Floral Foam 101
As you research your wedding flowers you may have come across the words floral foam. There are a lot of opinions in the floral industry about this product. So let’s make sense of what floral foam is, why it’s used, and why using it is not a good idea.
What is Floral Foam?
You may be familiar with green bricks of crushable, yet water-holding, foam at the craft store in the floral department. This “wet” floral foam holds a significant amount of water, and it’s interior structure mimics the stem structure of a bloom. Florists across the globe use product to create arrangements of all shapes and sizes. It is made from phenol-formaldehyde (which is created when phenol reacts with formaldehyde).
Why Do Florists Use Floral Foam?
Floral foam is what florists call a “mechanic” and it both supports the stems of the flowers and allows them to drink – all while preventing water spills since the water is contained by the foam.
There are lots of reasons why florists choose to use it: It comes in all shapes and sizes and can be attached to pretty much anything; it makes floral design quick and convenient; it’s been around forever; it allows florists to create arrangements without large quantities of open water to support stems.
Some florists believe it lends professionalism to their designs by eliminating large water spills.
Why Shouldn’t florists Use Floral Foam?
Here at Rose and Laurel we DO NOT use foam for several reasons. First, it is a single-use micro plastic, and one that made with chemicals that are wildly known to cause cancer.
After using foam ONCE at the beginning of my career, there was so much green dust present that I was coughing for days afterwards.
I don’t want it anywhere near me, my family, or my clients.
As a single-use micro-plastic, foam is essentially formaldehyde-soaked glitter. Florists have been known to pour water with foam down the drain, or incorrectly assume because it’s green in color that it can be thrown in the compost.
Ultimately, floral foam is a pollutant, harmful at all stages of its life cycle: from The florists who design with it, the consumer who disposes it, and the planet that is left with the aftermath.
What does “Foam-Free Florist” Mean?
Simply put, being a foam-free florist means we don’t use foam. Hard stop.
We don’t dabble with “bio-foam,” and we don’t use it “because we just HAD TO this one time” because the client wanted a particular design.
Instead, we use mechanics that support our stems, made of natural or compostable under household composting conditions!
The floral industry has come out with many foam alternatives, and we approach each with a heavy level of research before we deem an alternative worthy of testing in the studio.
Sustainability of the product is a concern, and we are always wary of marketing efforts that tout “biodegradable” product as part of sustainability-focused marketing efforts. It is important to note that biodegradable and compostable are two very different things. We choose the later, because what is better than naturally composting material in your own backyard?
How do I find a Foam-Free Florist?
It is important to note that being a “foam-free” florist is not a regulated term, and each florist may have a different definition of what foam-free means to them.
For example, one florist may say they don’t use traditional floral foam, but uses a bio foam alternative. Marketing terms like “biodegradable” open a whole additional can of worms, as most of these products are biodegradable but only under simulated conditions that rarely, if ever, exist in Nature.
It is best to ask your florist, what is in the vase? The answer should be clean water, perhaps a mechanic such as branches, or chicken wire to hold the stems. Or perhaps a compostable mechanic such as moss, excelsior, or coir. If the florist refuses to answer, they are not the florist for you.
The best way to find a foam free florist is to read their website, and follow up with questions about their commitment to their sustainability promises made on their site.
What is the future of floral Foam?
Starting in 2021, the Royal Horticultural Society has banned the use of floral foam. This is an encouraging development in moving the floral industry towards more sustainable practices. But, ultimately it will be up to florists to voluntarily stop using foam, and tell our clients why!
A lot of florists are afraid to give up foam, but IT IS possible to design everything, even over-the-top arches and installations without foam!
This arch was created without foam, and even the most delicate blooms had a water source on this hot July day.
If the environment is important to you and you want your wedding day to be designed as sustainably as possible, you have come to the right place!
Here at Rose and Laurel, we do not use floral foam, and all our flowers are designed in a way that is compostable, reusable, or recyclable.
More Resources on Floral Foam
Additional Academic and Technical Resources
Floral Foam adds to Microplastic Pollution Problem: Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology
ASTM D5511-18 Biodegradable Testing Standard