Fresh cut flowers can do wonders to liven up one’s home or add color to weddings and other celebrations, but unfortunately, they may not be as eco-friendly as you would think. Most conventional cut flowers travel thousands of air miles, require tons of pesticides and are grown in dangerous working conditions for farmers.
Conventionally grown flowers are loaded with chemical pesticides, which harm workers, the environment, and even consumers. Did you know that over 70% of all cut flowers sold in the United States are grown abroad and imported to the United States? Only a small minority of these international flower farms have adopted environmentally friendly methods, like banning toxic chemicals for pest control.
The good news is that there are a number of alternative, sustainable options available, including organic and fair trade-certified flowers. Two of the biggest organizations that monitor environmental and labor standards in the flower industry, Fair Trade and VeriFlora, certify and label flowers sold in the United States according to specific sustainability criteria. Both organizations impose strict environmental and labor standards on farms they audit, though they do not require them to be fully organic. Use of pesticides is limited, and workers must be paid fairly.
As for organic options, the USDA does offer an organic certification for flowers, but you may find that local flower shops, grocery stores, and other flower retailers do not offer organics or any of the other eco-labels. If that is the case, there are plenty of options for ordering organic and sustainable flowers online, but don’t hesitate to ask your local florist to start selling organics as well. By expressing your preference as a consumer for organic flowers, you demonstrate that there is a market for them and encourage their production.
However, the best option of all may be to grow flowers yourself. Buy organic bulbs or seeds and start an organic flower garden at home, then clip your own blooms to enjoy inside or give as gifts. If you are a member of a CSA farm or shop at a local farmers’ market, ask about the availability of chemical-free organic flowers to cut down on shipping costs and save energy. For those holidays and special occasions, you can also order from organic and Fair Trade flower providers online (though, of course, that doesn’t take into account other environmental impacts).