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February Action of the Month: Avoid Roses on February 14!

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Cupid’s day is synonymous with showing affection in all sorts of ways (in other words, we ♥ love). February 14 is also a busy day for florists. In the United States alone, two billion dollars are spent on flowers and 250 million roses are produced!

Given that more than two thirds of flowers sold in Quebec come from abroad, we wondered whether buying imported flowers was environmentally and socially responsible. Conclusion: you have to be very careful when buying imported flowers, and there are many ways you can bring locally and responsibly sourced flowers into your life.

Potted flowers, local, seasonal flowers and fair-trade flowers are all you need to light up someone’s day. And they can all be bought locally!

Of course, don't forget the greenest (and most beautiful) gift is immaterial... ♥

© Chloé Roy Floramama

February 14: International Day of Flower Workers

Chances are that behind your beautiful bouquet of imported flowers, bought with love and good intentions, are mostly female and child workers with precarious jobs, low pay and conditions conducive to sexual harassment. And this is supposed to be a celebration of love? ¯\_(⊙︿⊙)_/¯ In Kenya, the biggest exporter of roses in the world, a flower worker’s median wage is $83 a month while the minimum amount required to meet basic needs is $155.

Because importers demand perfect flowers, more chemical pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers are used in the flower industry than in any other area of agriculture. On the whole, workers are not protected and local communities suffer the effects of pollution and water contamination.

To learn more about the reality of these workers, we recommend watching À fleur de peau, un bouquet de la Colombie [Behind a bouquet from Colombia], a documentary on the Colombian rose industry.

Our suggestions for buying responsibly sourced flowers

1. OPT FOR POTTED FLOWERS

Potted flowers last a lot longer than cut flowers. Plus, you know they were grown in Canada as importing soil is illegal. You could also opt for a plant grown from a seed from Quebec. Why not add a personal touch to your gift and pot your own plant?

Here’s a tip from Julie Duzyk, a florist at Les Bois Les Feuilles: “Orchids are wonderful because they flower for an entire season. If you buy one with three, four or five unopened buds, it will flower for six, eight or even ten weeks. They’re also very easy to care for, requiring little light and no direct sunlight. At a symbolic level, nearly all orchids flower again one year after their first bloom. So as well as being a lasting gift, it will rebloom on the date it was first received: it’s like a present given over and over again. I’ve seen some live for 17, 22, even 24 years!”

Wow, that’s heartwarming. A flower that symbolizes lasting love!

2. OPT FOR SEASONAL PLANTS

4 Seasons Arrangements © Annie Lord Artiste Florale

Buying seasonal plants is the most eco-friendly option as they don’t need to be grown in an energy-intensive greenhouse. In winter, cedars and pine cones are found in abundance in Quebec. As well as being an original, inexpensive and environmentally responsible choice, foliage doesn’t need to be wrapped up like flowers, which often require two or three layers of wrapping paper to protect them from the cold.

Want seasonal flowers for a seasonal wedding? I do!

The most you’ll ever spend on flowers will probably be for your wedding day. It’s a great opportunity to make a meaningful, responsible choice. A florist could help you create an arrangement with local wildflowers and assorted greenery. Foliage, bark, fir cuttings and pretty branches can make magnificent decorations, and flowers can add a special touch to the bridal wreath or crown. She’ll be radiant!

For more wedding ideas, read our previous post, Want an eco-wedding? I do!, about Steven Guilbeault’s green wedding in 2016.

 © Photos Bianca Desjardins and floral arrangements by Annie Lord Artiste Florale

3. ASK YOUR FLORIST QUESTIONS

What fair-trade flowers do you have?

Fair-trade flowers meet higher social and environmental standards, such as health and safety regulations, reasonable work schedules, reduced pesticide use and a wage at least equal to the national average. However, producing and transporting the flowers contributes to pollution. So it’s best to buy flowers certified by one of the following organizations:  Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, Veriflora, Florverde et Sierra Eco. Sierra Eco has a research platform so you can easily find florists and retailers in Quebec that sell fair-trade flowers. And L’actualité magazine has published a list of 15 fair-trade florists in Quebec.

What local flowers do you have? Where do they come from?

By supporting local florists rather than foreign importers, you’ll significantly help reduce CO2 emissions from transportation. However, greenhouse flower production is energy intensive, so it may be a good idea to find out about local producers’ practices.

Here’s another tip from Julie Duzyk, a florist at Les Bois Les Feuilles: “For Valentine’s Day, I suggest bouquets of tulips. Local tulips—from eastern Canada—are magnificent at the moment. And prices are very reasonable. When tulips freeze, they become translucid like porcelain. You can have fun with that: making bouquets and then leaving them outside creates a whole new effect. There are other local flowers, too. Chrysanthemums and daisies, for instance. People tend not to, but you can ask the florist to create a bouquet in a different way for a unique result!”

© Picture on the right by Floramama

4. AVOID SUPER STORES, GROCERY STORES AND CORNER STORES

Flowers in superstores are not properly labelled. There’s no obligation to indicate the country of origin, unlike for food, and the flowers are watered indiscriminately. In addition to these environmental issues, there’s a risk of contamination from plants and woodwork. Plants bought in superstores are more at risk of being infected with parasitic fungi, insects and mites. They may then infect your other plants.

* Ask your questions at local or organic food stores that can stock up on local, organic and/or fair flowers.

Directory of environmentally responsible florists

Environmentally responsible florists offer flower arrangements made from local, seasonal plants, flowers produced in Quebec and Canada, and fair-trade flowers. Why not contact them to find out more about where their flowers come from?

Annie Lord 
Atelier Carmel 
Fleurs & Cie
Floralia
Floramama 
Les Bois Les Feuilles 
Oursin fleurs
Prairies
Prune-les-Fleurs
Teatro Verde

LOCAL FLOWER PRODUCERS :

Les fleurs Maltais
Origine fleurs 
Pivoines Capano
Rose Drummond 
Ask local producers about energy consumption and the use of chemical pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers.

Further readingS :

« La révolution des fleurs », La Presse, June 6 2017
« Des fleurs équitables »
, Téléquébec, February 11 2009
« D'où viennent les fleurs que vous achetez? », Protégez-vous, Janvier 25 2014
« Oursin fleurs: la fleuriste écologique », Le Devoir, November 11 2017
« Pour des fleurs écoresponsables à la Saint-Valentin! », Ferme Saint-Vincent, Janvier 18 2015

  © Photos Les Bois Les Feuilles