“I personally just love the universe,” says Vanderbeek. “My renewal is going out into a nature. It’s part of why I love flowers so much. It makes sense that we should try and take care of our world.”

Despite the apparent “greenness” of fresh flowers, the floral industry comes with its own set of environmental sins, including chemicals and products that can be harmful to the environment, people and animals. With this in mind, Vanderbeek strives to use and promote containers that do not require the green foam substance often used to hold floral arrangements in place and keep them moist. The foam is a petroleum byproduct and is not biodegradable. When she does have to use the foam because the situation demands it (requirements of funeral homes or churches), Vanderbeek uses recycled paper vases instead of plastic if possible. With her regular customers and other clients, Vanderbeek uses glass vases so there is no unnecessary trash. Vanderbeek also offers her clients the option of “recycling” the vases by returning them to her for credit or to reuse with their next order.  

Another environmental faux pas Vanderbeek avoids is floral preservatives, those tiny packets that often accompany cut flowers, which she says are toxic to people and animals.  

“What kills flowers is bacteria in the water and the solution is simply giving them fresh water,” Vanderbeek says. “Salem water is perfect for flowers. The cleaner you can keep the water, the longer your flowers will last.”

Abbey Road Wildflowers is based in Vanderbeek’s home near Bush Park, where she also incorporates her environmental sensibilities by composting dead flowers and using homemade cleaning products like vinegar, baking soda, and lemon to keep her home and the environment clean.

Do you know someone who deserves to be dubbed a Planet Protector? E-mail your nominations to editors@salemmonthly.com.