The Very Special and Different ‘Bloom Project’

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – We know that today, there are so many items that can be upcycled, from paper to plastic to clothes, but it’s rare that we hear about flowers being given a new lease of life. Well, that’s what’s happening in Portland, Oregon, where a not-for-profit called ‘The Bloom Project’ upcycles unsold flowers from grocery stores into fresh bouquets for hospice and palliative care patients on a weekly basis. Local businesses, residents and special events donate flowers and vases, making it a real community action. The flowers are re-purposed to create bouquets, designed and delivered by volunteers from different sectors - hospice nursing staff, clergy, social workers and the public.

This is a great upcycling initiative. The global floral industry is worth over a hundred billion dollars, yet sadly, statistics show many florists have to throw out a lot of their unsold flowers daily. A whopping 45% of all flowers die and have to be discarded before they are even sold; that’s almost one out of every two flowers! Plus 80% of flowers sold in the US are imported from other countries; that’s one of the main factors that contributes to flowers wilting quickly and needing to be thrown away—which is why The Bloom Project is positive solution.

So far, the Project’s volunteers have donated more than 168,000 bouquets to hospice and palliative care patients throughout Oregon since 2009. They are well on their way to a 200,000-bouquet milestone. Founder Heidi Berkman, started the organisation out of her garage and has recently partnered with a facility and hospital in San Francisco to further expand The Bloom Project. All the volunteers understand the importance of this gift and the encouragement it can bring to hospice patients and their family members. Many, if not all, of the volunteers have experienced the impact of hospice care for a loved one while in the final stages of a patient’s life. Hospices provide care for people from the point at which their illness is diagnosed as terminal, to the end of their life. The care they provide places a high value on dignity, respect, and the wishes of the person who is ill, and aims to look after all their needs, as well as the needs of the person's loved ones.

Studies show that flowers have immediate and long term beneficial effects on emotional reactions, mood, social behaviours and memory for both men and women. One trial found that patients in hospital rooms with plants and flowers had reduced systolic blood pressure and heart rate; lower ratings of pain, anxiety and fatigue; and had more positive feelings. Interestingly, flowers and herbs have been used as remedies in the earliest hospitals and have been a means of cheering up the hospital environment for at least 200 years.

Worldwide, the giving and receiving of flowers is a culturally important transaction. The Bloom Project is a unique flower story, showing how flowers have the power to do good.

Photo Credit: The Bloom Project