Monday, February 23, 2015

post valentines/new idea

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind, and if you follow us on instagram you know we've been hustling hard through fashion week and valentines day. No one cares about how busy you are but it's worth saying that we've been working really hard to raise some money for some serious projects we're trying to get off the ground...

One of the things that has always lurked around in my master plan for Saipua is how it can have a real effect on the environment. Growing clean flowers is not good enough for me; shouting the benefits of sustainable living (what does that even mean) from my soap box (pun) is not either and I don't like preaching (lie) I just want to make some actual, countable, quantifiable difference.

Lately this idea has taken form in a new scheme; offering NYC florists a breakdown service that composts their flowers and branches, thus keeping thousands of tons of natural materials out of landfills.

Typically, when a wedding is over we send a crew of people to trash the flowers and collect the vases. During the high wedding season we send trucks back to the farm full of spent flowers and branches; haphazardly depositing them into our 'flower compost' heap which is in the woods next to the trucks. Come fall, Nea nests in it; I like to think shes sentimental and misses life at Saipua.

This spring we plan to have a regular truck route that brings flowers from Worlds End and other farms to the city. My dream is to sell these flowers to Saipua and my flower friends and then have them hire us to break down their weddings; bringing those same flowers back to the farm to compost them. If I can make it work, it would make a beautiful cycle - further vertically integrating Saipua, maximizing the use of the truck and keeping more compostable natural materials out of black trash bags and landfills. We'll need to buy a new used box truck; convert it to bio-diesel and install a solar powered refrigeration unit on it.

Have you ever bagged flowers? Sticks poking holes out the sides, a caterpillar or ladybug clinging to a leaf as its shoved into the abyss; unknowingly entombed forever in a 55 gallon, 4 mil contractor bag. I think about bugs in this flower trash eating away for hours and days until they sense in their tiny bug brains that something is awry. (Dramatizing for effect here.)

This plan has so many obstacles. My friend Sarah, an insanely talented and responsible farmer asked me last week: did I really want to become a composting business? I know so little about compost, and it is an incredibly complex process. So many of the flowers that we use in the city are laden with pesticides. The last thing we need at Worlds End is an albatross of a toxic compost heap leaching chemicals into our water stream and soil.

But this side business addresses both of my main goals for SAIPUA: to start to affect real environmental change in the world through flowers and farming and 2. to build a business that can support more and more people.

So I'm going to keep working on this idea. First, I need to talk to some compost brains.


LPC said...

So great to read the term "vertically integrated' here."

Anne Hubbard said...

Check out Ben Hewitt's "The Town that Food Saved" re: Hardwick VT. In it there is a profile of a master composter-- I'm sure he'd be fairly simple to track down. Name is Tom. Sorry I don't have more to go on, but I just wanted to get this to you before forgetting. Love the blog, love your flowers.

The Feather's Edge Finery said...

Another huge change, in the way of sustainability, that Saipua might consider: replacing the palm oil in the soap with another, more sustainable oil. Or sourcing only organic, small coop certified. Palm oil, as it stands, is shaping up to be one of the most environmentally devastating ingredients ever. Love your flowers, love your soap.

Amanda Mae said...

Keep on keepin' on. I look forward to seeing where this goes. Do update us please?! We compost all our flower scraps and clippings. Some days I wonder if it does any good since not all stems are organically grown. I just don't know.

Diana said...

Just a quick note to say what an amazing compost program Blue Hill at Stone Barns has. I'm not sure if Gregg Twehues is still the compost manager there but so knowledgeable and so friendly.

Kelly said...

Reach out to Jodie Colon. She's your girl & knows the ins and out of our local composting programs. She runs the Master Composter training programs via BronxGreenup/NYBG.

Rony @ catbird said...

Seventeen thumbs up to this.

rosekraft said...

Would the biocide in commercial floral preservatives have any adverse affect on the composting process?
Not really sure, but I always dispose of commercial cut flowers in our garbage collection green bin instead of tossing into our backyard compost pile...

Jo said...

