest-smelling blooms you’ll ever breathe in. The lack of chemicals and freshness of the cut allows them to maintain that fragrant aroma that will take you right back to grandma’s garden.
So where do you find these aromatic, organic and locally grown flowers?
In Colorado, we are lucky to have an amazing flower co-op, Colorado Flower Collective. Skim through coloradoflowercollective.com/buyers to view the long list of Colorado florists who have chosen to put the planet first by supporting local farmers. If you’re in the Colorado Springs area, we highly recommend a visit to Gather Mountain Blooms where you can see (and smell!) sustainable farming in action. They offer buckets of sustainable flowers for the DIY bride; if you want sustainable flowers on a budget and don’t mind getting your hands dirty, this may be the perfect option for you. No matter who your florist is, I encourage you to ask them about their supply chain and if they’re able to provide you with fresh-cut stems that prioritize our planet.
When your heart skips a beat upon seeing an instagram photo featuring a lush floral display wildly sprawling across a wooden arch, eucalyptus spilling out in every direction, dahlias dancing in center spotlight and amaranth flowers dramatically dripping down to the ground, the part you aren’t seeing is all of the hidden plastic holding this show-stopping arrangement together.
The floral foam, zip ties, and individual water tubes used to hold everything in place and keep the flowers moisturized are all various forms of plastic that will ultimately get tossed into a landfill, taking up to 5 lifetimes to decompose. (3) This waste can be easily avoided by asking your florist to arrange the flowers in chicken wire instead of foam (wet moss can be wrapped inside the wire to help hold in moisture), use flower frogs for vase arrangements, or volcanic rock-based and biodegradable foam alternative, Sideau. (4) Reusable wire and biodegradable twine can easily replace plastic zip ties.
You’ll also want to be mindful of the vases that centerpiece bouquets are displayed in. Rather than buying new (which can cause energy and material waste), consider renting them from your florist or a decor rental company. Better yet, create an eclectic look by purchasing mismatched vintage vessels- then gift them to your guests at the end of the night to double as your favors! Cutting costs while protecting the planet is what I like to call winning.
If you’ve gone to the work of sourcing organic and local flowers and making sure they’re arranged with sustainable materials, then you certainly don’t want to miss the final crucial step in this responsible florals recipe. After the last photo is snapped, the last dance danced and the last song belted loudly by off-pitch, stumbling drunk groomsmen, where do those gorgeous garlands go? More often than not, the sad truth is, you guessed it: the landfill. Biodegradable or not, in the landfill environment, even something as natural as flowers will release methane gases, which are “more than 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere.” (5) So what’s the better option? Donate, compost, or both!
Donating your flowers to a nursing home, women’s shelter, or children’s hospital will allow the beauty of your wedding day to continue bringing joy to those most in need of it for weeks, instead of getting tossed after mere hours of being on display. If you’re working with a sustainable florist, they may already have a donation process in place. At Dream Catcher Weddings, we offer the donation of leftover flowers to a local nursing home at no cost to our clients.
Anything that is not in good enough shape to be repurposed into new bouquets, we’ll toss into the compost bin which we haul out and drop off locally, ensuring that the flowers’ nutrients are returned to the soil. This nutrient-rich compost may be used to enhance the soil for the growing of future flowers, bringing it beautifully full-circle the way nature intended.
In summary, so much more could be said on the topic of sustainable flowers, but I hope what I’ve shared will at least spark your interest, inspire fresh ideas, and get the wheels turning for you to consider how to truly put the planet first, both with your floral arrangements and in other important aspects of your big day. No action is too small. Every earth-conscious decision you choose really does make a difference as we work to shift the tide and move the wedding industry to a more sustainable future. If you have any questions about how to make your wedding more mindful of Mama Earth, you can chat with me at email@example.com.
Your tree-hugging wedding planner friend,
- U.S. National Park Service; Mote Marine Lab, Sarasota, FL.
Sustainable Florists Interviewed: