Are Flowers Sustainable Decor?
Updated: Feb 24, 2022
A little while ago we listed new party decorations on D’light Etsy Shop.
It was so difficult to find cute party supplies that are also compostable at home, so we decided to make our own. All the eco party supplies I find are brown or white, which can be a bit boring, right?? I wanted to give these items a chance but also make them look super fun. So, for a long time I was wondering, what would be a good ingredient to use as an additional little detail that gives a nice pop of color for the brown eco party supplies, and of course, it had to be environmentally friendly. I wanted to create items that are EASY to dispose of. Isn’t it frustrating to find out the product you bought is compostable but needs industrial composting, or even worse, there is a small part in the item that is not composting friendly, and if you don’t know you can mess up the whole composting cycle!
After a while of researching different options to redesign the existing eco-friendly party supplies, I came up with an idea to bring flowers into my store. Ah!! That feeling of joy when I realized I will be working with beautiful flowers. I was thinking to myself, what would be more natural, eco-friendly, sustainable, and stunning party decorations than flowers?! BUT Very soon I had to come down from my cloud and realize the dark facts about the industry... (I feel like there is always “a but” when it comes to sourcing sustainable lifestyle, right?)
Before I fell down the cloud, I was buying dried flowers and I didn’t even think anything bad until it came to my mind: How come they are so fresh colored even after a long time laying on the studio table?? Why they don't look anything like my other flowers that I bought fresh and dried myself? Something was not right... And I only have myself to blame because I had fallen into my old habits of just buying without researching properly. I was also very stressed during this time, so finding a solution to my problem was a lot better deal than keep researching.
(So, what‘s the “but” with flowers?)
If you want to be environmentally friendly, buying just any flowers might be actually the opposite of sustainable. You should definitely pay attention to what kind of flowers and where you are buying them from.
It could even be that sometimes buying paper decorations or even plastic decor is better than sourcing flowers for your party! Yes, doesn't that sound crazy? Keep reading, I will explain in a moment.
How can flowers be harmful?! They are literally a product of nature!
Yes, they are. But only when they are grown naturally... The flowers we buy at the store are mass-produced and that's mass-production is never good.
Most of the flowers at the stores are:
transported long distances (most of the the flowers to the United States comes from South America)
requires cool special space to survive, in the facility and transportation trucks! That's a big carbon footprint.
require lots of water in the growing process
are harvested and picked by poorly treated employees who could be underpaid and usually work very long hours
treated with chemicals to last longer
usually flew to you via airplane and then transported in cooled trucks (again, carbon footprint!)
and finally packed in plastic.
(I told you there is a but!)
So usually, when we buy flowers we have a few options; dried flowers, fresh-cut flowers, artificial flowers, and plants. What is their environmental impact of them? Are plants the best option or could sometimes artificial flowers be better? Which one is the worse?
Fresh Cut Flowers or Dried Flowers
Fresh cut flowers last a shorter time than dried flowers and it’s understandable to think fresh-cut flowers might be worse for the environment since you have to purchase them more often. But listen to this; Besides the process of growing flowers, dried flowers also go through extra steps to reach certain colors and strength. Have you ever tried drying your flowers? They look very different compared to the ones you bought online, right? Dried flowers are usually treated with chemicals like bleach and coloring. This process is very bad for the environment and can be bad for you too! There might be even plastic in the dried flowers (acrylic paint).
If you are interested to learn more about how dried flowers are treated, I would definitely recommend this blog from Briarrose Flowers “Why not all dried flowers are as eco-friendly as you think”.
The worst thing is that many times when you buy dried flowers online, there is no information on the chemicals they use! This happened to me too. Good thing was that when I contacted the company who I bought the flowers asking for more information, they did respond to me (!!) and they were aware of these issues. Their answers were informative and professional. I encourage you too to ask whomever you are supplying your dried flowers from if they have more information on how their products are treated. If they answer, it means they are aware and maybe trying to provide better options to those who are concerned.
Could it be, artificial flowers are actually better than fresh-cut or dried flowers?
