A zing of colour that steals your breath, vibrant greens radiating fullness and joy, fragrance that blossoms in the senses invigorating pleasure and peace; flowers transport us into a place of sheer delight.
Unfortunately, the undeniable glory of flowers are often tainted with unethical production methods. But don’t despair! This doesn’t mean flowers are no longer an option to the conscious consumer. Read on to learn more about the flower industry and 5 ways to find ethical flowers.
Most flowers sold in North America are shipped thousands of miles from South America or Africa, where working conditions are often exploitative. This includes exposure to dangerous chemicals and dismal pay. The flowers are often grown in greenhouses that require large energy inputs for artificial light and heating. The blooms are then transported massive distances and require many days of artificial temperature regulation.
As an example, the 100 million roses transported to the US for Valentine’s Day alone produce 9,000 tonnes (9 million kgs) of carbon dioxide emissions from greenhouse to florist.
So, how do we find ethical flowers for our ethical boo, our sustainable Valentine, our ethical wedding or eco-friendly event?
1. Look For Labels With Ethical Certifications
Look for certifications like:
A great example of an innovative certification is Florverde. The Association of Columbian Flower Exporters created the “Florverde” certification as an independent social and environmental standard for the floral market. Certification is granted to a flower farm after farm documentation, inspections, worker interviews and lab test results are reviewed to ensure they meet Florverde’s codes of conduct and standards.
“Florverde's standards include minimal water use via drip irrigation and rainwater collection; hummus fertilization; boilers with air pollution filters; sulfur vaporization; integrated pest control and environmentally sensitive waste disposal. Among social programs and benefits offered to workers: educational and housing subsidies; day care centers; literacy education, higher- and shorter- than-average wages and workweeks, respectively; on-site health care; full benefits including medical, disability and retirement insurance; and a floriculture school for those displaced by violence.” (source)
Flower farms do provide employment to a significant number of people and spur community development in ideal flower growing areas, like Lake Naivasha in Kenya.
8 years ago, My New Neighbour member Shelby had the opportunity to visit a flower farm at Lake Naivasha. She discovered that the workers were only paid $1/day, were regularly exposed to toxic chemicals and received minimal, if any, social programs and benefits. Chemical runoff into the lake was also a significant problem. Thanks to a local demand for environmental protection and a consumer demand for ethical flowers, things are changing at Lake Naivasha:
“At that lake, for example, roses at the Oserian flower farm are now grown with geothermal waste heat to cut energy use. And no roses are grown within 0.31 miles of the lake to ensure no pesticide runoff.”
2. Buy Local And Seasonal Flowers
Buying local flowers means you have a better idea of the labour and safety conditions your florals were grown and distributed in while also economically supporting your local community. It also means a lower environmental impact from transportation and more food for those precious bees. Local flowers often last longer than internationally distributed ones because they are better acclimatized to Canadian weather.
Choosing seasonal flowers means less of an environmental impact than flowers forced to grow out of season. Seasonal flowers may also be more friendly to your budget.
If you are looking for ethical flowers for your wedding or event, research which flowers in your area are seasonal during the month of your event. In Canada seasonal flowers include:
- Spring: peonies, lilacs, hydrangea, sweet peas, cherry blossoms, daffodils, tulips, lilies, spray mums
- Summer: sunflowers, gerbera daisies, stock, calla lilies, delphiniums, iris, dahlias, bells of Ireland, gladiolus
- Autumn: asters, chrysanthemums, hydrangeas, marigolds, snapdragons, autumn leaves, pumpkins
- Winter: ivy, evergreens, willow branches, poinsettias, star of bethlehem, disbuds, lilies, gerbera daisies, cymbidium orchids
A good place to start looking for local and seasonal flowers is a florist at your local farmer’s market.
You can also keep an eye on your friends or neighbour’s gardens to see what flowers they might let you use for your special event. For example, in late June peonies are blossoming everywhere in Calgary! With a humble ask of peony-growing friends, you could add an eco-friendly and affordable floral touch to your home or event.
3. Ask Your Local Florist
Ask your florist:
Is any of your stock fair trade, local or organic?
Where do you source your flowers from, and why?
Are you currently carrying flowers that are seasonal in Canada?
If the florist you are talking to has no idea about the story behind their flowers, your questions can help encourage them to do some research and consider stocking flowers that support a love for people and the planet.
My New Neighbour-approved florists in Calgary:
Fall for Florals - supporting Canadian grown flowers for weddings and events. (Also the florist Shelby hired for her wedding)
Antheia Floral Boutique - the only floral shop in Calgary specifically dedicated to sourcing ethical flowers.
Amborella - supporting Canadian grown flowers for delivery, weekly floral subscriptions, workshops and events.
Ethical florists across Canada:
Western Canada: Florist Supply
Vancouver: Studio Full Bloom
4. Choose Hardy Breeds
Hardy flowers have a long vase life, require less temperature regulation than a delicate flower, and are easy to care for. This means they will last longer and require less energy input during transport.
Examples of hardy flowers:
Tropical Flowers (lilies, birds of paradise, ginger)
5. Buy Potted Plants
A potted plant will last much longer than cut flowers and some even improve air quality. The gift of a potted plant, like a low maintenance succulent or friendly fern, can bring beauty to your loved ones lives much longer than a bouquet will.
We’ve also been noticing a trend of potted succulents at weddings - a gorgeous and sustainable decor choice!