As the only retail florist in Westchester, NY who primarily sells sustainable flowers, I have quite a few tips on finding truly sustainable flowers. When you buy flowers, you want to make sure that they are fresh, beautiful, and high quality. But you may also want to consider the environmental impact of your purchase. Sustainable flowers are grown, transported, sold, and disposed of in a way that minimizes their impact on the planet.
There are a few things you can do to identify sustainable flowers:
- Look for flowers that are in-season. Think about what you have seen in gardens around town lately. Lots of tulips? Great - that's what you want. Seasonal flowers are more likely grown locally and do not have to be transported long distances by plane. If you're not sure, a quick Google search "Seasonal Flowers <Month>" will help.
- Ask your florist about their sourcing practices. Find out where they get their flowers from and how they are transported. If you are buying at a grocery store, look for the "Certified American Grown" labeling. Note: LOTS of online floral websites use the phrase "Farm Fresh" or "Direct from the Farm" to greenwash their product. In fact, these are all usually shipped from Colombia, Ecuador, and other big importers. Farm-direct may remove one step (the florist or store) and get you flowers faster, but they're not any "greener". You want to know WHERE the farm is, not just that a farm grew the flowers.
- Look for signs the flowers have been shipped. Plastic packaging, fully browned stem cuts, and crinkled-looking petals are all signs that it has been a long time since those flowers were harvested. Any dyed, sprayed, or otherwise modified blooms are also generally imports.
Here are some other important factors in truly sustainable flowers:
- Look for organic or low-impact flowers. Organic flowers are grown without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. They are better for the environment and for your health. However, Organic certification is expensive for farmers. So you can also ask whether the flowers were grown as organically as feasible. You may be surprised to hear that most small family farms are not using the harmful chemicals that you hear about in farming.
- Use imports sparingly & with high standards. Sometimes a particular design, aesthetic, or season requires some imports. Ask your florist whether any portion of your design can be American-grown, and how to fill out the design with local product using dried or greenhouse blooms.
- Avoid flowers that are wrapped in plastic. Plastic wrap is not biodegradable and can pollute the environment. Look for flowers that are wrapped in paper or other sustainable materials. In our shop, we use fully home-compostable wraps.
- Think about the afterlife. Undyed, un-sprayed stems that have not been in contact with floral foam or other harmful chemicals can all be composted. Here in Hastings-on-Hudson, stems are allowed in your yard waste compost that the town picks up. Look into where and how you can keep your stems out of the landfill.
If you are unsure whether or not a particular floral design is sustainable, ask your florist. They should be able to tell you where the flowers are from and how they were grown.
By following these tips, you can help to ensure that your flower purchases are sustainable. Sustainable flowers are better for the environment, for your health, and for the workers who grow and harvest them as well as your florist.