When a loved one passes away, many of us typically send a beautiful bunch of flowers (also known as funeral flowers) as a condolence gift. Elaborate wreaths and bouquets are also commonly present during both regular and green funeral services, as they create a background of warmth, nature and beauty, and leave a lasting impression.
However, what you may not realise, is that the floral industry isn’t immune from unnatural products and man-made processes. A surprisingly large number of toxic ingredients go into growing some flowers, plus the products used to arrange and wrap flowers are often non degradable. Furthermore, the fuel used in the transport of flowers also increases their overall eco-footprint.
Reducing the eco footprint of funeral flowers
One measure to reduce the eco-footprint of floral arrangements is to request only local flowers and foliage. Whilst many turn to their local florists to create wreaths and bouquets, it doesn't necessarily mean the flowers are grown nearby. Many florists order flowers from all over the globe because they aren't in season or can’t be grown locally.
Also, whilst brightly coloured flowers can add joy to a funeral arrangement, it's worth asking your local florist if the flowers are coloured with artificial dyes as this can leach into the environment later on down the track.
Requesting organic flowers is another step that can be taken to reduce the environmental load of funeral flowers. Organic flowers, just like organic fruit and vegetables, support a change in the farming industry that’s aimed at reducing the use of pesticides that make their way into our air and water. Also, you may not realise that some plants actually break down and become beneficial for the soil more easily than others.
Another point to take into consideration are water additives. Floral arrangements have been known to contain surprising ingredients in their water including aspirin, bleach and man-made flower foods.
Floral arrangement alternatives
When sending family or friends a condolence gift, you could consider sending a potted plant instead.
Another option is to plant a tree in honour of the deceased. Check with your local park to see if they have a memorial tree program. You may be able to select the type of tree to be planted and have a memorial plaque made in remembrance of the deceased. Also, If your loved one plans to be buried in a green cemetery, you may have the option of growing native plants at the grave site.
Skip the flowers entirely
If you’ve made the eco-friendly decision to exclude flowers from your funeral service or that of your loved one, perhaps consider asking for something else 'in lieu of flowers'. Instead of spending money on floral arrangements, you could ask for donations to a charity of your choice. That way, friends and family can still do something to comfort the bereaved as well honour the legacy of the person who has passed away.
Even if you decide against a specific request, there's nothing stopping family and friends from sending an alternative to a floral arrangement. Some ideas include a self-care voucher for a person in mourning or something practical like taking them a few meals or some shopping. It's these small gestures of friendship that can make all the difference during challenging times.