Monday, March 17, 2014

Flowers that Look Good and Feel Good

The Climate Crusader is wondering whether her love of cut flowers is taking a toll on the planet.

This past summer one of my favourite vendors at my local farmers' market started selling her own locally-grown gerbera daisies. They were beautiful, and colourful, and I bought some. Every time I looked at the vase full of flowers in my living room I smiled. Recently, when I was at the grocery store I saw some gerberas and, remembering how much I enjoyed having them in the house last summer, bought them. When those gerberas died, I bought some tulips. Then I started wondering - is there anything I should know about buying cut flowers?

It turns out that those flowers that look so sunny and cheerful in buckets outside the grocery store might not exactly have a sunny and cheerful past. While it's true that we don't eat flowers, many of the same issues that arise when buying flowers are the same as the issues when buying food. Specifically, most of the flowers bought and sold in North America are shipped long distance and grown using pesticides. As well, many flowers (especially during the winter months) are sourced from tropical countries in the developing world where workers often receive low pay and work long hours in unsafe conditions.

One way to reduce the carbon footprint of the bouquet on your table - and to make sure the flowers were grown sustainably - is to go local. Your local farmers' market, farmstands, your own garden and even wildflowers growing on the side of the road can be great sources of local flowers. What if you want a flower that doesn't grow locally to you, though? And what if you want flowers out of season? I live in Canada, so I can understand why you might want fresh blooms in winter as a pick-me-up.

When you're buying flowers - just like when you're buying food - ask questions. Some local florists specialize in sustainable flowers, sourcing organic and fair trade flowers both locally and internationally. You may also be able to find florists that use biodegradable and sustainable cellophane and bows. Some grocery chains like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's also offer blooms you can feel better about buying. There are also sustainable online florists, so that you can get green flowers wherever you live.

The bottom line anytime you're trying to make greener choices is to be mindful. We might not always make perfect choices, but the more we can do to educate ourselves and think about what we're buying, whether it's flowers, food, clothing or something else, the better off we'll be.


Mindful Echo said...

I love having a few flowers on my dining room table to brighten things up but I'm definitely guilty of just grabbing the packs from the grocery store. I'm looking forward to the summer when fresh, local blooms will be more readily available at the farmers market.

Michelle said...

I never used to buy flowers because they aren't practical. I'd spend my money on food and enjoy the flowers outside - where they belong. Then I saw a sign at a favorite farm stand that said something about their flowers supporting pollinators, healthy soil and wildlife. A lightbulb went off! Farms that grow flowers are important too!! Now, I rarely visit the farmers market without picking up a bouquet for pretty flowers. Thanks for this post!


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