Flowers are the most perfect gifts. These pretty blooms are perfect for every occasion like Valentine’s Day, wedding anniversary or just like that. No occasion, good or bad, is perfect without flowers.
Floral industry is growing every year and the net worth of cut floral industry is almost $55 billion per year. On occasions like mother’s day and Valentine’s Day the sales of cut flowers touch the sky.
But do you know that they have a huge impact on human and environmental health? Below is a complete guide on how the floral industry is affecting the planet and what should be done to cope with it.
Non-seasonal flowers are imported in refrigerated airplane holds that are often flown thousands of miles
The largest consumer of cut flowers is US that imports majority of its flowers from Ecuador and Columbia. While in Europe most of the imported flowers are from East Africa.
Right now, Columbia is the largest producer of cut flowers which exports some 660 million stems a year. Kenya, Sri Lanka and Ecuador are also among the top producers. Chine is also in the race of top cut flowers producers.
Most of these flowers are produced and grown in high-altitude and industrial scale greenhouses and the farms normally exceed 500 acres. Flowers require a lot of water which leads to high water consumption and chemical overflow. For instance, critics say that the Lake Naicasha that is backbone of Kenyan cut flower industry consumes half of the country’s water.
Flowers are also considered as the biggest carbon generators due to the long flights and refrigeration. Stems are mostly transported to thousands of miles. In 2018 alone, the transportation of flowers on Valentine’s Day generated around 360,000 tons of Carbon which is equal to 75000 cars driven per year.
In US even after flowers are flown, they are further transported to other states in trucks and cars which produces additional Carbon.
Here it is pertinent to note that international transportation is not the only culprit. Flowers that produced domestically are also grown in cooler climates and greenhouses. So the domestic flowers are also major CO2 producers. For better growth these flowers also continuously need chemicals like pesticides and herbicides.
Carbon footprints of flowers that are grown in cold countries like US are higher than equatorials countries.
People and workers living near floral farms are paying the cost
Current floral consumption model is not only harmful to the planets but the workers are also at high risk. Human and environmental effects of cut floral industry are equal to other agricultural products.
For instance, workers are continuously exposed to harmful toxins despite of the protective measures. These chemical include pesticides and insecticides that may be carcinogenic and can induce serious health problems.
Local population is at higher risks. Researchers in US and California found that a small group of children living near the Ecuador floral farms developed serious brain conditions to the application of pesticides.
They said that children are exposed to these chemicals by contaminated shoes or clothing brought home by their parents working in the farms. Since 1990 labor conditions and pays have improved but still they are at high risk due to continuous exposure.
4 things to consider while buying your bouquet
Giving up buying cut flowers is not the solution. It can reduce the carbon emission but at the same time millions of workers will be jobless. As consumers you may communicate your demands to the producers without risking the jobs of workers.
There are 4 questions you need to ask before your next purchase:
- How far flowers have traveled?
If your flowers are not labeled then it’s not easy to find their origin so you may have to do a little research. Floral industry is not bound to disclose their suppliers and that is why it is more complicated. A bouquet contains many flowers from many countries so it is not easy to calculate the carbon footprint.
- How the flowers are produced?
This is an important question to ask. You should buy only those flowers that are produced ethically and sustainably.
- Who benefits the most?
Most people buy their flowers from a supermarket. You can get flowers at very low prices here but you need to be mindful because this can keep the labors salaries low. So always ask the supermarket about the supply chain and the ultimate beneficiary.
- How wastes can be reduced?
If you are buying from a local market then don’t ask for a packaging rather take your vase with you and ask the florist to place them inside. You can also plant your own flowers in your home garden. This will help not only in carbon reduction but it’s also a healthy activity.