In this time where we are all thinking of playing our part in the world and sustainability, I came to thinking last week, when I received a beautiful bunch of flowers from a friend, as to how ethical it really was to send (and of course receive) flowers.
Who doesn’t love receiving a bouquet of flowers? I for one love to receive them and even more so, have always loved to send them to family and friends on special occasions, both here and abroad, however how ethical is it really?
Some of the considerations are around where the flowers have been grown and how? What transportation was used and how was it packaged? Are growers and workers treated and paid fairly?
Like any industry (I am guessing that the Chocolate and Coffee industries amongst many many others fall into the same bracket) these products need to travel some distance to get to us in good shape and of course a timely manner.
Netherlands, for many centuries, has been at the heart of the flower trade, with around 90% of cut flowers in the UK imported and 80% arriving via the Netherlands. Netherlands is also the central hub used for stopover of flowers grown in countries such as Ecuador, Colombia, Malaysia, China, Ethiopia and Kenya, to name just a few.
Transporting of flowers usually takes place via aircraft, as flowers are time sensitive. Most of their containers need to be refrigerated and for every day of travel, flowers lose 15% of their value, so emissions mount up quickly.
Another concern is the actual growing of the flowers, which usually means the use of pesticides that harm the ecosystems. One green benefit of flowers grown in hotter climates are that less artificial light and heat is needed, so the carbon footprint of the farm is lower than many in the UK.
One key benefit of flower farming is that it provides employment, which in this current economic crisis we are facing because of Covid, it is needed.
An option for us to play our part is to buy from independent UK growers, such as The Great British Florist and Flowers From The Farm. When you next pass by your local florist or when considering buying on line, start up a conversation to find out where, indeed, they get their flowers from. As the owners of independent companies, they will know their source and if they are indeed sourcing from abroad, it will be a good time to ask them questions about sustainability and human rights etc. because may be they have not thought about these points before and it might get them thinking in a more positive and ethical light moving forward.
At the end of the day, it can sometimes come down to cost and if I know a local florist sources their products ethically, I would be happy to pay a few pounds more to play my part and to support their independent business – wouldn’t you?
An alternative and great gift idea is to send bulbs or seeds ethically gift wrapped and packaged to your loved one where they can enjoy your gift year after year.
Like many areas of ‘green living’, when you look further into the facts and practices behind the flowers we buy, all options have sustainability pros and cons. I suggest thinking about the values that are most important to you and make a judgement around those to send your message of love.