How “fresh” can most cut flowers for sale be, given the amount of pesticides and fungicides (up to†50 times as much as can be used on food crops) used to grow them? There’s also the fact that the vast majority (around 80 percent) of cut flowers sold in the U.S. are imported from far away, often from countries like Columbia and Ecuador.
If you are not inclined to grow flowers yourself using chemical-free methods, it’s more than worth it to consider getting†sustainably grown flowers. These†have been reared without synthetic, toxic substances and by workers who are paid a fair wage for raising them. Instead of pesticides, growers can use predatory mites to kill spider mites and thrips that damage petals and leaves. Instead of being shipped to you in mounds of styrofoam and plastic packaging, flowers from retailers seeking to meet eco-standards come to you in biodegradable, green materials.
The†Fair Trade and†Veriflora labels can help you figure out which flowers were raised using sustainable practices. Flowers with†Fair Trade and/or†Veriflora certification come from farms that have been audited to ensure they follow strict environmental and labor standards. For instance, in recognition of the discrimination women in the flower industry often experience,†Fair Trade requires that farms provide employee benefits, including twelve weeks of paid maternity leave and child care.
Fair Trade’s and Veriflora’s certification†do not, however, require flowers to be fully organic. The label†USDA Organic certifies that flowers have been grown without toxic or synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Some online suppliers for organic flowers are listed at†Organic Gardening; also†check out†Local Harvest to find growers and retailers in your area.
Another factor to keep in mind in seeking out sustainably grown flowers is the issue of energy efficiency. Smaller amounts of flowers grown locally in a heated greenhouse and then transported to various farmers’ markets in a pickup truck do not have an automatic eco-advantage over large loads of flowers transported by more energy efficient means. In addition, as the†National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) points out, the flower industry has an important role in the economies of some Latin American countries. Our†buying flowers from farms certified by entities like Fair Trade and Veriflora can help to push for better regulations to protect workers’ rights and health.
Fresh flowers are routinely associated with spring. Locally grown,†organic flowers comprise only a tiny percentage of the huge business in cut flowers, but by seeking “green flowers” out, you can support growers and florists who are trying to make a difference and do what’s right for the planet.†If you’re not giving flowers with the dirt, why not make sure a bouquet is beautiful through and through, down to the very methods and substances used in growing it?
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