With Valentine’s Day rapidly approaching, florists are gearing up for the annual ambush of husbands, boyfriends, admirers and friends.
But those florists aren’t heading into local fields of colourful flowers to source their fresh roses. Cut flowers are often imported from other countries in order to meet the demand for variety; our search for colour and delight can raise several ethical dilemmas.
Australians spend over $23 million each year on imported flowers and Good On You wants to help you make a more ethical (and meaningful) floral decision this Valentine’s Day.
Flowers are imported to Australia from countries like Kenya, Vietnam and Ecuador. Employees in the flower industry in those countries are often exploited, live in poverty and/or work in inadequate working conditions. Some earn as little as $1 a day for a regular shift, which could be up to 12 hours a day. Many are exposed to dangerous chemicals without protection or compensation.
By buying imported flowers, consumers contribute to global carbon emissions. Think about the impact on the environment of refrigeration and transport involved in importation. CHOICE identifies another concern: the pesticides used to treat imported flowers in the quarantine process which can be harmful to the environment and your health. Gardening Australia also cautions about excessive pesticides in cut flowers.
How You Can Source Ethical Flowers
1. Buy Locally-Grown Flowers
Without labelling requirements in the flower industry, Australian consumers often have no idea where their flowers are sourced. Buying locally-grown flowers is a sure-fire way to know you’re not buying imported flowers, therefore consciously reducing your carbon footprint. When you’re at the florist, ask where the particular flowers come from, or buy from a local farmers market to ensure you’re buying Australian-grown.
Try your local fresh produce market, or have a look at Interflora‘s range of native flowers.
2. Buy Seasonal Flowers
Buying seasonal flowers reduces the resources required to grow flowers out of season, and makes them mre environmentally-friendly too! Some of the varieties available this month include Asiatic Lilies, Freesias, and Hydrangeas. Check out the Academy of Floral Art for the seasonal availabilities of all flowers in Australia.
3. Look Out for Organic and Fair Trade Flowers
In Australia there are no certified fair trade florists, and certified organic florists are hard to find. There are however a few organic growers who supply to local florists or at markets. We have only been able to find one florist that has attained organic certification – The Little Flower Farm, located in Melbourne. This farm produces beautiful, organic blooms, committed to a sustainable approach to floristry. As all their flowers are grown in open air and seasonally, they are available between September and June, perfect for Valentine’s Day! If you know of other sources for organic flowers please let us know in the comments.
4. Cut Your Own Flowers
If you’re lucky enough to grow your own flowers or know someone that does, why not cut some of your own flowers? This removes the environmental costs associated with imports and transportation, and also ensures that there are no social effects of your Valentine’s bouquet. (Or go for a wander in a field of flowers just like that hippy dream you’ve always had!)
5. Buy a Plant Instead
To avoid the wastage associated with cut flowers, why not buy a native plant? Not only do plants last longer, they are environmentally-friendly as well as beautiful. They could also be a great Valentine’s gift idea for your boyfriend or husband, with plants like cacti and succulents considered by many to be masculine options. They’re low maintenance as well.