After spending so much time in the library Ferg finally decided to give Bunty a call. They agreed to meet by the lake. Bunty arrived, carrying a flower and looked great. Ferg was thrilled when she said the flower was a gift for him, for being a great friend. She had grown the flower in her organic sustainable flower bed because she loved to grow things in her garden. She didn’t like the idea of commercially produced cut flowers. Growing her own meant she could enjoy them through the seasons and on a rare occasion like today make a gift of one of them. This made Ferg feel special and he realised just how much care Bunty took with all things in her life. He felt glad that they had become good friends. Bunty was one of the few people who understood about Ferg’s free climbing. Instead of worrying, she was more interested trying to learn and to understand what it is like to participate in such an extreme activity. Ferg felt that Bunty too lived in a world which many either didn’t or never tried to understand. Perhaps it was one of the things they shared in common.
That afternoon Bunty explained why she didn’t enjoy commercially produced cut flowers. She really cared about the planet. Even the small things didn’t escape her attention to detail. Bunty enjoyed spending long hours in the library but less time on a computer. When she spoke about her concerns and interests she did so with great passion. He was gripped by her every word. Ferg had never before really had a friend like her and could see how special she was. He’d never been given flowers by anyone before. Cool didn’t begin to describe what he thought about Bunty.
He loved the things they talked about together and as was his way Ferg was making mental notes about things he wanted to investigate further. He wrote them down when he got home. In particular the stuff Bunty talked about on the environmental impact of commercially produced flowers…
Commercially grown flowers are not edible crops and may be exempt from regulations on pesticides or the exemption may provide a way for producers to justify using harmful pesticides.
Methyl Bromide, used commercially as a fumigant against insects, termites, rodents, weeds, nematodes, and soil-borne diseases is also one of the most effective ozone layer killers out there.
Fresh cut flowers are often treated with synthetic pesticides, which persist on the bouquets that make it to supermarkets and some commercial florist shops. Synthetic pesticides like glyphosate are known carcinogens that can pollute waterways and seep into drinking water supplies. Additionally, insecticides kill both harmful and beneficial bugs alike, contributing to the alarming decline of key pollinator species.
Flowers that come from South America or Africa are usually grown with intense irrigation systems to provide for their thirst and sprayed with pesticides to protect them from pests.
Commercially produced flowers must be transported from their farms to airports, flown to their destination country and distributed to the shops. This will normally be done in fuel hungry refrigerated trucks and airplane holds. The refrigeration process causes trucks to burn more fuel, and they emit greater carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. On average, refrigerated trucks use about 25% more fuel than those that are not refrigerated.
Figures vary from country to country but in the UK about 90% of cut flowers are imported. Comparative research shows that A Dutch and Kenyan bouquet that included 5 roses, 3 lilies and 3 gypsophila equalled 31.132kg/CO2 (Kenya) and 32.252Kg/CO2 (Dutch). An equivalent bouquet using British alternatives (I’m assuming that this is because we don’t grow commercial roses in this country anymore) with 5 snapdragon, 3 lilies and 3 alstroemeria totted up 3.287Kg/CO2. That’s 10% of the carbon emissions! A locally grown bouquet using 15 stems of outdoor grown flowers had a carbon footprint of 1.71kg/CO2.
Before buying cut flowers there are four key questions one might consider: 1. How far have the flowers travelled? 2. Were they ethically and sustainably produced? 3. Who benefits from your purchase? 4. Can you reduce waste?
Ferg realised how well informed Bunty was about the cut flower industry and now he wanted to dedicate a bit of his library time to the subject. In the past he had gifted cut flowers but now with hindsight realised he had done so with little regard for the environmental impact. He realised how he like many of us had chosen at times to ignore ethical and environmental cost of gifts he had given. It saddened him and he decided from now on he would try to give gifts which have a much lower impact on the environment and which are ethically sourced. He knew this might be tricky but was important. His effort and care would add a little more love to his gifts.