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by Yona Zeldis McDonough

Reducing Waste By Reusing Flowers

I’ve been hunting for, buying, and wearing second-hand schmattes for decades. So when I learned about ReVased, a new company that devised a way to re-use flowers, I had to know more. I tracked down the founders, Aviva and Arielle Vogelstein, and we chatted about their ingenious plan to reduce waste while creating and spreading joy. 

Yona Zeldis McDonough: How did you come up with the concept? 

Aviva and Arielle Vogelstein: We’re sisters and we got married just nine months apart (Aviva in September 2017, Arielle in June 2018). Our weddings were great (in our unbiased opinions), but we couldn’t get over all of the waste involved in the event industry. The flowers, in particular, felt wasteful to us. They were so beautiful and fresh, but for the most part, were tossed out within hours after our celebrations ended. After doing a little research, we discovered that not only are flowers one of the most expensive wedding budget items, but also, despite their average lifespan of 3-14 days, wedding venues generally need to turn over event halls immediately – so the majority of these arrangements end up like ours: in the trash. We knew something better could be done with these beautiful, fresh flowers, and ReVased was born. We have pivoted several times through the help of two accelerator programs (Shift Ventures’ Conscious Venture Labs Fifth Cohort and the Emerging Technology Center’s (ETC) AccelerateBaltimore 2019 Cohort) to find the way we could make the most impact, reduce the most waste, and bring the most joy to others. 

ReVased, a subscription floral company, aims to reduce floral waste. We take flowers from events and elsewhere that would otherwise be thrown out, and upcycle them into new arrangements for your home or office. For every arrangement purchased, we donate flowers to a local non-profit (such as nursing homes, women’s shelters, and senior centers). By subscribing, not only are you helping the environment, but you also get to enjoy beautiful, discounted flowers (starting at just $29/month!) while also bringing joy to recipients of ReVased’s floral donations.

YZM: Tell us about your respective backgrounds. 

Aviva: Until graduating from college, we had incredibly similar paths. We grew up in Baltimore in a traditional Jewish home. After high school, both of us spent a year learning in Israel before both going to the University of Pennsylvania, where we were both involved in Hillel on campus and members of a Jewish sorority, Sigma Delta Tau.After college, I moved to New York and went to Benjamin N. Cardozo law school. I worked in the Jewish non-profit world for several years, most recently serving as the Director of Legal Initiatives for the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, assisting undergrads experiencing anti-Semitism, providing me with unique operational and relationship-building skills.

Arielle: I’ve worked for mission-driven tech companies, most recently serving as Director of Growth at Via, a technology company building on-demand transit on a mass scale. I spent the majority of my time there focused on growing the Via ride-sharing app, providing me direct exposure into building a consumer service.

While our professional paths have differed, our skills complement each other and we both care deeply about working for mission-driven organizations through which we can make a positive difference.  

YZM: What are the benefits—environmentally, socially, financially—to upcycling flowers? 

Arielle: Flowers make people happy. This is more than just our thoughts, it’s actually proven by research that incorporating flowers and plants into our lives can have tremendous positive impacts on our mental and physical health. For example, a Rutgers University study found that flowers can refresh memory and improve mood in the elderly. (This is why we love donating to nursing homes and senior centers!) For all of their positives, cut flowers can also have negative environmental impacts – like water waste and agrochemical pollution. Upcycled flowers have environmental benefits, as they help reduce the number of new stems that need to be cut. Additionally, upcycled flowers offer financial benefits as we are able to offer them at a lower price than other comparable online services. Socially, our community can feel good that they are reducing waste and helping the environment by limiting one time, inefficient use of fresh flowers, while at the same time spreading joy to others.

YZM: I’ve read that you donate floral arrangements to local non-profits, so that recipients at hospitals, nursing homes, and women’s shelters can enjoy them—is this an idea that came from the Jewish concept of mitzvot?

Arielle: Definitely. Giving back to our community through mitzvot and Tikkun Olam was deeply ingrained in us from our family and Jewish day school upbringings. We used to volunteer several Sundays a month at a local nursing home and play games and do activities with the residents. We saw how small gestures of kindness could go a long way. For every arrangement that we sell, we donate flowers to non-profits to bring joy to the populations they serve, including Baltimore’s Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital, where we used to volunteer.

YZM: How do you see the future of the company? 

Aviva: The times are changing. When we started, we only sourced flowers from events. As we grew, we realized there was a lot more waste happening in the flower industry beyond events – and we began working with select local florists and wholesalers to tackle their oversupply. With the current COVID-19 situation, and large events and gatherings being canceled even after businesses are allowed to open again (NYC Mayor de Blasio has now canceled all events through June 2020), we are going to focus on developing relationships with more local wholesalers, florists, farmers, and others in the floral industry. We currently operate in NYC (Manhattan, Brooklyn, and select parts of Queens), D.C., and our hometown of Baltimore. We plan to continue growing and expanding in and around these regions and would love to eventually offer our service nationwide. We also have other areas of waste on our radar, whether it be food, decorations, clothing — so much could be given a second life after events. Once we feel that floral waste is being appropriately addressed, we will definitely consider expanding into new product areas as well.

YZM: I know you have temporarily stopped delivery; what are your plans to resume again?  

Aviva:  It’s hard to say when we will be able to operate again given the uncertainty of the COVID situation – but hopefully as soon as possible! We miss spreading joy through flowers. Sign up for our mailing list at revased.com/mailing-list or follow us on Instagram @revasedflowers to stay up to date on our status.

© 2011 Lilith Magazine