I'm so excited to share this snap shot into the sustainable floristry journey of Renee Harris, owner and floral stylist of One Poppy Wedding Flowers in Auckland, New Zealand.
I met Renee last year, on Instagram, and instantly connected over all things sustainable floristry. Her work is gorgeous and she's all about working in line with nature's natural rhythm. She is definitely your go-to for sustainable and luxurious wedding florals in and around the Auckland area.
My journey as a sustainable florist didn’t really start until I went to Kate Mead’s Waste Free Parenting workshop for the first time. Which sounds a bit random. There was obviously a lot on parenting waste and cloth nappies (which we use and LOVE - I could write a whole piece on those), but also the stats on our landfill and recycling situation (abysmal btw).
At this workshop I was embarrassed to discover that I was not doing nearly enough to be sustainable and (wait for it) …recycling WRONG. If recycling is contaminated in any way, it will go to landfill because it is HAND SORTED. Employees do not have time to rinse out what we chose to buy; it is our responsibility as consumers to dispose of it responsibly. I was horrified – here I am thinking I’m a clean green kiwi because I compost, and I’m sending recyclables to landfill. I HATE rinsing the recycling, but I now do it for the greater good.
What happened though as a result of hating dealing with our recycling was really looking into not having anything to recycle ie- choosing items with little or no packaging. I saw our waste diminish. We have always had compost and bokashi bins so our food and green waste and a lot of paper packaging was already going into these, but instead of putting a nearly full wheelie bin out of waste every week, we now easily go 4-6 weeks in between pick ups.
We have used reusable coffee cups for years, but suddenly straws, single-use containers and plastic bags were blindingly obvious wastes (and not only add to landfill but are so detrimental to life on earth should they escape landfill and end up in our environment.)
I have been in the floristry industry since my after-school job at 16. Along the way I’ve attempted furniture design at uni and had stints travelling – working office jobs in London and as a cook in chalets and on super yachts all over the world, but this mostly made me yearn for a more wholesome life and the creativity and beauty of flowers. I kept returning to floristry.
So to suddenly look at an industry I’ve been involved with for so long, as wasteful and carcinogenic left me feeling sad and mortified and a bit plonker-ish that I hadn’t seen it before. Specialising in weddings just made it even more apparent – for your average wedding there is a massive amount of waste.
There’s leftover food, decorations, stationery and the floral arrangements with their wire, tape and carcinogenic floral foam. A lot of these can be recycled or reused, on sold or gifted, but more often than not they are thrown in a black sack at the end of the night and put in the rubbish to head to landfill. I’ve seen it plenty of times over the years. Remembering just how many times I’ve seen this and done nothing made me feel sad and a bit sick.
I then set about adapting traditional florist methods and pieces to be more sustainable by firstly not using imported flowers (=carbon miles, nasty preservatives and no guarantee that workers are treated fairly) and staying away from any single use items or non biodegradable items such as tape and floral foam. Wire for support or structure only used when I know I will be the one packing down/collecting and able to re-use that wire.
The lack of sustainability in the industry bothered me so much that I couldn’t operate that way at all anymore and I made sustainability a building block of my floral business. By declaring it publicly I was also keeping myself to task because now there were people holding me accountable.
It has been challenging to rethink the logistics and mechanics required to make sure the pieces are still strong and secure as well as beautiful.
I’ve spent countless hours cornering my husband to show me the perfect knot for the job or brainstorming the logistics of securing flowers to a floral crown without wire and tape. He’d never admit it but he loves a good floral challenge as much as I do.
I have connected with such an amazing group of people on social media, I feel like I’m surrounded by like minded people and supporters who keep me on the straight and narrow, inspire me and keep me motivated to do better. Yes there has been the occasional hater, but haters gonna hate right? Last month it was my turn, and sadly I’m sure there will be more instances to come.
I’ve had some interesting, if I’m honest, mostly awkward conversations with suppliers or growers where I’m trying to explain why I need something done a different way and if they’d be on board with it. Some of those conversations still make me cringe. But then I remember how crazy people thought we were to use reusable coffee cups in cafes before it was common. They might come around.
And in saying that, due to some of those conversations, I have had some surprising and exciting wins. Our local rose grower has agreed to reuse and recycle all plastic flower sleeves and boxes/packaging so I leave these with them before I take the flowers, and I have connected with some truly amazing people providing ethical and sustainable materials such as recycled sari silk ribbon and stationery with seeds imbedded into the paper, Being sustainable feels so damn good and is still so beautiful.
Our 3 year old daughter spouts off things like “Plastic bags are NOT good for the planet ...and NOT good for turtles” in the supermarket check out line and in the café she will whisper (at the top of her voice): “MUMMY…. That lady has a PLASTIC STRAW”. I love that what we are doing is going in and that she is also keeping me on track, reminding me of what’s important. All this waste and the state of the planet is not something my generation will have to deal with, it will be her’s.
Follow along the Renee's floral journey, as she shakes up the way wedding flowers are sustainably designed in Auckland: