Responsible, eco friendly Weddings are growing in popularity. Sylvia Pearson from EcoBlooms chats with us about her absolutely amazing recycled Wedding Flowers!
Listen to Sylvia on the Wedding Espresso Awesome DIY Wedding Planning Podcast…
James [00:00:05] Good morning Sylvia. Thank you very much for joining me this morning.
Sylvia [00:00:09] Thank you very much for inviting me.
James [00:00:11] It’s a pleasure to have you. I’m very, very excited about this, I’m very, very excited about this call, for two reasons. The first reason is you are the first “Pearson” on Wedding Espresso aside from me and Rachel, so welcome Sylvia Pearson it’s fantastic to have you!
Sylvia [00:00:26] It’s likely we’re related!
James [00:00:26] Well probably distantly…
so your company is EcoBlooms and you provide wonderful, very, very artistic, beautiful flower arrangements made from recycled plastic. If anybody can believe this?
Sylvia [00:00:49] Yes it’s from bottles.
James [00:00:49] It’s such an incredible product. When we first saw them we were absolutely blown away. And it’s literally become our mission to get you on Wedding Espresso to tell everybody how you do this because it’s phenomenal. Obviously plastic waste is a huge issue facing the planet right now. And to be able to do something productive and proactive with all that waste I think is very, very honourable, it’s a very, very, very good thing to be doing. And we should be seeing more of this. So it’s fantastic that you’ve taken this on board.
So the topic that we really, really want to broach with you today is “Save the Planet with Wedding Eco Blooms”.
Sylvia [00:01:38] Yeah, that’s not small is it?!
James [00:01:39] I’m going to pass it over to you now, it’s not small, it’s a huge topic, but I’m going to let you briefly explain to people how you go about doing this and what you provide.
Sylvia [00:01:50] OK. So yeah my flowers are made from plastic bottles, mainly milk bottles, so the 4 pinters and 2 pinters that you buy in the shops. And pop bottles, mainly whatever people give to me. But because they’re in abundance I can offer a steady stream of the same thing. So somebody could give me a blue hair shampoo bottle and that’s beautiful, and I can sell it, but I can’t replicate that more regularly. So for me it’s the plain milk bottles and the pop bottles. And then I cut them up, obviously give them a bit of a wash and delabel.
I chop everything up and I’ve got my own templates now of a variety of flowers. So I can do roses, sunflowers and poppies, daffodils, chrysanthemums, hydrangeas. Quite a few things now.
James [00:02:41] An amazing range.
Sylvia [00:02:43] Well I’m really lucky because people are challenging me all the time. You know I just started with a rose template. It seemed just a fairly simple idea which obviously has evolved as the time has gone along. And I’ve got better but yeah, people just message me and go. “Any chance you could do this?” or “my mum loved these” although I do quite a few wedding bouquets, mixtures of things. A lot of people are asking me for Memorial things, or to be put outside or keep inside as little reminders of somebody they loved, or dogs they loved.
There’s a wide range really, a wide market of why people would want an everlasting flower. And obviously we know that plastic is everlasting unfortunately because of the media and everything.
That it’s arriving in our oceans and washing up on beautiful beaches because it doesn’t biodegrade or degrade. I think there’s a statistic in National Geographic that only 8 percent of all the plastic ever produced gets recycled. It’s not always that people are not trying to recycle, putting things in green bins, but it doesn’t end up where it should unfortunately. I think it’s quite expensive, and maybe not all councils can afford to recycle everything for us.
Sylvia [00:04:09] So, I make my flowers and colour them, shape them over heat using a little candle. I’ve got a little bit more of Bunsen Burner, so that’s even more eco friendly because I was going through candles. And although I was buying the ones with the foil bottoms that I could recycle, this is a slightly more economical, a cleaner flame. So I shape the plastic over a candle and then put it on a stem and build it up into layers. That’s what I do!
Amazing. The thing that struck me straight away was I didn’t realise they were plastic flowers. I didn’t realise that you’d made them by hand.
There were so many things… I just saw the flowers and thought “they looked very pretty, they’re very nice, lovely” and then this whole other realisation opened up, it was like “Oh actually they’re handmade, and they are made out of recycled plastic, and oh Wow” it was kind of a snowball effect of “Wow wow wow”.
