How To Buy Flowers With A Clear Conscience
It’s been a long, slow process, but it seems as if we’re finally starting to wake up and realize that we’ve been doing things wrong. What things? Oh, most things. We’ve been consuming products in ways that have not only caused harm to our planet, but have also done damage in developing countries and have been detrimental to vulnerable workers in impoverished countries. As we’ve all become more aware of our need to be eco-friendly, and to only buy products from companies that practice sustainable and worker-friendly business practices, it’s become necessary to ask how we can do that. It means relearning our ways.
Case Study: The Flower Industry
This holds true when it comes to buying flowers as well. Many of the traditional practices utilized in flower growing, harvesting, and resell have been devastating.
But, don’t despair. You can still buy flowers, I promise, without feeling like you’re damaging the planet. You see, there are people inside of the flower farming industry who have taken heed to the world’s growing desire to buy from companies who practice good, sustainable business practices. Here is what you should be aware of when buying flowers, and how to make sure you’re doing it right.
Take Working Conditions into Consideration
Like many farming industries, the flower industry historically relied upon cheap labor that was found readily in developing countries. This meant that farm workers were often underpaid, overworked, had limited job safety, children were employed, and a whole slew of other health and safety problems. On top of that, it has traditionally been almost impossible to know, as a consumer, what kinds of conditions are present on the farms where the flowers we buy are grown.
Fortunately, however, there are companies who are taking a stand against the exploitation of farm workers. For example, an online consumer flower seller, has made a commitment to build a family of flower farms that treat employees fairly. Each of their farms offers workers free onsite healthcare, daycare and school for workers’ children, and free or subsidized meals. Before you buy flowers, take a moment to investigate the company and see what their commitment is to their workers. Look for endorsements and read the company’s statement on the topic.
Consider Local Environmental Impact
Another issue that has plagued the flower growing industry is the impact that it’s had on the environment. Traditional farming practices have depleted local water supplies, created air pollution, and also poisoned workers and water reserves with harsh pesticides and chemicals.
The industry has relied on practices that are just not sustainable in today’s world. Yet, many flower farms have begun to rely on more environmentally friendly practices. Many have decided to forgo pesticides and chemical fertilizers altogether and instead practice organic growing methods such as natural fertilizers and using “good” insects to control pest populations instead of pesticides.
There has been a push to regulate the industry so that consumers can be sure that the flowers they are buying are being grown sustainably. In order to be certain the flowers you’re buying are eco-friendly, look for flowers that have been marked with Florverde, FlorEquador, VeriFlora, or Rainforest Alliance Certified. These companies make certain that flower farmers are held to a rigid standard of best business practices and they regularly inspect the farms to verify that they continue to comply with those standards.
Remember Carbon Footprint Repercussions
Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that the majority of flowers sold in the world are grown in Central and South America, Africa, and the Netherlands. That means that flowers must be shipped long distances in order to end up in the hands of consumers. As we all know, when products have to be shipped, their carbon footprints grow larger.
However, there are ways to ensure that the carbon footprint of the flowers you buy stays as small as possible. First of all, pay attention to where the flowers you are buying are grown. A 2007 study by Cranfield University showed that flowers that are grown in countries with temperate climates, such as Colombia, Kenya, and Ecuador, have a carbon footprint that is about the 1/3 of a size of flowers grown in colder areas that require more energy to aid flower production.
Also, look for companies that cut out the middleman and instead utilize farm direct practices. That means, instead of shipping flowers from the farms they are grown at, then to a wholesaler that then ships them to the consumer, these companies ship directly from the farm to the consumer. It cuts out a whole shipping step, which, in turn, can dramatically decrease the carbon footprint of the end product.
Being a conscientious consumer isn’t easy, but it can make a significant difference in how things are done in the world. The more we support companies that do it things the “right way,” the sooner others in the industry will fall in line with better business practices.