SFN Design and Business Principles

The Sustainable Floristry Network has developed four principles to guide florists toward a sustainable practice.

  1. Choose better flowers

  2. Design out waste

  3. Invest in ethics

  4. Communicate with community

1. Choose better flowers

Sustainable floristry objectives

  • Use local, seasonal, field-grown flowers wherever possible to minimise floristry’s carbon footprints.
  • Support flower farms investing in sustainable and regenerative farming methods to preserve biodiversity and enrich local ecosystem health.
  • Use certifications to support sustainable and fair work practices throughout supply chains.
  • Nurture a nature-positive connection between people and flowers to enrich the human-nature relationship.
  • Use sustainably-sourced native species to promote local eco-system awareness and connect people with local flora.


To buy locally-grown, seasonal flowers:

Learn what ‘seasonal’ means for you.

Learn about individual species’ flowering cycles. Research the climate-suitable varieties for your area and supply channels. Learn to spot what’s likely – or unlikely – to be local.

Ask wholesalers where their flowers come from.

It can be difficult to identify the origins of your flowers. Ask questions about your flowers: Where do they come from? How are they flowers are grown?

Make a conscious decision to seek out more sustainable flower choices.

Faced with decisions between different varieties at the point of wholesale purchase, use your knowledge to make a better choice.


Support flower farms using sustainable and regenerative farming methods:

Support local flower farmers.

Discover your local growers, learn what they grow and support their products. Farm open days and tours are a great way to deepen your understanding of flower farming.

Find out how your flowers were transported to you if not local.

Consider the carbon footprint of transport. Support lower emission transport options like sea freight for imported flowers.

Support growers associated with the Slow Flower Movement.

The Slow Flowers movement promotes local, seasonal and sustainably-grown flowers and advocates for transparent origin labelling on floral products.


Use certifications:

Check the labels.

If you are buying imported flowers, look for varieties with a level of certification. Keep the Sustainable Cut Flowers Project Guide handy when buying imported flowers to identify what the different certification schemes measure.

Research farms.

A quick internet search in a wholesaler’s coolroom can quickly bring up a farm’s website. Learn about the farm, where it is located and how it operates.

Consider the price.

If imported flowers are particularly cheap, or the provenance is unknown, then consider whether buying the flowers is a good idea. Ask questions: Could modern slavery be part of the supply chain? Does the country of origin have reliable regulation?

Consider your own priorities.

Understanding what the main certifications represent helps us when we want to align our personal values with the aims of the certification.


Nurture a nature-positive connection between people and flowers:

Showcase designs featuring locally-grown, seasonal flowers. 

Celebrate what’s in season locally by sharing your designs in-store, on social media, or wherever you advertise your designs. Show your customers creative possibilities. Explain which flowers are in season, have come from local farms or are native to the local area.

Celebrate foliage.

Make the most of the ‘houseplant effect’. Creatively use foliage to connect people with nature, not just flowers.  Bringing the ‘outside in’ can mean unusual sticks, striking branches and interesting foliage.

Embrace imperfection.

An imperfect structure can add character and interest to an arrangement. Nature is not perfect and imperfection can bring us closer to a genuine relationship.

Design weddings and events around seasonal flowers.

Become familiar with what is in season in your climate zone before any consultations about events like weddings. Use photos and moodboards to communicate creative ideas.


To use sustainably-sourced native species:

Discover what healthy biodiversity means where you live.

Experiment with flowering plants that occur naturally to your area. Consider them in the context of local biodiversity. What plants do they co-exist with? What animals and insects do they feed? Local and regional governments can be a wealth of information, as can local nature groups.

Always ask permission before harvesting plant material.

Harvesting or ’foraging’ from nature reserves and public land can damage the local ecosystem and is often illegal. It is important to always seek permission before cutting or foraging for materials on any land.

Avoid using invasive species.

Invasive species can have a destructive impact on local biodiversity. Stopping the spread of undesirable and damaging species is critically important. Learn about weeds of significance in your area, avoid these in floral design and ensure any propagatable plant material does not escape into the natural environment.


