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The Environmental Impact of Cut Flowers

Last fall I was reading my emails and found an article from National Catholic Reporter that certainly caught my attention.  It was on the environmental issues of cut flowers.  Imagine my surprise.  I had no idea the roses that I have been ordering each year since 2017 were not  grown in the United States.  Come to find out through researching that many roses and other flowers are grown in Columbia, Ecuador, Sri Lanka and Kenya.

     In the United States, Mother’s Day accounts for over 20 percent of holiday purchases of cut and potted flowers along with Christmas and other holidays and is only exceeded by Valentine’s Day.  Cut flowers are used to mark special occasions both to celebrate and in mourning.  Sending cut flowers doesn’t take much planning as many bouquets are found in supermarkets or in florist showcases. Many of the flowers are grown in high altitude, industrial scale greenhouses and these farms can exceed 500 acres.  These greenhouses help to control humidity, disease and pests.

Plants use a great amount of water to stay alive plus the use of fertilizers, insecticides and preservatives are used to extend the life of the blooms.  Flower consumption is harming the planet and it can also harm the workers.

It is my understanding that fresh flowers are treated with synthetic pesticides which stay on the flowers that make it to supermarkets and florist shops.  It is a health risk for workers handling chemicals.  Insecticides kill both harmful and beneficial bugs which contribute to the decline of key pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

Flowers can generate carbon emissions because of refrigeration and long haul transportation.  After flowers are flown into the United States, they are sometimes trucked thousands of miles to locations across the nation. 

Contacting the florist I have used for these few years I found the roses I order come from Ecuador.  They are dry packed/cut bottom and flown overnight to Cleveland, OH. From there they are driven to the florist an hour away.  After arriving there the florist hydrates them and prepares them to be delivered.  These roses hold up well during shipping and have a long vase life.

 The environmental issues are shipping long distances both there and here, the chemicals used, perhaps the water run off to other streams and the emissions that the flowers also create to name a few.

 On the positive side of purchasing flowers for others is to find local, home grown flowers to share or Farmers Markets also sell fresh cut locally grown flowers as well.

Blog by Mary Kay Wood, OPA

6 thoughts on “The Environmental Impact of Cut Flowers

  1. Thanks Mary Kay for sharing all this information – – –
    I had no idea of this.
    Blessings – Jan Wilson

  2. I’ve heard that people who pick the greenhouse roses do not have good working conditions. Thanks for a good reminder, Mary Kay!

  3. Thank you for this important information. It’s our duty to find out where our products come from, and to see if the workers are justly treated.

  4. Thank you for this important information. Another effect of cut flowers is on the country of origin. Acreage dedicated to them for export makes sustainable land unavailable for life supporting food, which is often in short supply for the natives.

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