Ikebana's Role in Ecological Awareness by Ilse Beunen
In exploring ikebana's ecological character, several reasons highlight its inherent eco-friendliness. While these are all valid, there's a broader picture to consider. Let's start with the basics.
Ikebana focuses on minimalism. Using just a few flowers and branches, we create arrangements while minimizing waste and reducing the overconsumption of plant materials. Materials are often locally sourced, cutting down transport costs and ecological impact. Instead of foam, we fixate our materials using kenzans and other environmentally friendly techniques. This influence has extended to florists incorporating ikebana fixation methods into their designs.
But ikebana's ecological benefits go beyond just these practices.
During the COVID-19 lockdowns, I challenged my students to source materials from their immediate surroundings – balconies, gardens, or even within their apartments. Initially hesitant, they soon discovered viable materials at their doorstep, often previously disregarded as weeds. The primary definition of a weed is a plant growing where it’s not wanted, but ikebana teaches us to see the potential beauty and utility in these plants.
Did you notice I made all the arrangements in this article with weeds? When practicing ikebana, you find beauty in all forms of nature, even those often overlooked.
The perspective shift when practicing ikebana is evident in my students’ experiences.
A student recently shared her experience with an arrangement she had created following the Sogetsu ikebana curriculum. The flowers had withered, but the branches were still vibrant. Resourcefully, she replaced the flowers and reimagined the arrangement. Her story, told with evident pride, brought a smile to my heart. It reflects profound lessons: in nature, nothing is permanent, and as part of nature, neither are we. This underscores the responsibility to leave a healthy environment for future generations. Ikebana, in its essence, teaches the art of recycling and valuing what remains.
Another student said ikebana had erased her fear of pruning in her garden. The practice has taught her to aesthetically trim branches, respecting the plants while creating functional materials for her arrangements. Branches that might have been returned to nature are now getting a second life in ikebana arrangements. This approach reflects a deeper understanding and appreciation of nature’s cycle.
Ikebanists' need for materials often leads them to plant bushes and adopt sustainable gardening practices. This results in garden layouts that are not only simple and sustainable but also in harmony with the environment. For those without personal gardens, ikebanists often turn to pruning in the gardens of family and friends. This practice extends the spirit of ikebana beyond individual gardens, fostering a community that collectively respects and cares for nature.
These stories demonstrate that ikebana is more than creating eco-friendly arrangements with fewer materials. Ikebana fosters a deep connection with nature, influencing more environmentally conscious choices in various aspects of life.
The minimalism and mindfulness inherent in ikebana extend to our broader lifestyle, influencing daily decisions and promoting a sustainable approach to consumption beyond just floral arrangements.
Ikebana connects you to nature and your inner self while your creativity breathes new life into flowers and branches.