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The Impact of Floral Foam on Our Environment and Suggested Green Alternatives

Wondering if floral foam really is bad for the environment?

The short answer is YES.

As sustainable florists, we know just HOW damaging floral foam is - that's why we never use it.

And we're passionate about spreading the message of its detrimental effects on the planet, people and animals so that you can opt for greener alternatives if presented with the choice.

Unfortunately, floral foam is an often too commonplace practice for many florists.

If your florist uses floral foam, and you care about the health of the planet and everything living on it, it's a red flag to go spend your money elsewhere with a more responsible company.

To Summarise:

- Floral foam is a single-use plastic that has as much plastic content as 10 carrier bags.

- Using floral foam damages the planet and the health of wildlife.

- Sustainable floristry has no place for floral foam, including Bio Floral Foam.

- There are green alternatives to floral foam that protect the planet and human/animal well-being.

How Floral Foam Impacts the Planet

1. What is Floral Foam?

You may have seen this type of foam used in creating floral displays.

The dense, lightweight, and porous product was invented in 1954 by the Smithers-Oasis company.

Since then, it has been popular with professional florists and amateur flower enthusiasts.

They use foam to support cut flowers.

The floral foam also holds water which helps to keep the flowers fresh.
Floral foam is also pH balanced.

This means flowers are maintained in an environment that has optimum acidity levels.

So they last as long as possible.
This may all sound pretty good, and for many years people thought it was.

That was until facts emerged about the damage this product could cause.

Its toxicity and inability to decompose efficiently are major issues that can't be ignored.

We're passionate about this as we strive to show people how flowers and plants should benefit the world around us, not damage it.

Have a look at this journal entry as an example of the information we provide in this area.

"NASA Study Reveals Best Air-Cleaning Plants For Your Home"

And continue reading to discover the full truth about floral foam and its dangers.

2. How Does Floral Foam Work?

To fully understand floral foam, it's important to know how it works.

If you look at the structure of the product, it has a honeycomb-like appearance.

Water moves through the material by using the spaces between the connected chambers.
This water system travels through floral foam similarly to how water travels through a flower stem.

When a stem is cut from a plant and placed in water, the water enters the stem where the cut has been made.

It's then drawn up through the stem as evaporation occurs on the surface of the flowers and the stem.

If water is not drawn up, the cut flower wilts.
Floral foam acts as an extension to the stem.

So, water is drawn up through the foam first.

It holds water well, so there's a good supply of water for the stem and the flower.

The system works well, but the damage caused by floral foam outweighs this.

3. What is Wrong with Floral Foam?

This type of foam looks like a natural product.

It's green in colour and feels a little like moss to the touch.

So, it's easy to assume it's a good thing to use especially given the positive attributes we mentioned earlier.

But this couldn't be further from the truth.

Floral foam is plastic.

It's not the same type of plastic that's found in packaging; it's more similar to insulation foam.

But, it contains the same amount of plastic as 10 plastic carrier bags.

And it's just as damaging to the environment.

So, it's definitely not a good idea to use it.

And that's not all...
Floral foam is made from carbon black, formaldehyde, and phenolic foam.

This is a toxic combination of components.
Finally, although this product does crumble easily, it doesn't fully dissolve or degrade.

It breaks down into tiny pieces known as microplastics.

This brings us to a question that people often ask...

Is floral foam biodegradable?

It may seem like this florist accessory would easily decompose because it so easily pulls apart.

Unfortunately, this isn't the case.

It's a plastic material that degrades with light, heat, and friction.

But this simply breaks it down into microplastics that are smaller than five millimetres.

These microplastics take thousands of years to decompose completely.

In the meantime, they're easily spread, polluting water sources, killing wildlife, and ultimately damaging human health as they enter water systems and the food chain.

Once you start to see the full picture, you begin to understand just how much damage can be done by using this foam for floristry.

What is Bio Floral Foam?

You may have heard people talking about Bio Floral Foam which is said to have increased levels of biodegradability.

It contains an additive that attracts microbes.

The manufacturer says this additive makes it easier for the product to biodegrade.

The problem is that this means this type of foam turns into microplastics more quickly, making it even more dangerous.

In recognition of the dangers they cause, this fragmentable, ‘biodegradable’ plastics will be banned in Australia this year.

That's not all...

Despite all the claims attached to it, Bio Floral Foam doesn't meet US Federal Trade Commission biodegradability requirements or the European EN 13432 standard for biodegradability.

4. Is Floral Foam Toxic?

The elements that come together to make floral foam have levels of toxicity individually.

They include formaldehyde, barium sulfates, and carbon black.

Bring them together, and it's obvious that this material is toxic.
If you're exposed to this type of foam, you can suffer from irritation to your eyes, skin, and respiratory tract.

This is especially likely if you inhale dust or fumes whiles using the product.

Heads up...

Frequent exposure to formaldehyde can cause the skin to become hypersensitive, leading to contact dermatitis.

