Love Blooms: Tips for an Eco-Friendly Valentine’s Day

Guest post by Faith Blackall

February 14th. Valentine’s Day. The day revolving around love and each other. One of the most passionate holidays set around appreciating someone important to us. Which raises the question, why do we cause so much harm on a day of compassion?

Valentine’s Day, all chocolates, and roses for most. A survey from the National Retail Foundation estimated that $18.2 billion dollars was spent on Valentine’s Day last year. An estimated $2 billion of that was dedicated to flowers alone. Flowers present a soothing aroma commonly associated with memories. The deep, complex layers of the scent emitted by roses creates an intimate and succulent ambiance enveloping one in a cloud of decadent fragrance. It’s simply an irresistible holiday staple. Approximately 250 million roses are produced for this one day a year! The majority of the population remain unaware of the environmental implications of the flowers. Simply put, the potential ecological disaster remains a mystery to the masses.

South America is where most of the roses are imported from. Ecuador and Columbia host an ideal environment for these velvet petaled plants to flourish. Countries like these boast ideal year-round growing conditions. As many as 78% of store stocked roses originate from this region. Although the natural beauty of the atmosphere is near perfect, the labor conditions are far from it. Greenhouse workers are exposed to a toxic cocktail of herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides day in, and day out. Even with the constant chemical exposure, standard protocols for staff safety are the bare minimum. Respiratory disease outbreaks wreak havoc among those who are responsible for growing and gathering the roses due to a lack of safety gear.

The work conditions are just the tip of the iceberg. Now that the delicate roses have been grown and harvested, they must be appropriately preserved in chilled warehouses. They stay there until it is time for them to be exported to their destination. The flowers will then be transferred to refrigerated trucks, awaiting arrival on a cargo plane to bring them to the States. Upon arrival, they are routed to retail centers. To deliver them in peak conditions, they must yet again be transported in a refrigerated vehicle. Eventually, they make it to your home only to sit in a glass vase for decoration for a week until they wither and crumble. Such a fragile thing has been touted as a symbol for undying and all-enduring love. The enormous carbon footprint created through this cycle is counterproductive as well as contradictory to everything the commercialized gift represents.

Of course, they must look beautiful to be presented to someone. The packaging is a critical role in the delivery, but often overlooked. The exquisite bouquet is tied together with cheap plastic, never recycled. The stems are thoughtlessly suffocated with this plastic by way of the water tubes, which are often cut and tossed aside into the trash. Ultimately, this translates to landfills and the environment being subjected to loads of single use plastics each year, for a single day gesture.

There is a much more sustainable way to let your love bloom this Valentine’s Day. If flowers play a significant or sentimental role in your relationship, bypass the flowers found at major retailers and shop locally. Farmers markets can be an exciting outing to explore a fresh and fragment array of organic and eco-friendly alternatives to the same flower. You can also feel good about harnessing your purchasing power with the redirection towards small businesses. Meanwhile, you are showing your love back to our planet.

A more modern and long-lasting alternative to fresh flowers are heirloom flower seeds, presented with a decorative flowerpot for a more interactive and personal present. If you are in search of something requiring less work, consider pre-established potted plants for an environmentally friendly solution. Succulents are trendy and exotic, infusing unique colors and shapes along with less demanding care. They are hardy plants, ideal for those lacking a green thumb or someone looking for a beautiful pop indoors!

Forever flowers are another, more personal replacement! Companies like Eco Flower have created breathtaking bouquets of hand carved flowers from discarded remains of sola wood. The flowers are arranged with other materials, including birch wood, recycled fabrics, pinecones, burlap, up-cycled novels, abandoned music sheets, and reclaimed pallet woods, and create a romantic and timeless display, overflowing with vintage charm. These arrangements can be displayed as a reminder of your bond for many years.

Many other small shops create floral arrangements from recycled and biodegradable materials. Book lovers will proudly display paper roses made from ones of their favorite books. There are endless other options out there allowing personalized touches.

Not only are the above alternatives the more responsible option, they are flexible enough to be applied to virtually any relationship! If we switched gears and looked at this sugar-fueled, commercialized holiday that explodes with pink and red glitter and hearts to showcase love, we would recognize that the emotion expands far beyond the romantic tie to one person. Celebrate the love fostered in friendships, the nurturing love provided by family figures, the bonding love that ties siblings together, the empowering and motivational love directed to you by coaches, team members and coworkers/ authority figures. Utilize the holiday as an opportunity to reconnect with special people in your life. Seize the opportunity to communicate your appreciation for their role in your journey. Forge an un-faltering memory with relationships outside of romantic ones. Express your love and appreciation for Earth by switching even one simple tradition to counteract the harmful effect.

Editor’s Note: Faith Blackall is an EarthEcho Water Challenge Ambassador from Trinity, FL.

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