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One thing you can do: Rethink the roses

One thing you can do: Rethink the roses
Another Valentine’s Day is here, and we all know what that means: paper Cupids, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and the classic bouquet of red roses. Lots and lots of roses. This year, Americans are expected to spend $1.9 billion on flowers alone, according to the National Retail Federation.
But those beautiful blooms may come with an environmental price tag. Most of the fresh flowers sold in the United States are grown in Colombia or Ecuador, where there is plenty of sunshine and balmy weather. Flowers are so perishable that most are transported in refrigerated airplanes, an extremely carbon-intensive way to travel. What’s more, growing flowers can be a thirsty, pesticide-heavy endeavor, with the potential to contaminate or strain local water resources, said Kathleen Buckingham, a research manager in the forests program at the World Resources Institute.
Flowers grown closer to home could have an even larger carbon footprint. In colder regions, even temperate California, the flower industry relies on energy-intensive greenhouses. While airfreight is costly in terms of carbon emissions, heating and cooling greenhouses is much more so. A 2007 report by a researcher at Cranfield University in England found that growing 12,000 roses in Europe produced about six times the carbon emissions as growing those flowers in Kenya and flying them to Europe.
So what’s a romantic to do this Thursday? You could skip the flowers altogether, or look for responsibly grown blooms. Organizations like Fair Trade USA and the Rainforest Alliance examine flower farms and give their stamp of approval to farms that mitigate environmental impacts and ensure that workers, who are predominantly women, receive fair wages, health care and other benefits. Not all programs incorporate greenhouse gas emissions in their standards, however, and this remains a problem for the flower industry to tackle, Ms. Buckingham said.
Your local florist may be able to help you learn more, as many track where their flowers come from, said Cheryl Denham, an owner of Arizona Family Florist in Phoenix.
So, no matter how you decide to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, try to show the planet a little love, too.


Tyler Varsell

Source: New York Times – Climate Forward

By Jillian Mock

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