They’re beautiful, symbolic and add colour and scent to a room.
We buy them for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and of course Valentine’s Day.
But have you ever wondered what effect your flowers have on the environment?
Ethical or eco floristry doesn’t just mean ditching the plastic wrapping on your carnations, it’s a whole new way of thinking about where flowers come from and how they’re grown.
Many florists are rethinking the source of their blooms – and even growing their own where possible – and not just because the more distance a flower travels, the bigger the carbon footprint.
Pesticides and slave labour…
It’s thought something like 80 per cent of flowers in our shops come from other countries, like the Netherlands, Vietnam, Colombia and Kenya.
On the one hand, there could be an argument made for sustainability when it comes to the hotter countries: because they are near the Equator, they have better growing conditions so no greenhouses are needed which means no artificial light, or heating and cooling systems.
But carbon is released from fossil fuels during cultivation, refrigeration and transportation not to mention the pollution from pesticides which may not be as regulated as with other agricultural produce because we don’t eat flowers.
And there’s also the issue of exploitation in the supply chain with tens of thousands of workers – mainly women and children – working long hours for little pay. On top of that, the pesticides they’re in contact with cause health problems.
Once the flowers reach their destination, there’s the question of packaging and waste with plastic wrapping and floral foam the top two contenders.
What can we do?
So what can we do to make sure our floral purchases are more sustainable and ethically sourced?
The main way to ensure you’re buying sustainably is to buy local and seasonal.
Growers like Rose Valley Farm Flowers, in Cornwall, have chosen to grow flowers in as environmentally friendly a way as possible to ensure you get quality, seasonal blooms. This is their website.
Cat at Tide Flowers, on the north Cornish coast, (https://www.tideflowers.co.uk) is an environmentally conscious florist who sources the blooms for her creations primarily from local farms.
She says: “Almost all of my flowers are British grown, but If I ever do need to import specific varieties for weddings, they will only come from MPS and Fair-trade certified farms; direct from the grower rather than travelling through the big Dutch auctions. All of my packaging is 100% plastic-free; I reduce, reuse, recycle as much as possible; and I offer fully eco-friendly arrangements without the use of floral foam.”
And you can use Flowers from the Farm to source other such businesses. It’s a co-operative of British cut flower growers with members from Cornwall to Scotland, promoting British flowers, freshly picked from a field local to you. You can see their website here.
You could try growing your own. There are lots of books on the topic or you could join a group – perhaps you could form a community gardening club.
If you do buy imported flowers, you can look for certified options which guarantee the plantations have better working conditions and sustainable farming practices.
Certifications to look out for include Fairtrade, LEAF, the Soil Association and the Rainforest Alliance.
So with Mother’s Day fast approaching, you can make an amazing ethical choice on your flower arrangement and do something else good for the environment!