Mickey Blake, Floral Soil Solutions Founder & Hero Nominee
Mickey Blake, co-founder of Floral Soil Solutions, designs “for the next life first.” Her company, which focuses on sustainable product design, manufactures a 100% bio-based, non-toxic alternative to phenol formaldehyde foam for the floral industry, made from just 3 simple ingredients. The idea, she says, was the culmination of many years spent examining systems and products that simply could be designed better, which lead to the development of her mentality that is something isn’t working, it needs to be re-evaluated, re-done entirely. “Change to infrastructure or existing conventions for manufacturing a product cannot be incremental,” she says, “that just doesn’t work – you need to re-think everything.”
And this is exactly what Mickey did. Despite pressure from large floral soil companies to partner with them in design, Mickey stood by the major goals she had outlined for the project: the soil needed to support cut flowers, be non-toxic, plant derived, biodegradable, hold water, grow seeds and be safe enough to eat. So she began the process of testing materials would be suitable for her new soil solution, eventually arriving at a mixture of just 3 – including coconut – plant fibers.
But it doesn’t stop there – almost all Blake’s designs are inspired by or based upon nature systems, which are “closed-loop” and so net no waste, as every product or byproduct of biological processes is reused or taken up again. Modeling product lifecycle and system design this way creates a cyclical process vastly more efficient than most anthropogenically-designed, linear manufacturing processes, which inevitably generate at least some waste. Mickey argues, in fact, that the idea of “waste” is one constructed entirely by humans, and believes a main reason cyclical design processes are seldom used is simply because people are very used to the idea of waste (and thus, arguably, inefficiency) which modifications in product and manufacturing design difficult. For this reason Mickey seeks to inspire people by building sustainable processes from scratch, as with her alternative floral foam, demonstrating that biomimicry and closed-loop design is relatively easy to design and implement, and 2) are a vast improvement over traditional designs in countless ways – including netting profit.
Currently, Blake is partnering with Whole Foods to market her floral foam, keeping a busy schedule travelling to showcase and speak about her product, and, in brief moments of down-time, working on a handful of new product designs!