Artificial flowers are usually made with either plastics or different kinds of fabrics, like silk or polyester. Since they are both made with materials that are pretty huge environmental issues all over the world, it’s easy to think they are not good to purchases at all. And yes, it is true, if you use them only for one party... But, if you rent artificial flowers for your event or purchase them and keep using them for a long time, they can be a very good alternative to real flowers!
Now, artificial flowers are in no way natural, they are also dyed and transported long distances to reach you, and manufacturing these flowers is probably more damaging than growing real flowers, but the idea of reusing is the best sustainable option.
If you want to read more about artificial flowers, I recommend reading this article: Are fake flowers better for the planet than fresh ones?
When you are planning on using artificial flowers for your party, consider these options:
Shop second-hand stores to reuse fake flowers instead of buying new ones
Instead of throwing the fake flowers away after the party, gift them, donate them, or use them as decoration at home
Simply instead of buying, look into local decorating companies and rent flowers (you can at the same time see other rentable party decorations!)
What about plants? Those are good.. right?
Plants seem to be very popular right now as home decor but also as a hobby. What is the impact of plants? It’s very important to always look at even the best option with a critical eye.
So, if you are decorating with plants in your party it doesn’t automatically mean you are doing the rightest thing. Especially, if you are not growing those plants since the beginning or sourcing them locally (a lot of work for one party, eh? 😄). Yep, plants can also be transported long distances, treated with toxins in the growing process (chemical pollution), and they need special lights and water to grow. For now, it can be a decent amount but since plants seem to be/become a big trend, they can easily fall into the same cycle of over-production. Packaging plants can be very unsustainable as well, they come to the store in plastic pots, which some stores throw away before you even buy the plant because they like to sell the plants in their own pots/decorated pots. Or, if they are sold in the nursing pots, at latest whoever bought it usually changes the pot into a new one, and those pots are a plastic waste.
If you are sourcing your plants from another country, in plastic pots, and they are treated with chemicals, your impact can be quite harmful. So even with plants, it’s important to source them locally. The other downside with plants is that they can become very expensive decor.
Seems like we are never safe when it comes to sustainability but like with any other product the best way to be sustainable is to source locally, seasonally, and naturally. Here is a little checklist for you, when you are purchasing flowers next time.
What to consider when purchasing any flowers;
where the flowers are coming from? Always choose local garden
are they dried? colored or bleached? If you really want to have dried flowers, try to find a gardener who dries flowers naturally and doesn’t use any toxins to color them. You can also learn how to dry your flowers! Here is a fun tutor on how to dry flowers: How to Dry Flowers: 4 Methods
pay attention to the packaging. Flowers are the product of nature, don't suffocate them with plastic!
So earlier in this blog, I mentioned that sometimes flowers can be worse than plastic or paper decoration. Let me explain this idea.
Can flowers be worse than plastic and paper decorations?
First things first, pretty much anything you bought online or from a store and you “throw it away” without disposing of it correctly (eg. Recycling, Composting) is a bad option.
If you buy flowers that are natural (no toxins or other additions and packed in eco-friendly packaging), you can compost them at home! But if you choose the ones that are colored, bleached, dried, and delivered from South America, you are probably not doing that much better than those who choose to purchase plastic and paper decor and reuse it. And if you are mistaken to think dried flowers are okay to “just throw away” you are unknowingly throwing toxins in nature, and in the worst case it could end up in some animal’s belly causing very painful death, etc.
If you are big into reusing everything you buy, I would say having “an evergreen” party supply storage could be better than buying imported flowers for your party.
But, you probably wish to change the outlook of your party and you will have different themes so having the same decor over and over again might sound a bit crazy. Especially if you are big on decorating.
I would recommend sourcing reusable decorations as much as possible with neutral colors so that they go with different themes and combine those with natural, non-toxic decor that can be composted or recycled. This way you can give your party a new look without always buying whole new decoration setups. If this is a definite no and you for example don’t have the space to store the reusable party supplies, try to find a local catering company to rent decoration or try out rent-a-party service! Click to the D’light Rent-A-Party site, where you can rent party setups and return the items after use.
So, after this post which one do you think is the best choice for you; plants, cut flowers, dried flowers, or artificial flowers? Comment below!