In a society increasingly conscious of purchasing local foods, recycling, and conserving natural resources, all to be healthier and kinder to our environment, why are cut flowers still such a powerful commodity? We can’t eat them and they die within a week, so it’s hard to justify the purchase. This Mother’s Day, think before you place an order for flower delivery. Cast your dollar votes wisely when it comes to the tradition of purchasing flowers, and get creative to be more sustainable!
You would never guess that the fresh, bright flowers delivered to our doorsteps, sometimes overnight, have probably travelled thousands and thousands of miles to make it just in time for that special occasion. Cut flowers typically come from the Netherlands, where they’re often grown in greenhouses due to the cold winters; Africa, especially the country of Kenya; and South America, Colombia in particular. Flowers enter the US through major coastal ports, such as Miami, and are then trucked or flown to supermarkets, florists, and homes nationwide. Beyond the enormously negative environmental effects of these massive transportation needs are the embodied emissions and destruction done in the production lifecycle. This includes the fossil fuels used for cultivation, the production of fertilizer and the negative effects of that fertilized run-off on local waterways, refrigeration needs for transportation, and the use of pesticides for preservation. All this for a product with a purely aesthetic value.
Have you ever wondered how it’s possible that major flower companies can promise a 7 day life for their flowers when the flowers from your backyard might look fresh for just a few days? In exchange for the lively blooms, you invite a host of pesticides into your home, the amounts of which are unregulated because we don’t eat the flowers. In fact, you bury your nose in them! Having cut flowers in your house once in a while probably isn’t going to be the direct cause of some pesticide induced disease. But imagine you were the field employee, working 18-20 hour days around Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day, applying the chemicals in a greenhouse-like enclosure. Lacking proper protection for your hands, eyes, and lungs, you are likely to suffer from chronic respiratory ailments, infections, blindness, or worse.
This year, consider giving your mother something different, something sustainable, something long-lasting and useful. Ideas are endless thanks to the power of the internet. In one quick search I found these 15 easy DIY projects using old mason jars! If you don’t want to give up on a pretty bundle of flowers, shop locally and make sure you know where your flowers are coming from. Your local farmer’s market is a great place to start. Happy Mother’s Day!Post by Molly Hislop, Director of Programs and Marketing, GEF