Sylvia [00:05:12] It’s fun. People keep wondering why I don’t do more stalls, wedding fairs and things like that, and it is because people see them and go “Oh flowers” and walk on! You know once I get people in and I say well you know they’re made of plastic bottles, then they get more interested. But I do find it quite hard, doesn’t matter how I put them on a display on a stall, it’s quite hard to get people to see what they actually are, whereas things like this, Facebook and social media, there’s always a narrative to go with the picture.
And so I suppose it’s quite a niche market really at the moment but when people can see them and the narrative that goes with it, they’re much more interested.
I like to try and think that I’m being as realistic as possible. I think if people got up close they might go “well it’s obviously not the real thing” but I try my hardest to make it as natural looking as possible.
James [00:06:20] The effect is stunning. So the question that really maybe is on a lot of people’s minds is, if you’re making flowers by hand, it’s obviously quite a hands on process. So is this going to be more expensive than buying real flowers? Bearing in mind also that it is a responsibility thing, it’s a responsible choice.
Sylvia [00:06:42] It is tricky isn’t it? Pricing something that you know has taken an hour to make, but you can’t charge per hour, but then on the flip side it’s something that will last forever.
I suppose some people might say it’s an investment piece but actually I don’t think I’m much more expensive than a florist.
A full bloom Rose is £10 and I know come Valentine’s Day that you will buy Valentine’s red roses perhaps £10 per flower anyway. And I don’t charge any more for wedding bouquets, so if somebody’s buying one flower to put in a vase on their bedside table, that is the same price per flower from a wedding bouquet.
Somebody will send me a Pinterest picture, usually of the colours or the bouquet they’d like, and I try my hardest to break it down exactly to how many roses are in there, what foilage is in there, and then I do variations of it.
So a bud is smaller and therefore cheaper than a full bloom. And you’ve still got the colour incorporated into the thing you wanted. So I always give people more than one budget option depending on what they’re thinking about, or how many they need of each colour, or what the emphasis is. So no, I’m not any more expensive than if you were buying real flowers.
Sylvia [00:08:11] Of course if you wanted to buy the fake flowers, the foam flowers from somewhere, they are obviously a lot cheaper. So I’m more expensive than the foam flower option although they are still everlasting. But in comparison I am as expensive as having a real flower, but you don’t even have to buy the full bouquet from me.
If you are already wanting the real flowers, you could just buy one or two from me, have them in your bouquet, and then they’re the ones that last and they’re the memory that goes on.
They’ve taken part of the special day. I’ve matched the colour or it could be even a completely contrasting colour. So it stands out in photos, but it will go in with the bouquet you’ve already got. But then you’ve got that one that lasted and is the memory of the wedding or special day. So you don’t have to just go completely all in with the plastic EcoBlooms flowers.
James [00:09:09] Yeah it’s not an all or nothing thing.
Sylvia [00:09:11] Yes.
James [00:09:12] It’s really interesting actually this idea of legacy and keeping something, maybe making a statement like you said, just a single flower inside the bouquet makes a very strong statement about your stance on recycling and responsibility. I was talking with a wedding celebrant up in Scotland the other week, Gillian Johnston, and she painted a picture for me about legacy and how things continually recur throughout your life. And we’ve definitely incorporated a lot of elements of this into our wedding ceremony. So we have trinkets that we used on the day that… they’re lovely memories, and they’re things that we treasure in and around the house. And this is one of those things, because it’s getting very, very bespoke, it’s something very special that the brides and grooms can keep forever.
Sylvia [00:10:11] Yeah. Exactly.
And you could also pass it to your daughter or your son to have in their bouquet. It can be their “something borrowed” it can be the one thing that travels through out all of the weddings in the family if you want it to.
James [00:10:31] I love that fact and the fact that it also is again another piece of plastic that isn’t going to landfill, it becomes something tangible and something valuable.
Sylvia [00:10:43] Yeah. And you know I’m so lucky, I couldn’t be doing this if people didn’t support me, not only with the buying of the flowers, but their willingness to donate all of their rubbish to me. There are loads of mums on the school run that come past with bags for me.
James [00:11:01] Bags of plastic!
Sylvia [00:11:01] Yeah and then local businesses as well. There’s a local garage and they have a very famous coffee machine that they need filling up. But they didn’t want to just put the plastic in the bin, so there’s so many elements to what makes my business a success and eco friendly for everybody.
Everyone is so conscious and wanting to be a little bit more kinder to the world, and what we’re leaving for our children. They are wanting to do bits and pieces and people are desperate to recycle properly.
I’m very lucky really.
James [00:11:38] We were just speaking earlier about the Blue Planet series (the BBC Blue Planet series) kind of being the inspiration for EcoBlooms.
