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UN To Be Green With Flourishing Walls

UNEP (UN / WPP file photo illustration)

Belmont large Horse (Art work by Lisa Florentines Luludi photos)

Fiorentinos in her natural ambient (Courtesy photo by LF)

Green Luludi living art modern design terra jewelry, terrariums, decorative planters, living frames and zen gardens for home, office and special events. (Luludi Art photo)

L. Fiorentinos bridal shower purses (WPP photo file courtesy LF)

UN should go green (WPP photo file illustration)

UN and other should think and act green (UN/WPP photo file illustration)

Liza Fiorentinos portrait (Courtesy photo for education only - public domain)

Liza Fiorentinos (Twitter photo)

Liza Fiorentinos (Courtesy photo Luludi)

Liza Fiorentinos (Courtesy photo Luludi)

Interview by Erol Avdovic (WEBPUBLICAPRESS) UNITED NATIONS – Liza Fiorentinos is a true child of the United Nations. Born in New York City to Greek parents, she grew up in NYC and Africa (Congo and Kenya), where her father worked for the UN for 30 years. They were only the fourth family to arrive in Nairobi when UNEP was created there in 1974.

And, what coincidence — the UNEP (United Nations Environment Program) is the leading global environmental authority that sets the worldwide environmental agenda – which is the something Liza pursue with all her heart.

One would say that Ms. Fiorentinos promotes and implements locally the

UNEP (UN photo illustration)

UNEP (UN photo illustration)

coherent environmental dimension of sustainable development. And, that is also by definition – the explanation of what UNEP advocate for the global environment, and what Liza’s father did.

Ms. Fiorentinos have a simple eco-business philosophy with a clear green mission for her company “Luludi Living Art” (“luludi” is flower in Greek) – to bring plants into all workspaces.

She know how to replace fresh cut flower display with terrariums and help learn others how to make terrariums.

“With that you can make your immediate environment more sustainable, simply,” she said. “Its not complicated.”

“Everybody who can,” she appeals – “should replace the fresh cut flowers in building lobbies with flowering orchids or moss walls.” That is better than “spending a fortune on elaborate centerpieces for events.”

Fiorentinos details, her company would create “a bespoke terrarium incorporating colored mosses, decorative pebbles and a live plant that will live forever (as long as you care for it).”

“The guest can then take them home and enjoy them for years to come.”


Entrepreneur in heart  


Belmont large Horse (Art work by Lisa Florentines Luludi photos)

Belmont large Horse (Art work by Lisa Florentines Luludi photos)

Fiorentinos recalls she has always been an entrepreneur in her heart. When she was 8 years old, sitting with her Mother on a beach in Greece she drew out her detailed plans of the Soda Pop Shop she was going to create when she was old enough…right down to the pink-striped uniforms of the wait-staff.

Then, some years latter, after successful career in TV Media sales took her to Chicago, New York and Paris, Liza decided to come back to her native city. In 2010 she married a fellow Greek and moved to the city of the United Nations to be with her husband. Ms. Fiorentinos worked with CNN International and then launched the CNBC office in charge of 16 European countries.

“Luludi Living Art” was born a few months after she moved back to New York City. “Luludi” is also based on Liza’s realization that people spend way too much time naturally, indoors and under unhealthy fluorescent lights. She wanted to find a way to bring nature indoors artistically – “to make people desire to have plants next to them since there were so many benefits.”

Ms. Fiorentinos took a few classes, did some research and launched her business in Astoria, a charming suburb on the East River in New York.

Six years later she owns a retail shop where they also teach Terrarium Classes three times per week. The primary business is events and corporate. With her team they create beautiful centerpieces for events, soirées and galas that are sustainable and are not thrown out after the event.

“Luludi also creates beautiful living art for the lobbies of many Manhattan luxury commercial and residential buildings,” she explains.

“Terrariums make wonderful displays that tenants appreciate for their aesthetic and healthful benefits.”


From inspiration to realization


We talked to Liza Fiorentinos on the eve of 72. Session of UN General Assembly when New York becomes capital of the World — inspired by the need to preserve the human environment for what the UN is up to, and — other responsible parties are trying to follow. Certainly, our interlocutor is one of those responsible.

Asked to explain her inspiration and purpose to create this beautiful green

L. Fiorentinos bridal shower purses (WPP photo file courtesy LF)

L. Fiorentinos bridal shower purses (WPP photo file courtesy LF)

eco indoors, Liza Fiorentinos said her inspiration came from Paris. It was Patrick Blanc – the originator of Vertical Walls.

One of her first stops when she moved to Paris was La Fondation Cartier with its vertical wall. When she returned to New York, seven years ago she knew she was going to launch a business in this sphere and in 2011 “Luludi” was born.

Working in offices under dreary fluorescent lighting she decided to launch a business that would bring nature indoors artistically.

“We create ‘living art’, a way to bring plant life indoors in a chic, aesthetically pleasing and simple manner. Terrariums (usually a glass enclosure used for growing plants) have enjoyed a huge come-back in the past few years,” Liza said explaining how to design and create “pieces that office inhabitants would love to have around.”

