Magazine — 22.04.21
Floristry: Sustainable And Ethical Practices
Words ASHLEY HAJIMIRSADEGHI
When I moved into my first apartment, I told myself I was going to do this: I was going to always have a vase of fresh-cut flowers at the table. That didn’t happen, but each time I pass flowers at local grocery stores, I’ve found myself wondering about the flower industry. We always have a fresh supply in grocery stores, florists, and boutiques, but what exactly went into this industry? These flowers ranged from extremely cheap to extremely expensive, domestic breeds to ones that weren’t native to the land I’d grown up on. We’d buy these flowers, only to throw them away—that didn’t seem sustainable. And so I began to look into this.
In the United States, 80% of flowers sold in stores are imported, with the majority coming from Colombia or Ecuador. As flowers are technically living organisms, they need to be brought over quickly or they will die. Thus, they require the use of air transportation, which has one of the biggest rates of carbon emissions. According to this statistic, each day during the peak season, roughly 30 to 35 fully-loaded planes are flying from Bogota to Miami. A single flight from Bogota to Miami produces 380 kg of CO2.
Then, when the roses arrive in Miami, they are driven in trucks across the United States. The flowers aren’t watered at this stage, but on the planes and trucks, they require refrigeration. This, in turn, using even more fuel than it would have originally.
The use of chemicals is also prominent in this process, utilized to keep the flowers fresher for longer. Flowers are found amongst nature; however, the increased and significant use of pesticides is harmful to both the natural environment, as well as you, the consumer. If you’re buying someone you love roses, those roses might be ridden with pesticides. And when you are touching, smelling, and potentially consuming, in some cultures, you’re interacting with something very dangerous for your body. Short-term effects can include dizziness, rashes, and diarrhea, however long-term exposure can cause cancer, death, and even birth defects, among other harmful impacts.
When flowers are thrown away, it also has severe impacts on the environment. In India, it is estimated that roughly 8,000,000 metric tons of flowers are dumped each year into rivers, coming from temples. This is important to note because of the chemicals; these flowers ridden with pesticides are now polluting water sources that we drink and use to grow other crops.
So how do you determine if the flowers you’re buying aren’t harmful to the environment or yourself? Look for sellers that provide flowers that are domestically or locally grown. When shopping for flowers, look at the packaging they are in. Is it sustainable or reusable packaging, such as paper or burlap? If not, you might want to consider looking elsewhere. Pay attention to the seasons; flowers in stock when it isn’t a season they grow in have most likely come from elsewhere, and it might be worth investigating.
Some other alternatives can be dried and silk flowers—got a bouquet that you love a lot but is starting to wither? Tape it to the wall upside down; this dries the flowers, and you can keep it for as long as you wish since they won’t wither. Buying artificial flowers made from polyester wouldn’t be the environmentally-friendly choice; polyester is essentially plastic and relies heavily on the oil industry for its production.
While there is hope on the horizon for sustainable and ethical flowers, it’s important to remember and look into what you’re buying, where it is coming from and ultimately, the consequences of getting it to you.
Ashley Hajimirsadeghi is a writer and artist based in Baltimore and New York City. Her work often deals with intergenerational trauma, utilizing cinema from a cultural, sociological, and socioeconomic lens, and the impacts of urbanism and loneliness. An undergraduate at the Fashion Institute of Technology studying International Trade, she hopes to advocate for sustainable and ethical practices in the global marketplace.
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