Consumers who are concerned about the environment and health should be aware of the good and bad options of buying cut flowers. On special occasions like Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, weddings, funerals, birthdays and anniversaries, the cut flowers industry is seriously damaging the earth.
Avoid commercial cut flowers because:
- Greenhouse producers of cut flowers use large amounts of chemicals which pollute ground water and endanger the health of their workers. Animal, fish and bird populations are greatly reduced by the commercial greenhouse water pollution as well as the amount of drinkable water for humans too.
- Most of cut flowers purchased in the United States are grown with pesticides often banned in the United States, like DDT and ozone depleting methyl bromide, in South and Central American hothouses in countries without strong environmental laws or enforcement.
- Transporting cut flowers for thousands of miles increases greenhouse gas pollution adding carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere. A typical Valentine’s Day of sending 100 million roses creates 9,000 metric tons of CO2 just from the fields to the floral shops, not including deliveries to final addresses.
- Over half of the low-wage floral workers growing the flowers suffer skin and other serious health problems from prolonged exposure to the toxins and chemical poisoning.
- Frequently child labor and below living wage workers, mostly women, are used with little or no safety concerns.
- Over half of flowers sold in the United States come from Columbia where the water table has dropped in the savannah around Bogotá due to the large amounts of water used by flower growers.
- In grocery stores, the contaminated flowers are apt to be loaded into shopping carts with organic, fair trade food products. Imported rose petals have pesticide residues fifty times what is allowed on imported foods and should be handled with gloves according to Richard Wiles of the US Environmental Working Group.
Sellers of fair trade, fair earth, organic, pesticide-free seasonal flowers are a better option, but even then energy-hog hothouses are often used. Request native plants which thrive naturally without heating and lighting, are part of the ecosystem, feed bees and butterflies and other wildlife, with a tiny carbon footprint.
Look for the VeriFlora™ Certified Sustainably Grown label, the agricultural sustainability certification and eco-labeling gold-standard in floriculture and horticulture administered by Scientific Certification Systems Global Services. Another good choice is the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Certification label. The Local Harvest website lists local flower growers in a postal code area. Or buy a vintage pot and some rare flower seeds to be planted by the recipient instead.