“These mini living worlds are meant to make people smile and feel good every time they look at them, while enjoying the healthful benefits plants in a space, offer.”

“Since I grew up in Africa,” she reminds, “I walk barefoot every chance I get because it makes me feel grounded. My formative years in Nairobi were spent among profusions of colorful bougainvilleas, aromatic jacarandas and exotic frangipanis. Little did I know – decades later, after years spent in New York and Paris, I would launch a business that would bring live plants into peoples spaces.”


Straight talk


So we spontaneously set our questions to which Liza responds carefully and accurately. This is an exclusive interview for Webpublicapress.


How can your work improve living and working environment? Do you have some indicators that prove the betterment for those surrounded by your work?


Budda Lisa 10

Buddy with plants as a spiritual inspiration (Courtesy photo LF)

– Terrariums and plants in a living and working environment can be very sexy! The benefits as studies* have shown are endless. Imagine walking into your office and immediately feeling happy and then sitting at your desk and actually being able to concentrate and focus on your tasks, while not hearing your neighbors chatter and breathing in fresh oxygen and reducing your chances of getting sick. How could you not love having plants around? Oh, did I mention that plants have been shown to reduce Stress? One doesn’t need exotic plants and ‘break-the bank’ air purifiers, just purchase a few terrariums or a bunch of Areca Plants, or Mother in Law Tongues  and let Mother Nature work its magic! Many people are intrigued by Feng Shui (the spatial arrangement of objects) and live plants are thought to bring abundance and prosperity into the space where they are placed. (Liza and her team are amateur Feng Shui Enthusiasts and often make recommendations to clients about the best places to arrange the plants).

Here is a great TED Talk (video) on ‘How to Grow Your Own Fresh Air’ by the Indian researcher Kamal Meattle (you can read it here)
*NASA, Bloomberg Business-week, Scientific American, Journal of Environmental Psychology, Journal of Corporate Real Estate, Environmental Health Perspectives, Huffington Post…to cite just a few.


Individual responsibilities


Is it safe to say that your work is a part of Green economy since you obey environmental rules? Are you saying that businesses and big institutions like UN can’t go fully green without showing they are green inside – without Mother Nature choreography?


- YES, yes, yes!  How can grocery stores in New York still offer plastic bags?!? Why doesn’t UNEP print a few billion eco friendly bags with their website and some fun facts on ways we can each help the environment and just give them out. They would raise awareness, make some noise and get many more people involved in some of their initiatives e.g. UN Green Network or PAGE.

If a space such at the UN HQ in NY doesn’t have a plethora of live plants and living art in there its not walking the walk.. its just talking the talk. We are always so busy; running from one meeting to another, texting on our phones, to the computer to answer emails, to a business dinner or home to do more work and take care of the children. Having live plants and living art in all these environments would organically make people calm down and feel better. It needs to be part of the fabric of the culture, like paint on the walls. No one would ever move into a space that wasn’t painted, so why move into a space that doesn’t have live plants?


But how to make that change of culture in the ambient driven so much with price and other rather economic, more then environmental interests? Where to start?


- Many companies, including ourselves offer terrarium classes to learn how to

Green Luludi living art modern design terra jewelry, terrariums, decorative planters, living frames and zen gardens for home, office and special events. (Luludi Art photo)

Green Luludi living art modern design terra jewelry, terrariums, decorative planters, living frames and zen gardens for home, office and special events. (Luludi Art photo)

create mini living worlds. Once they learn they can then create on their own using any materials they have at home. These little glass worlds then sit on someones desk and work their magic. Why not educate staff and their families in this simple art? Don’t do it on Earth Day when there are so many events and its politicized. Do it in January or March or October and raise awareness all year long. After the classes, each floor can display their terrariums for everyone to see and be inspired, or sell them for a nominal fee and donate the proceeds to educating the masses on switching to a more sustainable lifestyle.


Theory and practice


UN defines green economy as “one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. It is low carbon, resource efficient, and socially inclusive.” Again, how to make more green surfaces inside and outside the working environment as a part of some reasonable consensus?


- I am really stumped by the corporations lack of plant inclusiveness in the work space. Its as if they see it as a luxury and not a necessity despite study after study indicating that their staff would be happier, focused, calmer and less stressed. In other words, staff would be more efficient thereby making companies more profitable. And, it comes down to education and leaders who walk the walk and not just give pretty speeches about climate change and renewable energy. In order to achieve sustainable development, Johann Dreo’s chart indicates that it is the overlap of Social, Economic and Environment factors that make it possible. Leaders that actually see that it is not a choice between a healthy economy and a healthy environment – are the ones paving the way for the future. They just need to do it quickly while there is still some green left on the globe, as Erik Solheim (Norwegian diplomat and former politician, and the current Executive Director of UNEP) said at Global Forum on Sustainable Development March 2017.


What about New York: the city also lags behind in creative initiatives?


