From that Valentine’s Day bouquet of roses to that “just thinking of you” vase of carnations, there are few things as romantic or cheering as flowers. Like most of the agriculture we produce, flowers seem to appear magically in our grocery stores, the story of how they gotthere a distant memory. Unfortunately, that story isn’t a pleasant one – at least not for those of us who care about the environment, a warming globe, and ethical working conditions. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the always beautiful to see just whether or not it’s possible to enjoy cut flowers guilt-free.
The Trouble With Normal Flowers:
The negative environmental impact of those typical cut flowers you’ll find in a grocery store stems from the fact that flower companies are under a lot of pressure to keep flowers fresh, and without chilled cargo planes, that can be a large feat. Enter the use of chemicals, 20% of which are dangerous enough to be restricted in the US and Europe. While you, the occasional consumer, may not suffer the consequences from occasional exposure, the flower workers sure do, exhibiting in some studies high rates of respiratory problems, miscarriages and neurological damage.
The Benefits of Sustainably Farmed Flowers
Companies with sustainable practices couldn’t be more different than their more typical counterparts – and, in fact, most of have modeled their business practices in direct opposition. One such company is Flower Muse, which differs in several key ways:
1. Sustainable farming practices
It’s all well and good to have eco-principles handed down from on high, but they won’t make much of a difference if every member of the supply chain isn’t on board. Flower Muse works hand in hand with its farmers to constantly develop better growing practices, whether that’s adhering to the strictest water purity standards or researching better fertilizers and earth-friendly methods for pest control. Throughout this, the farmers and workers are full members of the team, their experiences, values and ideas fully considered.
2. Direct to buyer business model
Sustainable flower companies don’t waste time and resources with middlemen and suppliers. Flower Muse uses top notch handling practices to ensure that flowers are picked right at the ideal time to ensure maximum vase life. Flowers are shipped directly to customers upon ordering, rather than sitting indefinitely in energy-hungry warehouses until a mass shipment is ready. Overall, this both cuts down on the carbon-emitting supply chain and speeds flower delivery so that no chemicals need be employed to ensure freshness.
3. Respectful treatment of workers
Flower companies, just like many agribusinesses, are notorious for abusing workers. Long hours, poor working conditions, low pay – you name the abuse, it’s happened. Eco-flower companies understand that sustainability means looking after not just the environment but the people, too. Who else, after all, will be more passionate and creative when it comes to pushing the environmental bounds than workers that are holistically cared for? Flower Muse subsidizes meals, provides onsite healthcare and daycare, and offers scholarships for continuing education.
How To Spot Environmentally Flowers
So, how, then, can the savvy eco-consumer still enjoy cut flowers without feeling like they’ve left a trail of destruction in their wake? Here are a few things to look for.
- Organic farming practices.
- Eco-Friendly certifications, like Rainforest Alliance and Veriflora
- A company that does its own research that furthers sustainable goals.
- A company with a social mission that considers proper treatment of employees to be a crucial part of its business model.
With these principles in mind, you’ll enjoy that romantic gesture even more knowing that it has sustainability at its routes. Now, if we can just talk for a moment about that box of chocolates that’s accompanied your sustainable bouquet…Just kidding, we’ll save free trade chocolate for another day. Enjoy those roses!
Flower photos courtesy of Shutterstock