Sustainability News August 2022: Funeral work - British Florist Association

Sustainability News August 2022: Funeral work

Our first Sustainable news feature is here! We plan to bring you the latest news you can rely on to be factual and informative, helping you to make the best decisions for your business and the planet. We will have new posts four times a year to give you a comprehensive overview of research, advancements, hints and tips. All of this brought to you via our sustainability officer, Julie Collins.


We are here to help shed some light on some of the tricky environmental issues we face as Florists today, and to demonstrate a few alternatives to help you all make more eco-conscious decisions in your everyday work. In this newsletter we will be focusing on funeral work after speaking with Julie Dunk, Chief Executive of the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management, who was very concerned about the amount of floral foam and plastics being left at cemeteries.

We’d like to start by saying that many of you are doing amazingly when it comes to sustainability within your businesses! We asked 30 florists about sustainability in their workplace and the main feedback we received was that people were doing what they could and would just like to know more. Generally finding time is the main issue.

With this in mind we have produced some BFA sustainable videos as a tool to help those of you wanting to find out how to make positive sustainable changes within your work. We have tried out all of the new floral foam alternatives so that you don’t have to. We’ve included plenty of tips and suggestions based on our observations, we hope these will be a huge help.

What is Sustainability?

Sustainability is both simple and complex. In simple terms we just need to be thoughtful and aware of how our actions affect the planet and people. Additionally, how the products we sell are disposed of at the end of their journey.

The complexity is looking at everything we buy from cars, water, electricity, products, flowers and foliage. Therefore working out how the whole chain affects the planet. From the source, i.e manufacture, growers and suppliers, to the customers. Understanding how they dispose of our products and making sure you leave no environmental impact.  

There is so much to share with you, but one step at a time is best, otherwise it can be overwhelming.

Design Mediums

One of the main things Julie came across during studies at Cambridge University on their ‘Sustainable Management Course’ was the amount of micro plastics that are produced by floral foam. We all know that little particles come off the block of floral foam when we soak it in water, but many do not know that they should not be emptied down the drain and into the water source. These micro plastics can have a harmful effect on micro life. It is also intriguing to learn about what the floral foam is made of; single use plastic. If you want to read more on this, there is a very interesting report from the ‘Sustainable Floristry Network’ which explains in full what Floral Foam is made of and the impact it has on the planet.

Floral Foam/ Bio Foam is plastic and has micro plastics which enter the water system if tipped down the drain.

Agra- Rock Wool is made from Basalt Rock. It is compostable (as has a compostable binder) but you do need to break it down and not put in as a whole block. Agra Wool International™  state “Should the material no longer be (re)used, it can be deposited in small pieces in the compost bin” with regards to Certification they state on their website “We have investigated the viability of achieving a claim of compostable or biodegradable, and for now it is not possible with this product.

The reason for this is that it does not completely dissolve, but Basalt sand remains. Compare it to cultivation or potting soil.  What remains is Basalt sand and that is a completely natural product which consists of 97% Basalt and 3 % Organic binder (sucrose).

We are still working on a few tests in laboratories and hope to get a quick conclusion and a quality mark”

FibreFloral™ Design Media from Smithers-Oasis is not compostable so it needs to be placed in landfill. OASIS® Floral Products have investigated the viability of achieving a claim of compostable or biodegradable, and it is not possible with this product. The natural fibres will crumble down to basalt dust, but basalt, being a rock, does not biodegrade.

Smithers-Oasis has produced this useful guide on their products to help you make informed choices and it is important to work with companies to change and create planet friendly florist supplies.

With regards to plastic containers these are ok as long as we reuse them. Let’s look at the model of a circular economy which involves sharing, reusing, repairing and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible. The result is that we extend the life of our products and help reduce waste.

Having power to change

In our everyday work as florists we are very conscious about our impact on the planet, but when it comes to funeral work, finding an alternative to foam can sometimes be challenging and costly. We hope our films will be helpful in showing you alternatives that you can offer your customers and share with your funeral directors.

The good news is that as buyers you also have ‘buying power’ and with purchasing more sustainable products you can increase the demand and production of more eco-friendly products. It would be far better for the planet if the only thing being left behind was a beautiful design that can biodegrade back into its natural state of soil, rather than having the long-lasting impacts of plastic.


We have worked with Jane Benefield from Moreton Morrell College, Tracy Rowbottom from FlowerVision Bristol and Tina Parkes from British Academy of Floral Art and made a variety of designs which we hope will inspire you. All of these can be used commercially and their longevity is explained.

4.5 ft Biodegradable tied sheaf

Julie Collins shows you how to construct a 4.5ft tied sheaf that has impact on a coffin.

Biodegradable double ended funeral spray

Jane Benefield creates a beautiful double ended funeral spray.

Wreath in Fibre Floral and Bio Base

Tina Parkes looks at Fibre Floral and how to make a more economical wreath ring, using a bio base.

The wreath still looking good on day 2!

Single ended spray in Oshunpouch

Tracy Rowbottom introduces the new Oshunpouch, what it is like to use and how it can be purchased.

Planted design in a Bio Base

Tina Parkes makes a planted wreath with a Bio base wreath frame

Please note: The base used for this design is ‘Basic Ring Tray Biodur’ available from Flower Vision Bristol and not an Oasis product. 

Biodegradable cross

Julie Collins, explores how to make a biodegradable cross.

Key points to think about

  • Can you reuse any of your plastics?
  • Can you open communication with your local funeral directors and positively influence your customers’ choices with what products you offer?
  • Can you reuse any water and keep micro plastic/ chemicals entering our water ways.  
  • Can you change your mediums and communicate with your customers about how to dispose of them? 

Informed decision making

Give customers the information on how to dispose of products and help them to understand their choices for future orders.

Use seasonal flowers, either locally grown or commercially grown.

Be transparent- be open and honest about your sustainable practices. Highlight where you do well to customers.

Think your designs through, from source to end of its life. Keep notes on the sustainability of the designs you make. You could see patterns where you can make small or large changes, helping you to become more planet friendly.

Contact us

If you have any hints, tips, mechanics or adaptions you have made and want to share them with us then get in touch by emailing

Our ongoing activities

Gathering and fact checking info is a longterm commitment from the BFA but we want you to know that we are constantly working on creating good links to bring you the best knowledge and latest sustainable news.
Coming up soon will be features and info on our conversations with:

  • Fairtrade 
  • Biocat
  • Fleurop
  • Education Board
  • Freddies Flowers
  • Shane Connolly
  • Waste recycling

We hope you’ll look forward to hearing about it all and find it useful so.. See you next time!

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