UN and other should think and act green (UN/WPP photo file illustration)

UN and other should think and act green (UN/WPP photo file illustration)

- With all the new construction just in NYC alone, why aren’t there mandates on creating green roofs which offer energy conservation, reduce pollutants in the air, reduce noise etc. Its is such a simple project to undertake with widespread benefits for the environment.


UN underwent renovation to become green as much as possible. Do you think UN has made it enough for the goal? To me, the building inside still looks like “Cold War” headquarters – with to little green areas; what say you?


- There were many renovations executed at the UN HQ that we actually do not ‘see’ and i believe the building achieved LEED (free) status which is truly wonderful! Additionally, at the UN HQ in I am aware of the UN Food Gardens initiative but are there plans for the UN to create their own roof garden.

Truly, the interiors just need more plants and living art in the shape of moss walls. It would be a game changer for the millions of staff that walk through these hallowed hallways every year. What a difference some green would make on so many levels. Imagine if after a few terrarium classes with UN Staff, the 39 floors had mini living worlds displayed all over, designed AND created by UN’ers? What a wonderful environment to walk into. Just think of the benefits we discussed earlier; stress reduction, noise reduction, happy moods etc.


UN should set a green example


Can your art actually remind UN staff to all declared commitments that everybody should go green, and that UN should set an example?


- The UN should most definitely set an example and it is such an inexpensive way to put smiles on staffers faces. Here are just some ideas:

  • · Each of the 193 member states can create a low-maintenance living art display for the building with plants that are indigenous to their country. 
  • · Terrarium Classes can be held each week for the staff to participate and then displayed in the cafeteria and other high trafficked areas for everyone to admire and be inspired. They can then be placed on their desks for them to enjoy.
  • · Moss Wall Gardens (created with preserved moss, not artificial) can be designed in the shape of each member country and displayed throughout the building.
  • · Large size UN Emblem’s can be created out of light blue reindeer moss and framed and hung throughout the building to show how nature can be breathtaking.
  • · A Cheap and cheerful solution is just to purchase a bunch of shoulder high plants and scatter them strategically thought the 39 floors.


Looking at your work – which contains that exact UN approach with human rights in the center,  you are relaying to Zen and other Eastern thinking and relationship to the Nature – what is your philosophical approach?


Fiorentinos in her natural ambient (Courtesy photo by LF)

Fiorentinos in her natural ambient (Courtesy photo by LF)

- There are such vast differences between Eastern and Western Philosophies in social responsibility principles. In Eastern thinking everything and everyone are connected and we are ALL responsible for what happens (the actions we take today) versus the Western thought that it is about individuals and solutions that exist outside the self and the future is unknown. Its an individualistic approach.

Interestingly enough, one of our most popular corporate gifts is the mini Zen garden we offer with an air plant. Westerners are fascinated by raking the sand in the little box without a purpose. After just a few rakes they feel calmer and more relaxed but that is not why they started to rake in the first place. Easterners use the Zen – rock garden to train their thoughts, to go ‘inside’ themselves and calm the mind.


Having said that what be your personal message to the UN Secretary General?


- My message to Mr Guterres is: Similar to physics which (as he knows better) is the study of matter, energy, and the interaction between them, the presence of live plants are transformative with people. Their presence can and will affect humans in the most profound way. Using your famous skill as a negotiator, help countries see the benefit of linking human rights and environmental protection as a way to a successful green economy. Show them the benefits!

As a start, incorporate more green in the United Nations Headquarters in New York. it is a simple way to engender harmony with this living art which is dynamic and ever changing.


Corporations resist most


On the other – corporate front, as many published studies suggest that governments and civil society have a large role to play in building a green economy. What do you say to them?


- Corporations have a social responsibility that may be even greater than the role of governments in the green economy. If there is buy-in on their level there will be a seismic shift in green initiatives throughout the whole society that cannot be ignored. Corporations tend to resist large changes to policy unless they are forced to by their shareholders and yet if they were able to see that the green economy could be about more profit to their bottom-line AND authentic corporate responsibility it would happen organically.


How can UN help to change that corporations resisting philosophy? Can UN do something at all? Corporate world is different?


- Why not have UNEP, UNCTAD, UNDESA and other related groups develop

UN should go green (WPP photo file illustration)

UN should go green (WPP photo file illustration)

an outreach to corporate leaders or their CSR Departments to show them how simple it would be to effect profitable change in their organizations all the while gaining a competitive edge. There are just some super simple ways from writer, consultant and Shel Horowitz in an interview from February 2017. (you can read it here)


Since your work of art is somehow the message to the outside world – what is your message or even appeal to the world leaders on the eve of this 72. UN General Assembly? Could plants save the world?


- The theme of UNGA this year is ‘Focusing on People: Striving for Peace and a Decent Life for All on a Sustainable Planet’. That is a harmonic message and i hope the leaders work together to take huge strides to achieve this, keeping in mind one of my favorite quotes on this subject by the poet and environmental activist, Wendell Barry:


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