Eco Guide to Flowers

Where to find earth-friendly bouquets and florists?

Does wanting to give flowers mean putting the brakes on ecological consciousness for the day? Not necessarily so. With a little scouting to find eco-friendly blooms and some creative thinking, you can make this day of red more green.

Eco-friendly flowers

Three key factors put the “eco” in eco-flowers: fair-trade practices in the growing and harvesting of them; being organic or containing few pesticides; and where they come from. “So who grows them, how are they grown and do they meet green standards of sustainability,” says Scott Graham, owner of Toronto’s Eco Flora. Travel factors in, too—buying local flowers lowers the carbon footprint of your bouquet.
In fact, one of the most popular gifts—the rose—has a number of thorny green issues attached to it. “There are some farms in South America exporting to Canada who are using pesticides that are banned here,” says Graham. And as the San Francisco-based Pesticide Action Network North America notes, roses may also carry the burden of labour exploitation as well as mileage, since many roses are shipped daily to North America from South American countries such as Ecuador and Columbia.

Eco-friendly florists

Although organic roses are a relatively rare find (organic flowers in general are still only grown on a small scale), you don’t have to rule out this romantic bloom completely. Instead, ask your florist where they buy their roses, or better yet, look for a green florist in your city. (Find one in the Green Living Guides or at sierraeco.com, an eco-friendly flower distributor.) “We buy all local—our two top suppliers, one is here in town and the other is from the Fraser Valley,” says Kelly Darwin, co-owner of Victoria’s In Bloom Floral Boutique. In terms of price, a bouquet of organic roses will cost you about 10 percent more than long-stem fair trade roses.
Green florists may also offer a host of environmentally friendly perks from biodegradable cellophane to wrap your flowers in, to packaging them in reusable containers made from reclaimed materials (such as hardwood floors) or even offering a composting program where you receive a discount on a future purchase if you return your newly purchased arrangement for composting.

Better blooms

Roses aren’t your only option. “Cut bouquets are the most popular for Valentine’s Day; along with roses, Gerber daisies are very popular. And, since they’re grown here, they’ve got a very low carbon footprint,” says Darwin. Flowering plants such as bromeliads or anthuriams are also another way to go. Or, you could try a more sustainable option such as pussy or curly willows. “If you leave them in water for three weeks, they’ll start rooting and then sprout leaves and then you can plant them in the ground in April,” suggests Graham.

Thinking outside the (flower) box

Looking for a more personal touch? Scout your neighbourhood for interesting natural materials to incorporate into arrangements. For instance, look for Smoke Bush tree branches (trees which are popular on the West coast) and then put one or two in a glass vase along with a daisy or lily. (The redness of the branches will make the flowers’ colour really pop.) Or for longevity, Graham suggests dried flower arrangements. “They’re much more sustainable since they can last up to two years,” he says. Alternately, in this time of financial austerity, you could just pare back on your floral purchases. “You don’t need to send two dozen roses. You can send one rose and do a lot with that,” says Graham. “It’s easy to get the wow-factor out of three dozen roses, but you can also push the envelope by getting one flower and see what can be done with other local materials.”