This leads us to another frequently asked question.

Is floral foam safe to touch?

Touching this product occasionally is unlikely to cause any damage.

However, it contains formaldehyde which we've already mentioned can cause contact dermatitis with frequent exposure.

This is not a pleasant condition to experience.

It causes itchy, dry, scaly, and cracked skin.

It can also lead to bumps and blisters.
Image credit:

Is floral foam carcinogenic?

Formaldehyde doesn't just cause skin issues.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified it as a probable human carcinogen.

And several studies have found that prolonged exposure to formaldehyde is associated with certain forms of cancer.

However, it's important to put these facts into perspective.

It's unlikely that arranging flowers with exposure to a relatively low level of formaldehyde would increase your chances of getting cancer.

5. Is Floral Foam Banned?

Although floral foam damages the planet, professional floral designers and amateurs can still use it.

There's no ban in place.

But that isn't the full story.

Some organisations are recognising the dangers of the microplastics that floral foam creates.
In January 2020, the Royal Horticultural Society announced it was banning the product.

So, since 2023, it hasn't been used in RHS shows.

This means that designers, including those participating at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, have had to find alternative methods for creating their displays.

This ban is good news for the floristry and garden design industries as it means eco-friendly products and techniques are being trialled.
The RHS may soon be joined by the Church of England in banning the use of foam in floristry.

The Church is facing pressure to ban the use of the product for funeral flowers.

However, this is yet to happen.

Whether more bans happen or not, sustainable florists like Blooming Haus choose not to use floral foam when creating floral displays.

There are other methods to use that are far more eco-friendly and do not diminish the appearance of the end product.

6. Suggested Green Alternatives to Floral Foam

As professional luxury florists who avoid using floral foam, we have tips and ideas for alternatives that we're happy to share.

As a starting point, a good way to prolong the life of a floral display without the water-retaining qualities of foam is to retrim the flowers and change the water regularly.

Water should be changed every 2-3 days.

Before placing the flowers back into the water, their stems should be trimmed by about half an inch using sharp scissors.

Trimming in this way exposes fresh tissue and allows the flowers to take in water more easily.

Claims have been made about foam extending the life of flowers.

However, at least one study has shown that cut roses last longer in a vase of water than in floral foam.

Recommended flower food can also help to prolong the life of fresh flowers.
Floral foam offers the added function of holding the stem in place.

When it comes to finding a replacement for the floral foam to provide structure to a display, there are a few different options that are popular with florists.

Natural items such as pebbles, clay, sand, gravel, and moss support flowers.

They also add interest to a display.

Flowers can even be placed amidst fruit to provide support and create a unique visual experience.

Using a flower frog is also a good option.

These devices are made from metal or glass and sit inside a bowl or vase.

They secure the stems of flowers by using pins or holes.

They're reusable and durable, making them eco-friendly.

Flower frogs have traditionally been used in ikebana, a Japanese floral design.

But, now they're used more widely in all types of floral design activities
Other materials, such as chicken wire and metal pins, are also useful for keeping flowers in place.

And we love using natural items like pliable twigs.

They create firm lattice structures to secure floral displays and can also be integrated into the display to create texture and depth.

7. Floral Creations from a Sustainable Floral Designer

Looking for a luxury florist that creates bouquets and displays using sustainable practices?

The team at Blooming Haus is dedicated to eco-friendly design that produces stunning results without damaging the planet.

Our sustainable methods are not limited to avoiding the use of floral foam.

They're an integral part of everything we do.
Flowers by Blooming Haus
Other sustainable practices we use include:

- Using green forms of energy to power our studio.
- Compositing our organic waste rather than sending it to landfill.
- Avoiding the use of materials that cannot be composted.
- Reusing flower buckets and delivery packaging.
- Recycling packaging where possible.
- Sourcing flowers from local suppliers whenever possible in order to limit our carbon footprint.
- Using probiotic cleaning products when we can.

We also partner with other like-minded businesses.

For example, we've recently started working with Quiver for our deliveries in London.

It's a fabulous new company that uses bikes and e-vehicles to provide a green delivery service.

Quiver even measures emissions for each delivery, so clients know the carbon emissions they're saving.

We love this aspect of their service because it gives us the opportunity to see the positive effect on our deliveries.

That's not all...

For every commercial or wedding floral design project we complete, we arrange for a tree to be planted.

So, our clients help the environment, and they get stunning results for their investment.

It's a win-win situation.
Flowers by Blooming Haus
Take a look at our online shop for a selection of stunning eco-friendly floral displays.

We'd also love to talk to you if you're looking for sustainable floristry for your corporate event or wedding.

We'll give you the results you're looking for in a manner that's dedicated to protecting the world around us.

Have questions about floral foam and the environment?

Have anything to ask about the dangers of floral foam to the planet?

Pop your question in the comments, and we'll take a look.

We'd also love to hear your comments and suggestions about sustainable floristry practices.

We look forward to hearing from you.

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