2. Design out waste

Sustainable floristry objectives

  • Design out waste in floral design to support the transition to a circular economy.
  • Use the zero-waste hierarchy as a guide to make better decisions about products and sundries.
  • Reduce dependence on plastics to help tackle the plastic pollution crisis.
  • Guide consumers to better choices to make it easier for them to manage materials at the end of life.
  • Engage with your local community to share and conserve resources and keep manufactured products in circulation.


To design out waste:

Make flowers the hero, not accessories. 

Celebrate flowers. Cheap teddy bears, balloons and manufactured accessories may have a very short life before they end in landfill.

Ask questions about each non-compostable element in your design.

  • What purpose is this serving? Do I really need it?
  • What is it made from? Was it sustainably produced?
  • After the arrangement is over, can it (and will it) be reused?
  • Can it be recycled easily with household/domestic recycling?
  • Is it likely to end up in landfill?
  • Is there a more sustainable alternative?

Reduce your use of virgin resources.

  • Reconsider the need for new products.
  • Invest in items for re-use – such as a practical range of vessels for events.
  • Repurpose and share. Look for second-hand and share/hire bigger investment items like event props with other florists.
  • Be creative in utilising what has already been manufactured. Create unique gift ties from repurposed fabric strips. Use plastics in circulation such as plastic flower sleeves/ food packaging plastics to waterproof gift-wraps. Use glassware from other packaging creatively.

Simplify materials to increase the likelihood of resource recovery.

Once you’ve decided on the elements that will feature in your design, make sure they can be easily separated. A bouquet or arrangement in a vessel of water, with a natural fibre, can easily be separated into composting (for flowers) and reuse for the vessels.


Use the zero-waste hierarchy

Think before you buy.

The best way to avoid waste is to avoid creating a demand for manufactured items. Ask yourself if you really need an item, or an existing item could perform the same function.

Read the labels. 

Check to see what products are made from – are there mixed materials that could be hard to separate? Look for certifications, like FSC certification for paper. Check the recycling stamp.

Consider domestic waste management systems.

Find out the capabilities of your local recycling systems. Check plastics for recycling symbols and whether kerbside collection can support these products. Consider tin and glass containers to encourage reuse and ease of recycling.


Reduce dependence on plastic:

Do not use floral foam. 

Master the arts of hand-tied bouquet making and in-vessel arranging. Both these skills are at the foundation of sustainable floral design and do not require the use of manufactured materials, other than a vase.

Experiment with floral foam alternatives.

No floral foam alternative is perfect, and each has positives and negatives. Discover which alternative works best for different designs.

Avoid all other single-use plastics where possible. 

This includes plastic bags, plastic tape, plastic wraps, card skewers, rose cylinders, base trays and guards, hydration tools such as plastic tubes for gift wraps, plastic/nylon ribbons and balloons.

Avoid the need to produce more plastic.

Repurpose and reuse wherever possible – think about giving items ‘a second life’. Food containers (plastic & glass) can be reused for short-term hydration in gift boxes or gift-wrapped in paper.  Encourage return-to-store.

When you must use plastic, use easily recyclable plastic.

Become familiar with the best choices. PET bottles are the easiest to recycle. Some products, like plastic bags (LDPE) and polystyrene, can be recycled but rarely are. Other plastics, like cling film, or any composite plastic, cannot be recycled at all.

Keep plastics out of landfill.

In a circular economy, all plastic packaging should be 100% re-usable, recyclable or compostable. This needs to work in practice, not just in theory, so systems must be in place to support the full cycle.


To give your customers sustainable choices:

Offer customers a choice of no packaging or very simple packaging. 

Always ask if flowers need to be presented as a gift – many customers are happy to walk out with a very basic wrap or something simple to stop drips.

Have eco-friendly products on hand.

Stock and offer options like recycled, unbleached and FSC approved paper, home-compostable bags and natural fibre ties for sustainable gift-wrapping options. Explain your product choices to customers.

Help consumers sort the waste

Add notes or instructions to your designs. For example:

‘Your flowers are compost-friendly. When they’re done, add them to your green-waste bin or home compost.’

‘When your arrangement wilts, you can take it apart. The flowers go in the compost and the paper and pot in the recycling. Keep the ribbon for birthday presents.’

‘Please return your vessel to us for reuse.’

Encourage care of cut flowers at home.

