Thursday, March 26, 2009

Decor to Save the Planet: Local and Organic Flowers

I checked in at the Broke Ass Bride the other day, where she listed all the vendors she has lined up for her wedding. Quite an impressive list of accomplishments!

I was especially curious about her florist, as Mr. Barefoot recently encouraged me to hire one.* Figuring that we'd be plenty busy with all the other wedding details, he didn't love my idea of trying to DIY with flowers from the San Francisco Flower Market (at the same time I'll be starting a new job, entertaining visiting friends and relatives, preparing for a conference, etc., oh, and getting married!)

Seeing that Broke Ass Bride had been able to find a florist that specializes in local, organic, and Veriflora certified** flowers down in LA, I figured that here in the crunchy People's Republic of Berkeley, it should be no problem. There are probably dozens of local, organic florists out there vying for my business, right?

Well, my first few web searches revealed very little. Clients praised the arrangements of one florist as being 'organic' but the adjective appeared to have more to do with the form than the content of the design. Another consultant promised to provide green decor and advice, but didn't show many floral designs. Although local, organic food; vintage/ organic wedding dresses; and sustainably-produced rings are popular for green weddings, organic flowers are harder to come by.

Finally, the Marin Organic Directory led me to Local Flora up in even crunchier Marin. I can't wait to meet this woman: she scavenged
building materials from the Sonoma dump and used reclaimed barn lumber for her facility. Her organic flowers come from Cow Track Ranch, a woman-owned business in West Marin, and are delivered in a bio-diesel truck. And she'll arrange flowers in my vases for no extra fee. (Huge bonus, since I've collected a dozen blue glass vases from eBay and the 99 Cent Only store.***)

Why does all this matter? Flowers are heavily sprayed with pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, often by poorly-paid workers, who may lack proper protective gear. Environmental standards of countries in Asia, South America and Africa, where many flowers are grown, may be weaker than those of the US, allowing pesticides that are banned in the US to be used. Then the flowers are shipped overnight to the US - can you say CARBON EMISSIONS? Flowers grown in the US will be subject to stricter environmental and labor standards, but require lots of energy for their heated greenhouses. Thus, buying organic flowers that flourish under local, seasonal conditions can reduce many of these environmental and social impacts.

Read more here and here.

The best bet is to buy locally grown organic flowers locally. But if that's not possible, California Organic Flowers will deliver directly to your door (yes, carbon emissions again - this is tricky business). Local Harvest can help you find local vendors of organic food and flowers. VeriFlora can help you find flowers that are certified as sustainably-grown.

* Because he knows that I care a lot more about aesthetics than he does.

**The VeriFlora Certified Sustainably Grown label ensures that your flowers are produced in a more environmentally- and socially-responsible manner.

*** Yes, they're from China. It's a tough thing, getting one's ethical, aesthetic, and economic values in line. Guilty of inconsistency and imperfection here.

Postscript: All this brought to you by my guilty green conscience, seeking to make amends for my new designer dress of unknown origin, that is probably not being produced in a very socially- or environmentally-responsible manner.


un-bride said...

I love this! Especially if we manage to keep part of our shindig in NorCal -- thanks!

Globetrottingbride said...

Wow, thanks for sharing. I had no idea. Oh and that bouquet is stunning!

elizabeth said...

I'm so glad this info can be useful to others! I didn't realize how toxic flowers could be until I got into the research - and now I'm surprised that there aren't more organic florists around. When you think about the amount of flowers used at an average wedding ceremony, that's quite a lot of toxic pesticides.

Broke-ass Bride said...

Thanks for the love! So happy to help :) Good luck!