What’s the greenest bouquet for Valentine’s Day? Whether you’re getting them for yourself or someone else, flower shopping for environmentalists can be a task fraught with uncertainty. Should you go organic, fair trade or local? Buy online or get delivery? Opt for live plants or go for silk?
Each option has its upside and downside. Want to buy local at a florist you can walk to? That’ll be great for your local economy — since buying online, whether from national names like FTD or unknown small resellers, usually means your local business is either getting a raw deal or no deal. That’s why Cinda Baxter, the founder of The 3/50 Project, an initiative that encourages people to support their local businesses, urges people to get flowers from local florists.
But even if you walk to your local florist, the flowers you buy are unlikely to have been grown locally. After all, finding local blooms can be a challenge real challenge in February in most places in the U.S.
Plus, what about the pesticides? Finding a local florist who offers organic flowers is likely to be a challenge — an impossible challenge for some — and non-organic flowers have often been treated with potentially harmful chemicals.
How about fair trade flowers? The good news with this option is that the workers who grow and cut the blooms receive fairer wages, as well as some environmental and social benefits. Practically speaking, Whole Foods Market will offer fair trade flowers in its stores this Valentine's Day, so finding them locally will be easier. However, fair trade means international trade is involved — which means that just like most flowers given and received on Valentine’s Day, fair trade flowers have a hefty travel carbon footprint.
Should you go for fake silk flowers? Slate looks at that option — and concludes the eco-benefits of that choice is unclear: “it’s impossible to say how many real roses it takes to equal the environmental impact of a bouquet of silk flowers.” What is clear, however, is that dusty fake flowers often aren't a gift that keeps giving, even if they technically last forever. As Slate puts it, “are you seriously considering hauling the same dusty vase of fake flowers out of the closet every year?”
What should you do? If you must have roses, I suggest trying to find a local florist who offers organic or eco-certified blooms as a first option. In L.A., we’ve got Wisteria Flower Shop, which offers organic and Veriflora-certified flowers. But if that search criteria doesn’t turn up anyone in your town, you’ll need to make a tough decision: supporting local businesses by buying conventional flowers from a neighborhood florist — or supporting the organic farming by buying organic flowers online — or supporting fair trade by buying fair trade certified roses.
If you or your valentine is more open to other types of pretty plants, you’ll have more options, especially if you move to California. Buying truly local (locally grown as well as sold) and organic flowers in February is easier in the Golden State, where certified organic local flowers are sold year round, both online and at farmers markets.
Barring that option — live, organic plants are gifts that keep giving. One of my favorite gifts was a cute basil plant that smelled yummy and tasted even yummier.
Will you be buying flowers this Valentine’s Day? What option will you choose?