Americans purchase an estimated 250 million roses for Valentine’s Day every year, many of which come via flowery delivery from South America. But shipping these roses in time for the holiday comes at a heavy cost to the environment.
Colombia has become a major trading center for roses because of the Andean Trade Preference Act, which was passed under President George H.W. Bush. This act encourages farmers in the region to grow roses as an alternative to coca plants.
Growing these precious petals can be good for the economy of Colombia, and as many as 130,000 workers are now employed in the flower industry.
Related: 9 ways to have an eco-friendly Valentine’s Day
The biggest issue, unfortunately, is with flower delivery. According to TreeHugger, Colombian growers send out 30 cargo planes loaded with roses every day in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, and by the time the holiday rolls around, these planes will have burned about 360,000 tons of carbon dioxide. Those numbers do not factor in the weight of the packaging, which adds an even greater carbon footprint to the equation.
That’s only the start of the problem. Once the flowers reach the U.S., hundreds of refrigerated trucks deliver the roses to various locations. Some of the flowers are also loaded on planes and shipped a second time to cities across the country. Once the flowers reach local businesses, they are wrapped in cellophane and given plastic stem tubes, all of which end up in landfills across the U.S.
One way to fight this growing problem is to purchase roses that feature a Florverde Sustainable Flower label. These varieties of roses, while still shipped via airplanes, are grown using ethical, sustainable practices and are better for the environment. If you really want to help cut carbon emissions on Valentine’s Day, then consider buying seasonal flowers from local growers in your area.
Image via Emily Fletke