Mother's Day is almost here, marking another calendar date when giving cut flowers is the celebratory norm. Abundant displays of tidal waves of vibrant colour scream for our attention in shops and florists everywhere, as the day approaches.
It really lifts the spirits to receive a beautiful bunch of flowers and they serve as a heart-warming oingoing reminder of the gesture, as they continue to brighten our homes for a week or so later. A bouquet of flowers are, of course, the customary gift to show our mothers that we care, but there's another aspect we tend to not think to care about and that's the environmental cost. But flowers are natural gifts… right? So what's there to consider?
Well, to meet the high demand, many are imported, with a significant carbon footprint to fly them to us from other countries in far from insignificant quantities. In 2014, the UK cut flower industry was worth around €2.5 billion, with imports of roses alone being amounting to €177 million. Around 60% of these imports were from the Netherlands and Kenya is our second largest supplier, at around 30%. That's an awful lot of air miles!
Whilst the British cut flower industry is growing (pardon the pun), demand is far too high for UK growers to meet without the significant supplement of flowers from abroad.
To grow on a large commercial scale, these are flowers that have been grown in greenhouses. To me, the image of greenhouses doesn't sound so bad, it conjures up images of just larger versions of what we have in our gardens. Except to dispel that illusion, near to where we live, there's a large vegetable producer that has four truly vast greenhouses. Aside from the huge amount of water and energy they use, their greenhouses' lighting can be seen from many miles away and, as a result of this site, the area has now been tagged with the undesirable label of being the UK's second worst place in the UK for light pollution.
Then also bear in mind that cut flowers are doused in large quantities of harmful and polluting pest and disease control chemicals from (scourge of the Earth… mutter, mutter) companies such as Montsanto. Factor in the plastic wrapping and the short life of cut flowers and the vision of them as a natural and eco-friendly gift, starts to fade, once the rose-tinted spectacles are lowered.
That's not to say that on Mother's Day, or Valentine's Day, or any other similar special occasions, we shouldn't enjoy giving or receiving flowers. Instead of fuelling the demand for these not so earth-friendly flowers, give your mum some organic or GM-free flower seeds to grow in her garden, planter, pot or window box. Growing the flowers herself will symbolically call on her skills again to nuture a new life, with far greater pleasure and satisfaction than just arranging flowers in a vase. The results will be far longer-lasting, better for garden wildlife, bees and with a tiny carbon footprint by comparison.
Make this Mother's Day one that cares for Mother Nature too!