A vibrant flower holds undeniable beauty. You can’t argue with that. Perhaps you’re not a flower person yourself, but you’ll likely buy flowers for at least one of the women (or men!) in your life at one point or another, and when you pick them you’ll want to choose well. Or perhaps you’re at the other end of the spectrum and can’t cope without a dining table adorned with a beautiful bloom. Either way, it’s important to know the ethics around the flower trade and ways you can ensure you’re shopping for sustainable, eco flower options. There’s more to consider than you might think. From origin to packaging, we’ll look at the most common problems around the flower market and how to ensure you don’t support them.
The first and most obvious choice you can make is to shop locally. Just like foods imported from far and wide, imported flowers leave a large carbon footprint. Here in the UK, most of our flowers are imported from the Netherlands, Colombia, and Kenya. And across the pond it’s mostly Colombia again, occupying 70% of the US market. So what is it about Colombia? The South American country boasts consistent light, temperature, and precipitation levels suitable for growing crops year-round. But the industry is akin to that of fast fashion. Workers spend many hours doing hard labor for little pay without breaks and report terrible working conditions and sexual harassment. Then there are the issues of water usage (one rose takes 3 gallons of water) and pesticide use. Negative side effects were found in flower farmers spraying pesticides in greenhouses with a higher risk of respiratory diseases amongst a Japanese study group.
But if imports are a must, try to at least search for organic offerings. But one better than that is organic and domestic. The number of small flower farms on US soil increased by 20% between 2010-2015 as more consumers began questioning where their bouquets came from. The environmentally-conscious want to know where their carrots are grown, so why not their carnations? An excellent resource for finding US-grown flowers is Slow Flowers. Search by city or zip code and frolic through the daisies to your heart’s content.
So, you’ve done your research and you’ve decided on a local, organic supplier. Next up, take a look at the packaging. It’s really very similar to buying edible produce, isn’t it? The ideal is to avoid plastic and purchase loose or within paper or permanent packaging (like a vase or pot). Consider taking a scarf or some newspaper to your florist of choice if you’re unsure on the packaging they might supply. Purchase the flowers without the single-use waste and do with them as you please. A colorful scarf can be a beautiful way to present flowers to the receiver if you’re gift-giving; otherwise, keep reading for some other creative ways you can add sustainable flowers to your life and that of your loved ones to brighten up the mood and bask in the beauty.
- Pick wildflowers and foliage. Flowers are beautiful, but so too are coniferous snippings, especially paired with brown paper, string, and berries. In temperate zones, immerse yourself in local beauty and the delights that it brings. These picks will look far more natural during the winter months anyway. But during spring and summer, try poppies, daffodils, bluebells, lavender, or an array of other wild flora. Experiment with color and get creative.
- Single eco flower centerpieces. As we read earlier, a single rose takes 3 gallons of water to produce. That means a dozen roses require 36 gallons! Consider displaying a single beautiful flower in a pimped-out wine bottle. Spray paint yours, or wrap in lace or burlap and display a contrasting flower for a pop of color. This is a great way to inexpensively upcycle something you’ve likely already got lying around. Alternate bottles along your dining table featuring flowers and candles and you’re onto a winner.
- Give the gift of life. If you want to go one above cut flowers, consider giving a living plant. This will be something you can care for or delight a receiver with if you’re gift-giving. A terrarium is an excellent choice because it’s beautiful, can be created from something upcycled and features a succulent or cactus which – let’s be honest – really are superior in the plant kingdom. (Namely, because they’re harder to kill off if you’re not the most, ahem, attentive human.) The one above is just one way of jazzing up something that would otherwise get sent to landfill. Use an old fish bowl, jar, or even light bulb. Fetch a cactus, clean out and decorate your old jam jar and jazz up with crystals, marbles, beads or whatever else takes your fancy.
When it comes to buying eco flower arrangements more sustainably, think local, think less, and think living. What can you do to minimize the strain on imported blooms, pesticide use, and plastic packaging? The answer – as with most things – is to get creative!
How do you make ethical choices when adorning your space with flowers? Are there any tips and tricks you’ve found to shop more sustainably for eco flower arrangements?