By Larraine Roulston:
It is estimated that Americans spend $2 billion purchasing 250 million roses for Valentine’s Day. When grown in Colombia, the roses require no artificial light, and the majority of Colombian farm workers either walk or cycle to work. When wilted, flowers can nourish the soil through composting. These are the attributes that make people believe that flowers are an eco-friendly gift. The environmental downside, however, was revealed when calculated that most roses have a hefty carbon footprint due to their flight distance to markets.
Graver’s study showed that, in 2017, 4 billion flowers weighing 200,000 metric tons were air transported from South America to the USA. These cargo boxes resulted in burning 114 million liters of fuel while emitting approximately 360,000 metric tons of CO2. This figure, estimated using the average weight of the flowers, did not include the weight of any packaging materials.
Mother Nature must endure not only the consequences of lengthy airplane travel but also the fuel impact of the refrigerated delivery trucks to a variety of retailers. In addition, the cellophane or paper wrap and individual plastic stem tubes, most of which are not reused, as many florists claim that they need to be disinfected, add waste. Large scale producers use pesticides to grow their flowers, and chemicals to help maintain their freshness and enhance their color. If bouquets are discarded in landfill sites, they emit greenhouse gases; however, when composted, one needs to be mindful of these toxins. Perhaps the best solution, as done with naturally toxic rhubarb leaves, is to place them in a remote location in your yard to decompose. In her headline regarding floral displays, states, “Flowers may be nice for Mom, but they’re terrible for Mother Earth.”
Although Valentine’s Day has passed, Mother’s Day is soon approaching. During this calendar year, you may have several other occasions to purchase bouquets. Flowers are the symbol of love; they have become the traditional wedding decor; they are given at graduations and other family celebrations; they grace tables at events; they’re offered as appreciation and thank-you gifts; they’re bestowed upon sick friends; and they are used to express sympathy. You, however, can make a difference by looking for the designation. The best option is to choose locally grown flowers. Where possible, select them individually and refuse the cellophane or paper wrapping. Weather permitting, you can also make an organic arrangement by hand-picking wildflowers and greenery from a field or backyard garden.
Amy Stewart, author of “Flower Confidential,” notes that flowers such as sweet peas and love-in-a-mist do not ship well and therefore are not grown on a large industrial scale. Stewart also suggests that you’ll be supporting local farmers who can also grow flowers as a rotating crop. These will help rejuvenate the soil and attract pollinators. Stewart added, “You’ll get much more interesting varieties.”
Another way to say “I Love You” is to choose living gifts that are gentle on our earth. Purchase a bouquet of herbs or an herbal garden planter,an edible flower kit, a potted plant, a native shrub, bulbs to enhance a balcony planter box, or an assortment of organic pollinator seed packets.