For those of you not in the floral industry, you're probably like what does "Foam Free" even mean? Let me give you some background here.
What is Floral Foam?
Floral Foam is a spongy green plastic foam used in flower arranging. It soaks up water like a sponge and acts both as a preservative to prolong the life of the flowers and a support to hold them in place. It is used as an anchor for the flowers' stems and allows florist to create larger arrangements and provide the flowers a water source when there isn't a vessels, like in an arch. When creating arrangements for a wedding foam also helps make it easier to transport them without all the flowers shifting, water sloshing around, and allows you to make them in advance instead of on site.
Why Give it up?
So why give it up you ask? While it is helpful, it is also very harmful to the environment and my or other designers' health. Floral foam contains toxic elements, including formaldehyde, barium sulfates and carbon black. These elements are carcinogenic, and prolonged exposure may cause cancer. Florists who come into repeated contact with floral foam are at the highest risk of side effects. Floral foam also does not biodegrade so if you're soaking it in a sink or a bucket and then pouring the water down a drain all the little bits go straight into our oceans and at the end of an event the larger blocks go into the trash and into the landfills to sit for 100s of years.
Ok, so it's nasty stuff, but what will you use instead?
After doing all the research and seeing how truly bad it is for the environment, I decided this would be the year I would go foam free and really try to make my business more sustainable and eco friendly. I spent the last year learning from several florist who have given up foam, working with them to learn the proper mechanics to use instead of foam to still be able to create beautiful flowers for my clients. At first I was nervous, but then I realized there's really no need to be dependent on foam. All the reasons I listed above of why it is helpful, I now have non foam solutions for.
What are my main mechanics now? Chicken wire!
...and pin frogs, water tubes, etc. (Please see my Blog on Floral Tools and Supplies for more information on how to purchase your own)
Instead of using a block of foam in my centerpieces, I now make a chicken wire pillow of sorts, instead of blocks of foam for arches, chicken wire rolls, instead of foam as a water source, water tubes, etc. Chicken wire is the solution to everything. It gives the flowers support and allows you to weave a web with the stems to create extra support so that things stay put. If you're working with daintier stems a pin frog adds additional support as well.
The shift from foam to chicken wire has been very easy, and I'm excited it's a way to be more environmentally friendly. It's also has had some big design perks! I now see foam as frigid, when you place a stem it stays exactly as you place it, you cannot keep moving it or the foam will break down on you, but with chicken wire you're able to move the flower around, twist or turn it to fit the arrangement how you like. It gives it a much more free flowing and ethereal look.
The big difference with transporting?
This one was one of my biggest concerns that the flowers would shift so much I'd have to rework them all on site, or that the water would splash out all over my car. But using a mix of chicken wire and pin frogs really does keep the flowers in place. And when transporting, the arrangements are placed into large Tupperwares so that if they slosh the water is still contained and then just top them off with water when we arrive at the event to make sure there is plenty of water for them to drink.
In my next few blogs I'll show how I design with chicken wire so you can see first hand that the change has been a positive one!