Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Roses are red but are they green?

Although I have always known that buying roses on Valentine's Day is a romantic cliche that shows a lack of imagination, what I did not realise is that it usually also shows a serious lack of environmental awareness. Although I regularly think about the environmental impacts of food and fuel, I must admit that I've never really thought about flowers before. (OK, so I don't think about flowers too much in general but I do sometimes buy them!)

In yesterday's "60-Second Earth" Scientific American Podcast, "Roses Raise Environment Concerns", they draw attention to the negative environmental impacts of roses, from direct impacts of habitat destruction and water/pesticide usage to the carbon footprint of transport and refrigeration.

This is not news - Scientific American itself previously had an article in 2009, "Blooms Away: The Real Price of Flowers", exploring some of these issues. It is news to me, though, as is the idea that roses are particularly bad - presumably because of the excessive demand at an inappropriate (from a growth perspective) time of the year.

As with all environmental issues, however, it's also quite complicated. As the 2009 article states:
"First off, don't assume that imported roses are environmentally hostile. A 2007 study by Cranfield University in England found that raising 12,000 Kenyan roses resulted in 13,200 pounds (6,000 kilograms) of CO2; the equivalent number grown in a Dutch hothouse emitted 77,150 pounds (35,000 kilograms) of CO2. Both examples include energy used in production and delivery by plane and/or truck. The roses from Holland required artificial light, heat and cooling over the eight- to 12-week growing cycle, whereas Africa's strong sun boosted rose production by nearly 70 percent over those grown in  Europe's flower auction capital."
If you do want to give flowers then the best thing is probably to consider getting them from a company like Florverde:
"Florverde Sustainable Flowers FSF® are grown responsibly by growers. This means they follow best practices to protect the environment and their workers."
Likewise, if giving jewellery, consider a Fair trade supplier, like CRED. (Order by Wednesday for UK Valentine's Day delivery. We got our wedding rings from them so I wanted to give them a mention!)

It's not always easy to consider the environmental impact of our activities (and I could certainly do more) but when it comes to luxury goods like flowers and jewellery, I think we have a particular responsibility to do the right thing. It's the thought that counts, so spare a thought for the environment this Valentine's Day.

1 comment:

  1. Always been suspicious of flower growers since seeing Jean de Florette (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091288/).

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