Outdoor Chronicles Photography got the scoop on the complexity and necessity of eco-friendly flowers with Morgan and Taylor, the sisters behind Albany’s luxury florist Twin Dahlias. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Whether a wedding decoration, gift from a dinner party guest, or “just because” surprise for loved one, flowers are a gesture of love. But we don’t often think about where those flowers come from and what their environmental impact may be. We may love their perfume and joyful colors, but the cut-flower industry’s effects aren’t always so sweet.
In the US, 80% of cut flowers are imported from countries like Kenya, Ethiopia, Ecuador, and Columbia. In addition to creating huge CO2 footprints with emissions from planes, trucks and mobile refrigeration, as a non-edible product, flowers are not subject to regulations governing pesticides on foods. Many producers take advantage of this, and rush their flowers’ growth with chemical fertilizers that are banned from use on consumables. Finally, once they arrive at their destination, flowers are sold as bouquets wrapped in plastic.
How did you get your name and what is the inspiration behind your business?
We come from a multi-generational farming family, and knew that we wanted to one day honor that in a way that felt like our own. But, for a long time, we didn’t know if that would ever truly happen.
In 2019, we caught the gardening bug after buying a dahlia tuber at a local grocery store. One morning, I woke up and called Taylor. I had had the weirdest dream that we started a flower farm… We started to research flower farming and floristry, and realized that it would be a good fit. We found a mentor (who is still the most talented grower we know) and gained experience in both growing and floral design.
The story behind our name is actually very sweet. We were at my parent’s house on their back patio “pitching” this farmer-florist idea. The twin dynamic was in full force: Taylor was already talking about expansion plans, while I was sitting there excited but slightly less optimistic. We were brainstorming names when my dad looked at us, “What’s your favorite flower?” We both responded, “Dahlias.” He paused for a moment, then looked up and said “Twin Dahlias”.
Why should people care about sustainable floristry?
Flowers are a beautiful way to bring magic and life to a space! It is important to consider the cost of the beautiful flowers that will be used for your event––not just the price tag but also the environmental impact. With growing awareness around the current climate crisis, we are beginning to understand the importance of sustainability across our agriculture practices.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the doom and gloom and feel like everything is killing the planet. But don’t worry, you can still have a beautiful event with flowers! We just have to work together to get creative and inspired to do things a different way.
Can you talk about how you prioritize sustainability in your business?
We currently prioritize sustainability in our business through our sourcing strategy. That means using local growers first, even when it takes additional time and money. But we believe sticking to this strategy is the right way to do things. We also prioritize the use of sustainable mechanics (i.e. chicken wire, reusable containers) and environmentally conscious growing practices.
Here’s what our sourcing prioritization list looks like:
Twin Dahlias Grown Flowers
Locally Grown Flowers
Wholesale Domestically Grown Flowers
Internationally Grown Flowers (Less than 5% of our product)
How can other florists make their business more eco-friendly?
One simple eco-friendly step is to eliminate the use of floral foam. Floral foam is a single-use plastic material that also contains phenol and formaldehyde. As you can imagine, this material is hazardous to the environment as well as the people and animals who come in contact with it. Luckily, there are several natural and compostable replacements that are eco-friendly alternatives. Buying one of those alternative products is a minor change to business operations and can be implemented immediately.
Flower sourcing is also very important. Due to the increased costs of shipping I believe many florists have already started to explore local flower options. We all wish it was under happier circumstances rather than a difficult economic moment, but it is still exciting to have movement in the right direction. The more local and thoughtfully sourced flowers the better. Buying inexpensive imported flowers is not sustainable.
What actionable steps can flower farms take to care for the environment and improve sustainability?
Living and working in harmony with nature in a lifelong pursuit. We are not experts and certainly don’t know everything there is to know. We accidently kill plants all the time! However, we are doing our best to take the right steps to always be learning and improving. Below are some steps we have taken so far:
Take courses on natural & organic growing through the organic grower’s school. When you are ready, you can also pursue the official certifications for your farm.
Learn and implement permaculture best practices (I recently took a free online course through permaculturewomen.com that was great!)
Implement a composting system and purchase additional compost locally.
Use regenerative growing practices (limited tilling, improving organic matter in the soil, cover crops)
Avoid the use of chemicals/pesticides
What does running a locally-oriented, eco-friendly, and sustainable business mean to you?
To us, running a sustainable business means consciously considering the impacts of our decisions and actions on the earth, ourselves, families, employees and community. There are many different elements of sustainability. From our perspective, running a sustainable business means always working to find balance, and taking time to pause and reflect on a regular basis. It's not easy and we are always striving to get better.
Some people refer to it as “people, profit and planet.”
People: Our team is critical. There is no way Twin Dahlias would exist without the help of our family, friends and freelancers. We work to create a team that enjoys working with us and feels welcome. We schedule times for breaks and make sure we all eat! We work to pay ourselves and our freelance employees a fair hourly wage and make time to celebrate accomplishments.
Profit: Profit is one of those things that people do not like to talk about––but in order for a business to keep doing good work, it has to make money! We price our product in a way that is in alignment with industry standards. This covers floral products (purchased and grown), materials, labor, design expertise, overhead, and allows for a profit that can help the business grow.
Planet: We’ve already talked about several ways that we work to consider the environmental impacts of our business. Environmental sustainability as it relates to the floral industry is a complex topic with many different facets: soil health, eco systems, water, electricity, chemicals, carbon emission, plastic use, product waste. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. From our perspective it's not “all or nothing”: every little step counts.
How can couples identify truly eco-friendly vendors?
One of the main ways to identify vendors that align with your values is to ask about flower sourcing. Most florists will be happy to share their sourcing approach. The main indicator is that sustainability is being considered. It is very challenging to be 100% perfect but if someone has a thought-out strategy that they can easily share with you, that is a great first step!
It’s not just about the flowers…it’s also about the packaging. How can florists reduce the environmental impact through packaging?
Growing our own flowers means we are able to avoid a lot of the packaging waste that some florists incur. The local farms we do source from use paper instead of plastic packaging, which is great! There are now also compostable wet wraps that can be used in transport to provide a water source for the flowers. High quality rental vessels are a much better option than single use plastic containers, environmentally speaking. We are not yet completely plastic-free, but we have started to build an inventory of ceramic, glass and metal vessels and stands that we offer as rentals to our couples. These vases are used many times and greatly reduce plastic waste.
Thanks again to Twin Dahlias for taking the time to meet and spend an afternoon with me talking about sustainable and eco-friendly business practices. To learn more ab
Click to see more images from a day in the life at Twin Dahlias studios!
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