Give customers the skills to make their flowers last longer. Suggest a change of vase water and a stem re-cut every few days.

Use renewable and natural materials for gift wrapping. 

Pure cotton, linen, hemp, jute, and bamboo fibre strings and ribbons are all compostable and can be added to home composts, provided they have no synthetic materials added.

Encourage customers to keep vessels for reuse.

Help customers select flowers for specific vessels.


To conserve resources: 

Share resources.

Seek out other businesses, groups and organisations you can work with to keep manufactured materials in circulation.


Can someone help you collect yoghurt pots or jars to use as water vessels inside your gift boxes in exchange for a weekly bunch of flowers? Can you offer to take cardboard boxes from a local business to a recycling centre in exchange for using some of the boxes yourself?

Look for local garden businesses who may be able to supply interesting vines or trimmings that could be used to create support structures.

Repurpose any flowers with life left in them before you compost.

Is there a retirement home nearby whose residents could benefit from small jars of leftovers from packed-down events?

3. Invest in ethics

Sustainable floristry objectives

  • Keep your workplace safe and fair and aim to extend these goals throughout the supply chain.
  • Ensure your business operations are ethical with the ultimate aim of supporting the SDGS.
  • Manage your waste to support circular economy objectives
  • Use energy, water and chemicals wisely – to conserve resources for future generations.
  • Create a plan for your sustainability goals to document your progress and keep track of achievements.


To ensure your workplace is safe and fair:

Be a good employer.

Pay your employees a fair, living wage. Ensure they receive the benefits they are entitled to, such as adequate leave.

Create a sense of community in your workplace.

Create a supportive work environment with good communication for enduring relationships and positive work experiences.

Educate and train your employees.

As an individual, this may mean simply passing on your own skills, but bigger businesses could consider a formal mentorship or sponsoring employee studies.

Use third party tools.

Local or government labour council often provide checklists and other tools to ensure you are across your obligations as an employer.

Have strategies in place for conflict/dispute resolution.

Many problems in the workplace can be avoided by creating clear guidelines around job descriptions, employee expectations and dispute resolution processes.


To ensure your business practices are ethical:

Practice Corporate Social Responsibility.

Play a positive role in their community, and take responsibility for the economic, social and environmental consequences of your activities.

Value natural capital.

Assess your impact on natural capital. Look at your own operations, your suppliers, and the companies you rely on for services. Think of the supply chains that preceded any purchases, the raw materials you use and the costs to natural capital. Identify your strengths and the areas to improve and add them to your sustainability plan.

Engage with other entities, like providers and suppliers, that support your values.

Look at your bank, your pension or superannuation fund (for you and for any employees), and your insurance providers. Consider your sundries suppliers and courier services. Research their values – look for policies about CSR or sustainability.

Avoid greenwashers.

Third parties can often verify if an organisation is as sustainable as they say. Bank.Green, for example, compares US banks in terms of the fossil fuel financing.

Find opportunities to regenerate nature.

Join or sponsor a group that helps restore the natural environment in your local community.

Consider business certifications.

Certifications can help you become and remain a fair workplace. B Corporation certification is probably the most comprehensive. Others target particular areas, such as Cradle to Cradle for manufactured products.


To manage workplace waste:

Assess your waste.

That includes the waste you buy (e.g. packaging), the waste you produce (e.g. packaging from sundries and green cuttings), and the waste you pass on to someone else to deal with (e.g. sundries and packaging).

Divert your green waste to a composting system.

If possible, compost on-site. Investigate the green waste services in your local municipal organisation. Private contractors may be the only service available to collect your green waste. Investigate whether community gardens could utilise your green waste.

Do not use flowers or foliage that cannot be composted. 

That includes flora that has been altered by bleaching, preserving, flocking, spraying or glitter. The modification of these products makes them suitable for landfill only.

Sort your waste into the appropriate streams. 

Investigate the options for recycling and resource recovery in your area with your local municipal organisation.


To manage energy, resources and chemicals:

Use renewable energy providers wherever possible. 

Take advantage of any rebates or schemes your local government offers.

Be energy aware. 

Turn off lights, refrigerators and heating/cooling systems when not in use.  Isolate your work area requiring cooling/heating during periods of extreme temperature.