Sylvia [00:11:45] Yes it was.
James [00:11:47] For anyone that hasn’t seen it, the scene at the end of the series where they show the sea and it’s literally just absolutely covered. Basically there’s no water, it’s just plastic, just a sea of plastic. So once you have that image in your head, it’s almost impossible to erase. And the idea that we can do something practical to try to combat that is a phenomenal concept. I think it’s so good.
Sylvia [00:12:15] Yeah. If you were trying to look it up… obviously because of what business I have there are so many feeds coming in…”Oh are you interested in this, are you interested in that?” But there are people that are making roads, tarmacking things with plastic. There’s a lovely company and they take old plastic toys and chip it all down and then they turn them into kiddies chairs and furniture.
Sylvia [00:12:40] You know they are obviously big scale, up scaled, they’ve got the technology.
I do everything by hand. I’ve tried to look at punches and speeding up things but I do everything by hand. It’s got the definite personal touch and everything is therefore unique as well because the plastic doesn’t shape the same way every time you add heat to it.
So you will get no two roses, no matter the fact the template is exactly the same, it’s been cut exactly the same and the same size. No two look the same when finished. And obviously if anyone is wondering if it’s safe for me when adding heat, and is it toxic fumes coming off!
James [00:13:21] Burning plastic, yep.
Sylvia [00:13:24] Yeah it doesn’t burn, I’m not heating it to a level where it burns and gives off the fumes, if you ever put a bottle in the dishwasher by accident and you pull it out of the dishwasher, and it’s this shrunk thing, or you’re trying to wash a bottle and you pour the kettle in to clean it.
James [00:13:43] It just deforms a little bit.
Sylvia [00:13:45] It’s just warming up until it softens and it shapes, anything under 180 degrees celsius.
James [00:13:49] Brilliant and that actually leads me very nicely on to what happens to the stuff that you can’t use for flowers. And I know you sent some pictures so I’m going to pull them up.
James [00:14:06] Here we go, big reveal Guys, this is what happens.
Sylvia [00:14:08] It’s not the flowers, bless you! Yeah. It’s not the succulents, it’s not the cactus, it’s the plant pots. I’m chopping all these petals and shaping them and there’s all these little chips left over. And then there’s the ugly handle and there’s the ugly neck of the milk bottle, and the bottom. And I was storing them and storing them. Making great big piles of these bits that I just couldn’t bear to throw away because I thought well this isn’t going….
I’m not doing the planet any favours by actually still getting rid of all the bits and pieces. I found a way of heating them up enough just so that they stick together and then moulding them and forming these plant pots.
And then I colour them and make them look like rocks or concrete looking ones or bright coloured ones.
James [00:15:01] They are really beautiful works of art. Again I’m astonished that they are made out of recycled plastic.
Sylvia [00:15:10] They’re great, but I just needed to find a way of making sure I was a zero waste business. I did do little bits like a flap that formed into love hearts that I then added flowers to look like signs, displays or whatever. But obviously EcoBlooms sounds very flowery and is all about the flowers. For me, being able to turn them into plant pots so that people have an option still of having real flowers, because we still need real flowers. We need the bugs and the bees to pollinate our planet. I’m trying also to give people an option of still buying an eco friendly product, knowing that they’re helping use up all the bottle that I get given, but also still having real flowers around.
James [00:16:02] It’s absolutely amazing. Well Sylvia, thank you so much for sharing with us today.
Sylvia [00:16:07] Thank you
James [00:16:08] Again we think it’s a phenomenal thing. We wish you all the success in the world with this. It would be amazing if more people took up the cause and found more creative ways to recycle. I think you’re on the cusp of a breakout industry here so very, very, very excited to follow it.
Sylvia [00:16:26] You don’t have to be crafty, I didn’t do any art degrees or anything in craft. I liked the idea of upcycling something.
You can paint a piece of furniture and turn it into something beautiful saving it from landfill. You mustn’t feel worried that you’ve got to try and create something fabulous, if you can just keep a piece of furniture going in your own house, give it another purpose, help save the planet as well.
James [00:16:55] Amazing. Well Sylvia thanks again so much for sharing with us. We really appreciate it and hopefully we can catch up with you soon and see how your adventures are going.
Sylvia [00:17:09] Definitely yeah, got lots of ideas.
James [00:17:09] Brilliant, brilliant. Well thanks again Sylvia. And I’ll speak to you soon. Take care, bye for now.
Sylvia [00:17:14] Bye.