So many of us are doing our little bit for the environment in our every day lives, whether it be recycling, reusing, walking, taking public transport or growing our own food. Sadly, the floral industry is lagging behind on this, especially when it comes to the use of floral foam or Oasis. Why is this important I hear you ask?

Until recently many florists, including me, did not know a lot about floral foam, what it was made from or what happens to it when we throw it away. Floral foam, or Phenolic foam, is a form of plastic. There are now quite widely publicised concerns not only about how it can affect people, but also the environment. Exposure to floral foam can cause eye, skin and respiratory problems in people, with some going as far as saying it is carcinogenic.

Deconstructed arch at Port Lympne
Foam free deconstructed arch for a wedding at Port Lympne. Using a re-usable wooden and chicken wire frame, and reusable water vials for the flowers.

What you may not know is that many of the floral designs you see, especially in the wedding and event industry, are heavily floral foam based. This amounts to a lot of foam and plastic going into landfill each and every year. Many floral foams are not currently biodegradable and the impact on the environment is still an unknown. There is a particular concern that the foam breaks up into small particles which can wash into our water systems and potentially affect marine life. I know from past experience of soaking foam myself, that the water turns green with small particles that then goes straight down the plug hole.

It much be said, some progress is being made, though it is small and slow. New products such as the MaxLife Bio Foam from Smither’s Oasis is 25% biodegradable within 18 months in biologically active landfill conditions. It is a good start, but it is not compostable and 18 months is still a long time, especially when you consider the amount going into landfill every day.

Floral hoops and table runners
Foam free floral hoops made using garlands, with flowers in reusable water vials. Long table runners created using plants, with additional flowers in reusable water vials.

So what can we the florists do? Well, many of us are now looking at viable replacements to use in our design work. I recently went to visit Sabine Darrell, champion of Eco-friendly floristry, for her Evergreen course to learn more. Here we discussed whether it was possible to produce beautiful, viable designs that are environmentally friendly, and thankfully it is!

I am taking positive steps forward and trying to reduce my use of plastics, especially floral foam. A number of the weddings I undertook in 2018 were foam free and my aim for 2019 is to make them all that way.

Preston Court Church Floral Arch
Foam free floral arch at Preston Court Church. Made on a reusable chicken wire frame secured using reusable garden Velcro, with the flowers in reusable water vials.

Will this affect your flowers? Their longevity? Or how beautiful the design are? The answer is no!

So what will I use instead? I will use a mix of things including chicken wire, moss, plants, water vials, garlands and dried flowers. All of these are either plastic free, re-usable, recyclable or biodegradable.

Saying no to floral foam has helped me to become more creative with my designs and I find they are looser and more natural looking too.

Changing the industry is not going to happen overnight, but raising awareness and taking positive steps in the right direction will in time create greener more environmentally aware florists.