Green America: Growing the Green Economy for People and the Planet



ABOVE: Lynn Mehl, eco-florist,
with Willow

Good Old Days Eco-Florist
New Windsor, NY

The Eco-Florist/Green Event Strategist

How It Began

What started in 2001, after 15 years in business, as an innocent quest for the “no longer ” American Beauty rose, became more than I ever anticipated.  I found out that the floral industry had evolved to 70 percent imported flowers (now 90 percent) and almost 100 percent imported gifts and goods with almost nothing US-made, earth- friendly, or biodegradable.  As a passionate ecologist, I was ashamed for my industry and devastated at my blind contribution.  I knew I had to try to change it… or my career.  

What I Did
Fourteen years ago I went up against a billion-dollar international industry with overwhelming changes to tackle and expose and it wasn’t easy. A sustainable and green florist model had to be both profitable and not disrupt consumer expectation.  I looked at every aspect of what a florist does and uses daily, substituting all unsustainable practices with a new method, or discontinuing its use or practice.   After locating the few US flower farms left who could supply me with daily stock, I then resurrected design methods and mechanics of the past, moving away from the toxic foams and plastics.
Then to the business side: from energy offsets to water, to office/cleaning, packaging, recycling, hard goods and giftware.   It took over five years of tenacity creating what I coined the first “Eco Florist” to bring awareness and make a real difference. Among other things  I:
*Instituted my "Green Floristry" techniques
*Created a “Recycle Rewards Program”
*Started a “Community Fundraising” initiative
*Designed a “Flowers For A Cause” ecommerce to benefit various foundations    

The Celebration Event & Media Giant
Celebrity event planners and designers with big manufacturers of décor goods are the force propelling the endless landfill of the latest foam shapes, plastics, fabric, candles, containers, and more.  These items are all imported, designed for one-time use, and none earth-friendly.  Floral foam works just once, and is used by caseload every day worldwide.  The foam used at our parents 1964' wedding is still in the soil -- it never biodegrades.  Event décor is one of the largest contributors to environmental damage yet somehow overlooked and unregulated.  Whether the Rose Bowl Parade or a small birthday party, almost all use imported flowers, unsustainable components, glues, and plastics. Events are basically the operations of a daily florist, just hugely magnified. Less than three percent of all events are eco-minded, so educating and pleasing the host or event committee, no matter how large the affair, is paramount.   Events are a show and green must enhance, not interfere. There are many small details but the Big 6 strategies of my green events are:  

#1: Using strictly American, quality flowers which are now ironically the best,  and do not come with the chemical, social, or environmental issues.  Health and patriotism appeal to everyone brown or green.

#2: Creativity by using green design mechanics that won’t compromise style.  Upscale corporate events and weddings would love ten arrangements of US, calla lilies creatively designed; 20 mason jars of wildflowers they do not.

#3: Saving money and giving green status by using more quality, earth-minded products.  Making a client happy and making the event look good are the keys, as most green events have the stigma of "doing without" and "costing more." By explaining the cost of one-time use items, waste of foams/foam core, paints, glues, etc.  clients see multiple worth and green promotion for their event, which is huge marketing today.

#4: Value of second use by redesigning the event components for their corporate offices and homes after, or a future event.   And alternatively, by donating leftover goods to any  charity for a tax incentive;  both a financial value.

#5: Renting or up-cycling props created from something else is especially effective as props are a huge part of large scale events.   

#6: Delivery packing is nearly as large as the décor waste.  Boxes, egg crate, paper, wood, peanuts are forever needed; always ending in the site dumpsters.  I keep 1 storage just to stockpile materials after delivery for reuse; a sizable savings for our resources and the event.  

The changes I instituted can work for all clients.  CEO or bride, green minded or not, the ‘feel good-look good’ promotion appeals to all.  I proved that events, occasions, and holidays really don’t have to cost the planet, and my mission is to help transform and expose the industry issues.  This wonderful award would give even more validation to my methods and fund my continued travel to educate that Green Floristry is an important solution to event décor and that it does work.