Call for the florist industry to be more sustainable following Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show

Call for the florist industry to be more sustainable following Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show

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[Timestamp: 00:00:50]

Images supplied by Botany Florist.

During the mammoth pack down of the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show, Ellen Douglas from Botany Florist filmed the waste left over from just one display. That Instagram Reel has clocked over 129,000 views and sparked a lively discussion around the proper disposal of flowers and sundries.

“What I saw during bump out was something that's incredibly common in the industry; it’s nothing new. The use of non-recyclable materials like foam and single use plastics, and then getting confused about what goes in what bin and what the waste streams look like," says Ellen.

"None of that is a discovery; it's all something that I knew was happening already. I just thought it is a great opportunity to talk about it, in a nice open space, in the hopes that people see it and say, 'Oh, hang on a second, I do that. Maybe I shouldn't be doing that.' 

"That was the point of posting the reel and showing that it's happening and here's what we can do about it.”

Ellen says there is a lot of confusion around what constitutes as Green Waste, and believes it’s an area that her industry desperately needs to improve on. 

“The confusion comes because you're working with flowers. They do start out natural and biodegradable. The problem is when they're getting painted, spray painted or dyed, obviously paint is a plastic and if you're adding that to a biodegradable item, then it turns it into waste. 

“It’s taking something that's natural and should go in the green waste. But once you add paint, it needs to go into landfill.”

A florist for 14 years, Ellen is passionate about making her industry more sustainable. However she points out that change is slow and challenging when there is a lack of training and support in the floristry industry. 

“It’s sort of hard for florists to educate themselves because we don't have industry get togethers, we don't kind of have anywhere that you would find that information unless you were looking for it or unless someone came and told you. 

"It is a little bit hard for us to kind of educate ourselves around these things, and that's why I thought there is value in sharing these kinds of examples in such an open platform.

“Social media is the fastest way to reach people these days. So if you put it out on a platform like that, someone can see it and say, 'I didn't know that needed to go into landfill. Now I know.’ And once you know, you can change your practices."

The Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show states on its website that it’s making a conscious effort to move towards a more sustainable event. However hidden under the beauty was excessive waste including floral foam which cannot be reused or recovered in the recycling stream. The comments on Ellen’s video is evidence that florists are keen to improve their practices. 

“When you read the post, it's about the waste of our industry and learning about correct waste streams. Yes, I got the footage at the Melbourne Flower Garden Show, but it's an example of something that's so commonplace. 

“I’m really proud of people for having a constructive conversation around it. A few of the comments said that it's terrible. But the people that actually took the time to write something like, 'Yes I struggle with this too. Yes, we do need to do something about it.” 

Ellen says the industry produce a similar pile of floral foam at events and weddings every weekend. She urges consumers to have the conversation with their florist and ask for more sustainable options.

“If sustainability and reducing waste is something that's important to a couple, then they can ask their florist if they can work with them to try and make the wedding as waste free as possible. Even if you have a florist that does use foam, questions like, 'Can you do our wedding without foam?', I'm sure any florist would be happy to work with you and do that.”

Ellen teamed up with fellow advocates for locally grown flowers, Grown Not Flown, to create a display in celebration of Victorian grown and seasonal flowers. Their foam free floral design at the flower and garden show won Bronze. 

Ellen says the show provides an opportunity for the industry to teach the public about local vs imported flowers with around 50% of the flowers sold in Australia grown overseas

“The Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show is the biggest show of its kind in Australia. It's the most public facing event that we have for our industry. To be able to put locally grown and seasonal flowers on display like that and create a design that taught the public about local versus imported flowers was so important. 

“It was such a great opportunity to start that conversation about when I buy flowers, what am I buying? Where do they come from? Is it important to me? What do seasonal flowers look like? I think it was a really good opportunity to do that." 

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