Illustration: Serenity, by Katy Gromball
Valentine’s Day approaches once again, and where is the love? Is the love in Clinton Cards? Is the love in all those ‘must have’ Valentine’s gifts the glossy magazines are trying to suggest we need? Is the love in flowers that have been flown thousands of miles, produced by underpaid workers with health problems because of all the chemicals used in their production? Hmmm, perhaps not…
Illustration: In a Dream, by Katy Gromball
There’s no denying cut flowers are beautiful. I’ve never been a flowers girl myself, but I do see the appeal. Flowers should be beautiful, natural, simple gifts that allow us to enjoy a beautiful bit of the outdoors indoors. Yet most of the flowers that we buy in this country have a past that is neither innocent nor desirable. It’s ironic that the pretty things we use to express our affection for loved ones can in fact be severely detrimental to the health and well-being of the people and environments that produce them. It is therefore high time ethical flowers became the norm and not the slightly more expensive niche option.
Illustration: Lovely Place, by Katy Gromball
Flowers can either be grown in greenhouses, where maintaining the right temperature and conditions needs a lot of energy, or produced in countries with a naturally hotter climate. The vast majority of flowers we buy in this country are imported from Colombia, Kenya or Holland.
I remember studying the colonial history of France in Algeria at university. The French colons made Algeria, where the Muslim population originally didn’t drink alcohol, into an important exporter of wine. So while the natives didn’t have enough wheat because their land had been taken over by the French, the French were happily drinking wine with their cheese. Perhaps the flowers situation can’t be compared. But flowers take up enormous swathes of land that could otherwise be used for food production. The fact that they are grown as a monoculture crop means they severely deplete soils and biodiversity.
Illustration: Lovers, by Katy Gromball
Moreover, flower production requires huge amounts of water. Clean drinking water is an increasingly scarce global commodity. Coupled with the extremely high use of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides in flower production, and the toxicity released into rivers because of this, there is clearly a huge problem. Pesticides directly affect the health of the workers who are in contact with them, whether in greenhouses or outdoors. Are cheap flowers worth all this?
So what are the alternatives? Where possible, it really is best to buy UK grown flowers. The UK floriculture season lasts from about March to October, but most florists will provide for Valentine’s Day as well by using fairtrade flowers. Below are a few ideas for online suppliers, but it’s probably best to research your own local area and find out which florists supply UK grown or fairtrade flowers. If you know any good florists or suppliers in your area, please post links to them or give details in the comments section they’ll be useful all year round.
Illustration: Hurrah, by Katy Gromball
Bella and Fifi, Bristol-based ethical florist.
Park Flowers, Soil Association Organic certified flowers.
Eco Flowers Delivered- “I love you and the Earth too”. Delivered same or next day.
Bath Organic Blooms, Seasonal, organically-produced flowers from Somerset, delivered UK-wide. Not for Valentine’s though as the season starts in March.
Visit illustrator Katy Gromball’s online shop, for a truly beautiful and unique print to go with (or instead of) flowers.
- Valentines Day Events
- Anja Hynynen: an interview with this fabulous Swedish ethical fashion designer
- Bridgedale Bamboo Socks
- Camilla Norrback: the Scandinavian ethical designer talks Sustainability
- The story of LOVE. Shown through music.