My decision to become a 'sustainable' florist was, in part, a reaction to reading Yvon Chouinard's Let My People Go Surfing, in which the author and owner of the Patagonia company shares his philosophies on uniting economic success with environmental responsibility, and proves companies can be successful at both. After reading the book, I felt inspired to make changes of my own. As I recalled the appalling waste which my small shop on the prairie produced, I knew there was endless room for improvement. The fast-paced days in a floral shop, however, are full of endless tasks to get flowers into the hands of brides, onto the tables of events, and on the caskets of the recently departed. The required pace made sustainability seem laughable at the time, or impossible. How could I figure out how to waste less water if I couldn't even figure out how to make time to eat my lunch? I'm no stranger to the many hats a sole-proprietor florist has to wear, all while trying to eek out a meager living on small profit margins. As the owner of a small floral shop in a prairie town, it took me the better part of five years to work my way toward an income I could even admit to, and even when asked I would usually tell others I made a 'teacher's salary'. The fact that is was more like an Arkansas teacher's salary was a detail that I kept to myself. After finally reaching a point where I was confident about my income as an entrepreneur, my husband and I uprooted our family from the prairie this spring, and moved to Eugene, OR. While I was sad to leave my 'child' (my shop) that I had nurtured from it's infancy, I was excited to start a new floral shop in the Pacific Northwest, and embark on a new path in the floral industry. This time, though, I decided to take a differerent pathway.
The move across the country gave me an opportunity for a fresh start with my floral career, and as I began planning my next floral shop, Foxbound Flowers, I became determined to make environmental responsibility a priority from the very beginning. It's easy to preach environmentalism while one is waiting for their business to take off, but much harder to practice when orders are coming in, flowers are flying off the shelves, and deadlines are looming. Building eco-consious practices in to the business model from the very beginning can help ensure that responsible systems are already in place when the time comes to rely on them.
In this blog, I've used the word 'sustainable' in quotes. I want to make it perfectly clear that I do not believe I am (yet) a 'sustainable' florist. In fact, eco-responsible would be more accurate, but this is not catchy, nor would anyone read a blog called the 'Responsible Florist'. Sustainability is the goal, and someday I hope that I can call myself a 'sustainable' florist without the quotation marks. It's a long road up ahead, and I'm only at the beginning.