For decades, florist flowers are one of the ultimate and most prestigious gifts for nearly any occasion, especially on significant dates and holidays. A Rutgers University study proved what we have inherently always known; flowers immediately elevate mood and universally make people happy at any age, but at what cost to the world.
The Flower Research-The Eco Florist
As a floral artist for over 25 years, with an environmental background; in December of 2000 before placing my rose order for Valentines’ Day, I began to research for the infamous American Beauty rose that I realized was mysteriously no longer offered. My alarming findings and unbelievable blindness of my industry were more than I expected. It led me to my decision to a 10 year endeavor to completely restructure my business to green certified and to bring awareness by creating the first ‘eco florist’. Contrary to belief; it is not easy being green. It takes reversing your thinking, a dedicated energy, tenacity, and ongoing passion as some things are just not replaceable or even available. It also means having the heart to go up against the industry giants and the belief that one person can indeed make a difference, because I discovered that you can.
The Hype About Flowers
Being green is the vogue, new darling of the advertising world; it’s an easy and seemingly pure way of gaining new customers on the guise of business conscience and accountability. We are seeing the hype and marketing of eco-friendly, organic, fair trade, certified, sustainably grown, and green flowers everywhere. So many terms to describe one criteria, and confusing to an already confused consumer trying to do and purchase the right thing. The list of these new terms is being added too every year and now publicized from big box to grocery store to online order houses, because a green affinity is the new gold in flower marketing and all marketing. Flowers are nature, hence florists are indeed a nature business, so why now all these criteria and certifications? What’s wrong with flowers that they need to be publicized as eco- friendly?
The Problems With Flowers
The flower industry has unfortunately become much like our food industry. The large, majority of flowers sold in North America are now manufactured on massive, corporate, farms outside of the United States and Canada; mainly in South America, and predominantly in Columbia, Ecuador and Peru. What’s concerning and questionable; these flowers, while outwardly budget- friendly for big business and the consumer wallet, are not as kind to the environment or its inhabitants. The forced grown flowers among other things, have been bred to be thorn less, enlarged, unnaturally hybridized, dyed, and groomed to last during shipping, but not in our homes. This is why the new array of chain chemicals has come to be advised at all levels from wholesale to florist to consumer. The industry claims they prevent air pockets, weak necks, bacteria, and all sort of malady.
However, you can’t have it all with Mother Nature it seems, as one of the tradeoffs for chemically enhanced, manufactured flowers is the loss of their heady scents; ironically their main attraction. And, they cannot seem to get it back. Gone is the aromatic, American Beauty rose and those, spicy scented CA carnations. Except from our own garden and old stock cuttings, the likes of either will I doubt ever be inhaled again. Unfortunately, whatever retail market, store, florist, or garden center in the United States or Canada, both off and online; only offer these inexpensive, flowers. Obviously, you are getting just exactly what you pay for as there has not been and never will again be a beautiful vase of long lasting, fragrant roses of the finest quality for 39.99, delivered; not since the economy of 1950. It is impossible, unfeasible, and absurd to believe that advertising.
The Effects and Reasons
The environmental impact is not much better. At harvesting, they are wrapped in unrecyclable wraps and non biodegradable plastic, and packed in boxes made from deforested trees. They are shipped thousands of miles to where they will eventually be sold; using more fossil fuel energy than it took to grow them. It seems illogical as to why these flowers would be a viable alternative to our own; but like our food, it is simply politics, cost, and the lack of regulations in a perfect climate that perpetuate it. The multitude of insecticides, pesticides, herbicides, and growth chemicals are used with minimal to no human or environmental protection or regulation. To compound the issue, both the environment surrounding a farm and its workforce, suffer from health issues due to chemical exposure and runoff.
On the labor side; there are few to no wage or age labor laws providing sustainable hours and incomes; and rare are the medical benefits. Some farms are trying and succeeding at a more sustainable and kind operation, while others are just creating their own certifications to polish their image. To finish the deal; flowers are one of the few imported products with ‘political’, duty free, status. Just in the last decade, our American farms are now numbered at half what they were and those left are suffering along with the quality of the lovely and prestigious gift of flowers. We need to use our monies wisely, and we need to level the playing field.
What You Can Do & What You Can Trust
*Buy from a real florist or grower in your own area-not online, at the grocery, or from chain store. If we have heard it once, we have heard it 100 times-know where your product originates-buy local and patronize local. For every $1 you spend locally-68 cents stays in that community.
* Buy for the quality and not the quantity with only flowers grown in the US. The scent, longevity, and value are unmatched.
*Choose flowers of the season like California Spring roses or tulips, New Jersey Summer dahlias, Florida Autumn sunflowers and our own, New York Winter anemones.
*Become aware of the labels below; if there are none then ask your florist where they were grown. There are only 3 certifications at this point that I look for and really trust. Absolutely learn them.
1- USDA Organic tags
2- US Grown Label
3- US Grown with a Veriflora Certified label
Beware the multitude of certifications and labels without researching them first, many you will find are just a label of aspiration with no real change. Knowing eco friendly anything is now preferred; certifications are being created by the corporate farm owners themselves for their own products.
Every action we take has a reaction to someone or some living thing, whether plant, animal, or human; and we sometimes forget about that. Spend your monies on purchases that support your values, beliefs, your community, and country. By following these simple guidelines, it’s easier to ensure you are doing so; getting both an earth friendly, quality product and truly making the world happy.