Jennie blogs: “10 lily stems create over 30kg of C02”

Published: Tuesday July 9, 2024

Jennie South preparing a display at the festival The “Glorifying God Sustainably with Flowers” festival took place on Saturday (6 July) at St John the Baptist Cirencester. The festival demonstrated the beauty of sustainable floristry, as well as its low environmental impact compared with traditional flower arranging.

Jennie South, of Holy Trinity, Minchinhampton, is the eco ambassador for Stroud Deanery and one of the four organisers of the Sustainable Flower Festival. She reflects on the festival, and shares an important message about our use of flowers.

“Glorifying God Sustainably with Flowers”. Such a great theme for this Flower Festival – a joyous celebration of the glory of God’s creation with a very serious message. Fifteen parishes from Cirencester and Stroud deaneries, who are already on their Sustainable Church Flowers (SCF) journey, contributed stunning arrangements and turned St John’s ‘into a country garden’ as one visitor put it.

“The set-up day was enjoyable but if you have never seen flower arrangers in action you may not appreciate what a physically tiring undertaking this can be – up step ladders, carrying buckets of blooms and buckets of water! Flower arrangers are definitely among the unsung heroes in our churches.

Preparing for flower displays    Preparing flower displays   Preparing flower displays

“We welcomed well over 500 visitors – too many to count. These included locals and tourists, some of whom stumbled upon us by chance, and flower arrangers who made the festival their destination, intent on finding out more about arranging flowers sustainably in their own churches. Many visitors immediately appreciated the local and seasonal aspect; one commented ‘I love that all the flowers can be found in the garden’.

A visitor admiring the church displays   Flower arrangement  Flower arrangers preparing their display

“We were keen to make sure they had a chance to see the hidden element. Where had all the stems ended up? Well, it definitely wasn’t in floral foam (oasis) which is a form of plastic, and breaks down into micro-plastics that end up in the oceans.

Sustainable flower demonstration by Rev Benji Tyler“With the opportunity to attend one of the demonstrations held during the day they were not disappointed. These were delivered by the Revd Benji Tyler, Vicar of St Andrew’s, Chippenham, who is keenly involved in the SCF movement, and Beth Bruce-Gardner from St Mary’s, Fairford, who is a Sustainable Church Flowers ambassador and one of the festival organisers. As well as quickly creating a selection of inspiring arrangements and demonstrating a wide range of foam free techniques, from chicken wire to test tubes, they stressed the importance of using seasonal, locally sourced flowers and foliage from our gardens, hedgerows and church yards.

“A member of Flowers from the Farm, an organisation that supports local seasonal flowers grown by UK flower farmers was on hand too, showcasing what local growers are doing. The audience were clearly challenged on learning that one single rose stem flown to the UK creates almost 3kg of C02, and a Dutch grown lily creates well over 3kg of C02.  This is the equivalent of burning 1kg coal per stem.  If a single church uses a conservative 10 stems of lilies at Easter, it doesn’t take a great mathematician to work out that this creates over 30kg of C02; comparable to burning 10kg of coal. It really is a lot of C02 for a vase or two of flowers.

We seriously need to ask ourselves if we can really condone the use of forced, out of season flowers, given the environmental costs involved in their production and transportation. A serious message indeed as individuals and churches work to reduce their carbon footprint.

“During the day people had the opportunity to learn something of the work of A Rocha, the Christian environmental charity that will receive the donations from this event, and one of their initiatives, Eco Church. It was this that particularly resonated with one of our visitors, Julie Tucker, a visitor from London, who wrote: ‘How serendipitous to happen upon an EcoChurch event today. As a trustee for EcoJudaism it was amazing to see your fabulous initiative, something which hadn’t occurred to me but clearly will have a huge impact. I would be interested to hear about other things you are working on’.

“And yes, we will be working on ‘other things’. Not sure yet what these will be, but it will definitely include glorifying God sustainably with flowers.”


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