That is an insanely brilliant idea. I always wondered about the break down of those huge events you do. (I'm weird like that.) I hope you can make it fly!

Elizabeth Legere said...

Awesome cycle idea. But the main thing you mentioned is the chemicals used on MOST flowers bought at market. There could be a way that you become an advocate for composting flower waste and not taking on that responsibility yourself. It would take SO much time and labor, might be a bigger piece than you're willing to bite off. Look into what kind of public compost the city offers. In Boston we have Save That Stuff which will take any kind of organic matter to a large facility where it is composted but I am not sure where that compost is put to use. I know some compost masters here in eastern MA. Here's a link to compost guru Connor Miller. He could give you some really helpful advice. I think you're really on to something but it sounds like a huge project that you should involves others. Compost is the next big thing, especially in the cities. Keep at it, we are all rooting for you.

Anonymous said...

The "Tom" mentioned in Comment #2 may well be Tom Stearns, the founder and CEO of High Mowing Seeds, an organic non-GMO certified seed business in Vermont. You can also check with Lee Reich in New York state and Rodale Farms. Much good fortune for you and your ideas!

Terri Todd said...

This is brilliant, Sarah. I love the way you think! Do beware, though, of "taking on" others' discards.

claire said...

I LOVE COMPOST. Or at least, composting. Totally support your plan. I've worked with a farmer in coastal Mass who's an amazing composter and gardener - she grows flowers too. Perhaps you know of Eva already! Here's a great piece to check out

Haresh Vaswani said...

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tmd75 said...

I have often thought about this idea too. I think it could be also lent to every building in the city that throws out orchids and house plants on the reg .

Traveling so far with compost may negate the benefit. I'm talking time over result. I love your idea of using biofuel and solar climate control. Composting here in city isn't at your farm upstate, but maybe you could sell it/ give it away? Or maybe there's a space where you could break down the debris and then transport it to your farm.

But in any case this a giant step the right direction and every florist should be considering this and offering this as a service to their brides.

Also if the flowers aren't organic to that's okay. Lastly, bokashi composting could be a good alternative. it works very quickly.

Caitlin | Our Natural Heritage said...

This would be AMAZING, I love your vision!!! Could you also install a solar-powered wood chipper to break down the flowers for easier composting and transport?

Please keep us updated or start a listserv if you ever want more feedback, I'd love to follow along and help if I can. If you want to do a kickstarter campaign I could make you a free short video. Good luck!!!

Jessica Gale said...

I would contact Stone Barns. They are so close by and have so many talented people and farmers working for them--also loads of connections. You also might want to look into bioremediation through composting. A lot of bacteria and fungi strains can deal with way harsher chemicals.

I love your idea and want to follow its progress. I'd love to do something similar someday in my area.

Blair Roberts said...

This is such a great idea!! Please keep us posted about the research you do...I hadn't thought about the risks of composting non-organic items! Looking forward to hearing more!

beth said...

Love it, support it! Coolest composter upstate, had similar vision, great project with lots of moving parts:
highly recommended.

beth said...

community compost sorry it did not attach, they are in New Paltz...beth

Helle said...

I have partially been using community compost on my vegetable garden beds, but your thoughts about pesticides in stuff has made me wonder it it's really such a good idea. I'd love to hear what you find out. Lee Reich is the one I'd recommend as well. He seems to know a ton about composting.

Meg said...

Always growing and inspiring me in the process, this is why I love you! (aside from the stunning beauty you create)
Good luck! I know you'll find a way.

Send Gifts to Philippines said...

I research about the composting you are talking about, and I really got interested with your idea. hope you can post more updates about that. Anyway, love your photos. I'm gonna follow you so that I can keep track of your blog updates =)

Anonymous said...

Great idea.

( I really MUST have those fabulous wooden pedestals you feature in many of your shots...)

Amara said...

Appropos of nothing I'm afraid, I wondered if you do new internships every year? My daughter would love to apply with a little more time to prepare.

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Somerset Wedding Gal said...

An excellent idea! If it all goes towards making those flowers thrive then it's all for the better!

min | Timeshare attorney said...

awesome, tnx for share

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