Meet Pilar Zuniga, owner of Gorgeous and Green, a Berkeley-based boutique and eco-floral design studio. She’s my guest in this week’s Slow Flowers Podcast with Debra Prinzing.
Pilar started Gorgeous and Green nearly six years ago after she discovered how hard it was to plan her own sustainably-minded wedding. Since then, her venture has expanded from a floral studio designing for weddings and special events to a charming storefront on College Avenue in Berkeley.
There, you can find a full-service floral and gift shop that carries uncommon goods, curated by Pilar, including vintage jewelry, locally-made goods, recycled-paper stationary, organic bath and beauty products — and of course, local and sustainably-grown flowers. Gorgeous and Green recently won the Best of Berkeley 2013 award in the florist category.
For anyone interested in learning how a brick-and-mortar retail flower shop can make it in today’s era of mass merchandising and big boxes, you’ll want to join my conversation with Pilar.
She is blazing a new trail and is the TRUE definition of a LOCAL FLORIST….a hometown, Main Street flower shop that goes the full distance to source from local flower farms in her own backyard.
A Native American proverb suggests that all that we do today must be done with the next 7 generations in mind.
The mainstream floral and gift industries have many byproducts like pesticide pollution, dependence on plastics, underpaid labor, hazardous working conditions and excessive CO2 Emissions. Additionally, events are the producers of more waste and CO2 emissions. The average wedding emits 12-14 tons of CO2, more than a person emits in a full year.
We can minimize these negative effects by amending our practices to become sustainable ones. For Gorgeous and Green, sustainability means using methods that we can afford to duplicate without negatively affecting the environment and people around us. With a lot of creativity and research, we have been able to develop floral practices and offer gift products that allow us to do just that.
Gorgeous and Green wants to be mindful of not just how we leave our world for the next generation, but how we touch those people and places that were involved in the beauty we created today.
In the second half of our interview, Pilar and I scratched the surface on a MAJOR topic that’s going on right now in the floral world. It regards the concern she and I — and so many others — have about that green florists’ foam, the crumbly, brick-shaped chunk that you often find stuck inside a vase delivered from a floral wire-service. It is a conventional product that has been around since the Postwar 1950s, developed, so it seems, to make arrangements look fuller using fewer stems of flowers and foliage.
The simple economics have (sadly) led many florists down the rabbit hole of same-old, same-old, unimaginative designs based around the foam. I believe it’s a crutch that limits creativity and certainly hurts the people and environment who encounter it.
Every single week I hear from florists and designers who tell me they are weaning themselves off the product, which is made by a small group of manufacturers in the US and abroad. Those designers are eager to find alternative ways to stabilize stems, such as some that Pilar and I discussed. I will devote a future episode of the Slow Flowers Podcast to more extensive information on this topic.
Pilar was one of the first to speak out and warn florists about the risks of using chemically-based foam. As I mentioned in our interview, every time I did a web search about this topic, her blog posts popped up, as early as 2009. Here are some links you’ll want to read:
(March 4, 2009) Floral Foam: Not so Green
(September 5, 2009) Biodegradable Floral Foam, Where Are You?
(February 18, 2011) Let’s Change Floral Foam
(August 16, 2011) MSDS Floral Foam
If you’re looking for “green” alternatives to floral foam, check out my blog post about Eco-Friendly Design tips, excerpted from Slow Flowers.
Thank you for joining me in this episode of the SLOW FLOWERS Podcast with Debra Prinzing. Because of your support as a listener, we’ve had more than 3,000 downloads since July – and I thank you for taking the time to join to my conversations with flower farmers, florists and other notable floral experts.
Until next week please join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time.
The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Hannah Holtgeerts. Learn more about her work at hhcreates.net.
All photographs courtesy of Gorgeous and Green. Thanks Pilar!