Maintain your machines. 

Ensure business resources like your van and refrigerator are regularly serviced. When you next make a purchase, upgrade to a more energy-efficient one.

Conserve your water.

Collect your rainwater. Use greywater in your garden.

Manage hazardous materials safely.

Many environmental problems are created by the escape of waste and synthetic chemicals into the natural environment. Avoid any chemical products you do not need to use.

Use environmentally safe cleaning products. 

Check the labels and do your homework on products that might be engaging in greenwashing.

Seek out eco-friendly & ethically produced floristry sundries.

Support businesses working towards the same goals, rather than businesses that continue to produce or sell unsustainable products.


To create a plan for your sustainable goals:

Incorporate sustainability values into your business mission.

Keep focussed by formally committing to a sustainable workplace.

Audit your current practices.

Assessing your current business practices can help you set goals. Assess everything – your business purchases, your fuel consumption – you should even go through your bins to see what you’re throwing out.  

Use your audit to set goals and targets.

Isolate the areas you need to work on. Use this information to create your sustainability goals. Set targets so you can work towards improvement.

Document and reassess regularly.

Document your goals and targets. Regularly monitor your progress.

4. Communicate with community

  • Reset consumer expectations to help shift perceptions about what ‘good’ floral design can be.
  • Share your sustainability goals to communicate your activities with your colleagues and peers and help inspire change through the wider system.
  • Become a voice for change to support the greater industry to move towards a model of true sustainability.



To reset consumer expectations:

Demonstrate what sustainable floristry can do.

Use your shopfront or website, the flowers you choose, your product options, your arrangements and aesthetic.

Share your journey.

Explain the flowers you have chosen and the farms they come from. Talk about choosing sustainable sundries.

Explain why you don’t use floral foam.

Direct others to make more informed choices via the SFN website or other resources.

Signpost your sustainability.

You could offer a special line featuring seasonal flowers, in the same way that restaurants tell their customers about the ‘special of the day’. Use the hashtag #localandseasonalflowers to raise awareness.

Create point of sale opportunities.

Promote more sustainable purchases and your sustainability initiatives. You might create a simple in-house guide and keep on display:

  • “We don’t use floral foam.”
  • “We use recyclable or reusable containers to keep plastic out of landfill.”
  • “We support sustainable floristry that aims to reduce waste and cut carbon and chemical footprints.”

Be optimistic.

Sustainable floristry is one part of the global movement to create a sustainable future for the planet and for people. Invite consumers to be part of it.

Be honest

Do not engage in greenwashing. In Be transparent about flowers that have been imported/air-freighted/not in-season, and varieties that have been altered from the natural state in any way (such as dyeing). In-store notes can inform customers if flowers are modified. For example, a vase of dyed Phalaenopsis orchids could feature a sign reading: “Please note these flowers are artificially dyed”.


To share sustainability goals and progress:

Engage in discussion.

Tell your wholesaler why you’re interested in flower farms, and your peers why you are choosing sustainable sundries.

Engage staff and colleagues.

Keep employees informed of your commitments to a more sustainable business operation.

Work together to identify systems in the business operation that could be improved. Encourage staff to do this course and use our website as an educational tool.

Form your own network of sustainable florists.

Like-minded florists are a source of ideas and inspiration.


To create change in the industry:

Develop strong, long-term relationships with your wholesale suppliers.

Positive relationships with wholesalers and farmers is essential. Cultivate honest and transparent communication. Be curious about the flowers and products you purchase. Support those wholesalers who support your sustainability efforts.

Tell suppliers what you want.

Communicate your preferences. If you believe your flowers can be collected without unnecessary packaging, request it.

Align with like-minded organisations.

Avoid financial arrangements with companies that do not share the same values and seek associations that reinforce similar values.

Become a voice for sustainability at industry events.

Promote these principles and point out that the greater the commitment to change, the easier it is to get customers on board.

Use social media.

Speak directly to those you want to influence. Communicate your goals to ensure comprehensive and sustained change.

Be kind, patient and tolerant.

You may interact with florists who haven’t explored sustainable floristry or who are resistant to change. But transformation occurs when we feel free to explore and experiment — and sometimes make mistakes — in a supportive environment.