Did you give your mother flowers for Mother’s Day this year? Then heads up, because one environmental journalist wants you to know that flowers may be one of the worst gifts you can give. Couples the world over may be sighing in relief at the news that finally, those roses may be just too ecologically insensitive to continue giving at Valentine’s Day, anniversaries and all those other occasions that call for flowers. Read on to see all the reasons that Jennifer Grayson at the Washington Post wants you to reconsider the ubiquitous bouquet.
But aren’t flowers organic — and eco-friendly? Well, yes, Grayson says, but only in the truest sense of the word. Flowers will decompose after a while, returning them to the Earth and making them organic at heart. However, because as many as 80 percent of the flowers sold in the United States are imported from places like Colombia or Ecuador, and it takes a lot of energy and chemical intervention to produce them and then to keep them fresh while they make the trek here.
Flowers are “saturated” Grayson says, with a cocktail of toxic chemicals such as aldicarb, an “insecticide responsible for the largest pesticide poisoning in U.S. history, in 1985, and methyl parathion, designated “one of the most toxic organophosphate pesticides” by the Environmental Protection Agency.” Women who work in these production greenhouses often see their children suffer due to prenatal exposure. One study found that flower workers in Ecuador suffer a great rish of neurological impairment and hypertension.
In addition, the carbon footprint of your standard bouquet of flowers is massive. After being cut, they are stored in a refrigerated warehouse. Then they are shipped to their destination in a cargo plane — not exactly the most eco-friendly of transportation options. Then they are held in a refrigerated warehouse until it’s time to ship them by refrigerated truck to your local store. There, they wait in a refrigerator until you or your husband or your son or your daughter picks them out and sends them to mom or wife or girlfriend or whomever.
According to Scientific American, sending 100 million roses on Valentine’s Day from “field to florist” produces about 9,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. This does not include the massive amount of garbage associated with giving flowers in cellophane and other floral accessories.
So how do you still give mom or your partner flowers without such a massive impact on the environment? Try giving local flowers. Or buy flowering plants and other ornamentals that can be planted and kept.