Would you buy from a local store, say a grocer or clothier, if you knew that they
mistreated their employees? Would you buy from a local company if you knew that were
major polluters in your area? Okay, now maybe they’re not so local, and you can’t see
the faces of the workers, or the effects of their company on the environment. What then?
Do we need to ask questions about our flowers? After all, flowers bring us joy, beauty
and enhance our well being, so why question them?
In 1988, Marta Rodriquez produced a documentary on the carnation industry, “Love,
Women and Flowers”, exposing the working conditions and pesticide use on Columbian
Farms. I first saw it in 1992, and it was heart wrenching to think that those that supply
our beautiful blooms could be treated so badly, and that there was no regard for their
well being. While the chemicals that were used on the farms were banned for use in
Canada and the U.S., they were most likely produced here in the first place, then used
without restraint by many unscrupulous farms. Even more alarming was the apathy I
encountered from co-workers and peers in the flowers industry. Very few seemed to
show much concern, or felt that there was nothing that could be done. Even corporations
who had the power to affect buying practices, both on the florist and the consumer level,
seemed to turn a deaf ear to the situation.
Thankfully, about 8 years ago, I came across the Veriflora Label, a certified sustainable
grown labeling program for flowers and plants. http://www.veriflora.com/ It ensures,
through third party testing, fair labour practices, conservation of resources, ecosystem
protection, as well as a high standard of quality. FLP (Flower Label Program) Floraverde
and Max Havelaar are also labels having similar standards and test procedures.
Awareness at both the retail and consumer levels still seems to be quite low. On holiday
occasions, flowers get negative attention in the media, as interest groups point out the
failings of the industry to deal with the on-going issues, but it seems few in the industry
speak up and let consumers know that they have choices when they purchase flowers.
I market my studio as being “green”, or sustainable, which is what I prefer to call it.
To me, sustainable has a more far-reaching meaning, and takes in more than just the
typical reusing and recycling practices. When talking about Flourish, I always state that
the sources of my flowers are very important, mentioning Veriflora certified imports,
the support of locally grown products, and the use of organic blooms when seasonally
available. People are generally quite interested, and surprised, both at finding out where
flowers actually come from, and that there are often social and environmental concerns
attached to something meant to bring joy and beauty. In Canada, Veriflora labeled
flowers are fairly easy to come by, but are not promoted at the wholesale level, and
therefore, usually slip by retailers and likewise, consumers with no notice. Locally
grown blooms often suffer the same fate.
As more and more consumers begin to question the origins of their purchases, as well as
the conditions in which they are produced, the floral industry needs to take initiative in
addressing these concerns, preferably in a pro-active manner.
Larger corporations, such as FTD and Walmart, have started to offer and promote Fair
Trade certified flowers, but it should be a part of the focus for small retailers as well.
My outlook is that many small businesses together equal the impact of one larger
company, and have the power to affect change, beginning in their own community. The
first steppingstone to becoming “eco-friendly” or “ green” is to ensure the sustainability
of the products that we sell, and the rest of our practices should naturally follow, with the
lives of our neighbours and the environment as our prime concern.
Suggested videos on Fair Trade Flowers;
Two of Pam’s gorgeous bouquets using sustainable flowers:
Kurt Brown, Two Tone Studios,
To view more of flourish’s beautiful designs using sustainable flowers visit Pam’s website: www.flourishflorals.com