A sustainable rose would smell as sweet

IMG_20140719_091844_208Over the past few weeks, I’ve learned that there are a number of environmental and social concerns around the farming of cut-flowers- there are questions about pesticide and water use, about the impacts on families and communities, about poaching and introduced pests. But there are also quite a few organizations working to improve the conditions of workers and ecosystems, so I think that changes can be made. Some of that change can come from us, the consumers- we have power to influence what retailers want and how growers conduct their business- and there is more than one way to make our voices heard.

If you want to make sure that you are buying flowers that were ethically and sustainably grown, you can look for certification from one of a number of bodies- some of these sites will let you search for sellers of certified flowers:
Fairtrade International
• Flor Ecuador
Sustainable Agriculture Network
Fair Trade USA

You can also encourage flower sellers to participate in trade with certified growers through the organizations above and through Ethical Trading Initiative. Since many cut-flowers are grown in developing countries, pushing sellers to demand certified flowers helps both the environment and the workers, but part of the challenge is finding new and better ways to grow flowers- both Rainforest Alliance and Flower Valley Conservation Trust have projects to improve farming methods and expand the reach of sustainable farms.

And you may also want to consider looking into the slow flowers movement, which uses locally-grown, seasonal flowers- there are a number of sites that will help you find local growers:
Field to Vase
Slow Flowers
Local Harvest

Above all, I think we need to get away from expecting that we can get perfect flowers of any type whenever we want them- by accepting flowers with leaf spots and recognizing that the natural world moves through seasons, we can change the pressures growers feel and help them move toward more environmentally- and socially-friendly practices that still allow them to succeed as a business.