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The Stink on Eco-Friendly Flowers
What is more well-received than a gorgeous bouquet of eco-friendly flowers? Who hasn't sent flowers to someone special? Cut flowers are a $40 billion industry. They're ubiquitous with some holidays and occasions. Americans alone purchase over 4 billion flowers each year. While beautiful to look at and smell, cut flowers come with ecological and human costs.
The Ecological Impact of Eco-Friendly Flowers
You may not realize this, but the vast majority of cut eco-friendly flowers in the US originate in Latin America, comprising more than 70 percent of all cut flowers bought in the US. Low tariffs on imported flowers in the 1990's increased the amount of imported flowers we purchase - and put many US flower farmers out of business. eco-friendly flowers from Latin America have to be shipped in special cooled containers - a very fuel-intensive method of travel. And at a very expensive ecological cost.
Imported eco-friendly flowers face heavy restrictions on bugs and fungi, which leads many growers to rely on heavy pesticide and chemical use. Ironically, 127 of these chemicals are banned or restricted from use in the US. However, since they aren't considered a food product, flowers are not inspected for chemical residues and carry much larger quantities of pesticide residue than locally-grown flowers. Those residues can contaminate water, soil and air and may even affect important pollinators like bees.
Working for a eco-friendly flowers farm is no bed of roses either. Besides low wages and unfair labor practices, workers suffer many health problems - most likely due to their continued exposure to pesticides and other chemicals. These chemicals are often sprayed on crops in enclosed and unventilated tents, where they are inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Sadly, these workers, many of whom are children, then suffer from pesticide poisoning. Dizziness, blurred vision, neurological problems and stillbirth are all associated with pesticide poisoning. And remember that chemical residue that makes it way across borders? Once at the shop, these pesticide-laden flowers are handled by s who often then experience dermatitis on their hands and may carry it on their clothing - exposing others to these poisons as well.
Eco-Friendly Flowers Options are Blossoming
The environmental movement hasn't neglected the eco-friendly flowers industry. Ecologically-friendly flowers are fast growing in popularity. Particularly as more and more awareness of the ecological and health problems associated with conventionally-grow flowers occurs. Organic and biodynamic flowers are much safer for workers, protect water and soil resources and promote biodiversity. Locally-grown flowers reduce the transportation (fuel and ecological) costs. You'll likely even find that these flowers have stronger fragrances and last longer than the imported variety. Fair trade flowers are on the rise as well. Two new certification bodies have been created to oversee fair trade in the industry: Veriflora and Fair Trade Certification Flowers Program.