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Unsustainable Valentine’s Roses

A Love Story with a Thorny Impact



Alright, let’s talk Valentine’s Day– it’s almost here, and you know what that means, right? Roses are about to step into the limelight once again. It’s pretty hard to imagine Valentine’s without them. Giving or getting a bunch of roses? Classic. They’re like the ultimate symbol of love in our culture, a way of saying all the mushy stuff without actually saying it. But, and it’s a big ‘but,’ there’s more to this romantic picture than meets the eye.


Locally grown Valentine’s Tulips

Rose? NOPE! Local Tulips!

Ever stopped to think, ‘Why roses?’ I mean, why are they THE flower for love day? It’s a question that kinda gets lost as we all go about the ritual of exchanging these picture-perfect blooms. But let’s hit pause for a sec and think about the journey of these Valentine’s roses. How do they even end up in our local flower shops or supermarkets?


Here’s the scoop: our global system is kinda the wizard behind the curtain of the Valentine’s rose tradition. Roses, bless them, have always been all about love, beauty, and passion. You know, those delicate petals, that sweet scent – they’re like nature’s love letters. But getting these summer bloomers to show up in February, now that’s something else.


Back in the day, like decades ago, it was a whole different story. Flowers were grown locally because they had a shelf life shorter than a chocolate cake at a birthday party. Places like the Netherlands were big-time players in Europe’s flower game, and the U.S. had its own farms doing their thing.

Then, enter ‘cold chains.’ Sounds kinda cool, right? These are these fancy shipping systems that keep flowers at just the right cool temperature from the farm to your front door. It’s like they put the flowers in a chill zone, keeping them fresh longer. This whole setup flipped the script in the flower world. Now, we could get flowers from places where it’s cheaper to grow them, and not just from the farm down the road.


So, as we gear up to celebrate with roses, it’s worth taking a beat to think about how unsustainablefor Valentine’s. It’s a modern marvel, sure, but like most things, there’s another side to the story.



Acres of Netherland Greenhouses


As Valentine’s Day approaches the US will see a huge influx of imported roses. We’re not just talking a few flowers here and there – it’s about 8 million roses, or 570 tons, arriving from all over the world. A lot of them travel from the sunny, mountainous regions of Colombia and Ecuador. Great for growing roses, but the environmental impact? That’s something we really need to think about.


These regions, while perfect for rose cultivation, come with high costs in terms of water usage, energy consumption for heating greenhouses, and pesticide runoff. It’s a big deal for our planet. And here’s something else – roses are super perishable. That means they need air travel and refrigeration to stay fresh, which isn’t great for their lifespan or the environment. Did you know that a flower loses about 15% of its value for every extra day it spends in transit?


And then there’s the issue with handling these imported blooms. Florists often need gloves, but not just for the thorns. It’s because of the cocktail of chemicals on these flowers, used to keep them fresh during their long journey and meet our expectations for long-lasting blooms. Since we’re not eating these flowers, the pesticide regulations are a bit looser, which raises concerns about the safety for those handling them.


Harmful pesticides being spray of roses.

Now, throw Valentine’s Day demand into this already complex and unsustainable, rose situation. To meet this demand, roses are often forced into bloom prematurely or have to be held back. This translates into tough conditions for workers, often involving overtime, low pay, and poor working conditions. Plus, a lot of our cut flowers, including roses, come from places like the Netherlands, which adds a substantial carbon footprint due to the travel involved. This not only contributes to greenhouse gas emissions but also brings up ethical concerns. While these imported roses might get natural heat and light, they often need more chemicals, more air miles, and more water. This can make issues like water scarcity, ecological degradation, and social problems worse – including concerns about health and safety standards, gender discrimination, precarious employment, and land rights.


Buying out-of-season flowers, like roses in February, presents its own set of problems. Roses grown in foreign greenhouses use more energy, travel further, and are subject to looser regulations regarding working conditions and pesticide use. On the flip side, supporting local, seasonal flowers can make a big difference. Many local growers use sustainable practices because, just like you and me, they’d rather not handle all those chemicals.


Verona Sunrise Tulip
Verona Sunrise. A specialty Tulip during Valentines.

So, what’s the solution to this complex web of issues? While boycotting roses entirely is not practical and could have severe socio-economic repercussions, there are steps we can take to make a positive impact.


Valentine’s Roses are simply Unsustainable


Opting for locally grown and sustainable flowers in the United States can make a substantial difference, ensuring that your love story leaves a positive mark on our world. Remember, your choices have the power to shape a more ethical and environmentally responsible future for the cut flower industry, right here in the United States.


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