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CHOOSE GREEN ROSES FOR A CHANGE

U.S. residents spent $8 billion on flowers, but many of the beautiful blooms we purchased were hiding an ugly past. Flowers sold in the United States are generally grown on large farms and treated with massive amounts of pesticide; this not only endangers the health of farm workers, but also pollutes local air and water supplies.

In addition, many flowers are imported from Asia and Central and South America, where environmental regulations are often less stringent. For example, the International Labor Rights Fund and the U.S. Labor Education in the Americas Project (LEAP) have found that 20 percent of the chemicals applied to flowers in Colombia, a top exporter, are restricted or banned in the United States and Europe. Transporting these flowers to U.S. stores magnifies their environmental impact, as trucks and airplanes (including the needed refrigeration) contribute to air pollution and global warming.

Fortunately, the number of eco-friendly flower options is growing. Consider these tips the next time you want to impress that special someone:

Buy local. As with any agricultural product, locally grown flowers decrease smog-forming and global warming pollution by traveling shorter distances to market, and reduce the risk of plant pests being transported to new areas. Plants adapted to the local climate also need less fertilizer and pesticides, and are less likely to be rare, foreign species. Beware of invasive species that can crowd out native plants; see this link for a list of plants considered invasive in your region. If shopping at farmers markets or pick-your-own farms, ask the growers to ensure that their plants are not invasive.

Look at the labels. Several certification programs have been created in recent years to tout flowers that have been grown in both environmentally and socially conscious ways. These labels include:

NOTE: Inclusion of VeriFlora and Fair Trade certification for informational purposes does not imply endorsement by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Grow your own. Consider purchasing live plants instead of cut flowers; they not only can provide you with blooms year after year, but can also be grown with low-impact organic plant food and compost. And if you still like your cut flowers, consider planting a cutting garden. In choosing your flowers, avoid wildflower seed mixtures as they almost always contain invasive species.

Written by: Union of Concerned Scientists.


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