Flowers are powerful symbols we use to show appreciation to our loved ones. However today, the cut flower industry is a 70 billion dollars market directed mainly to western countries and repressing significant human and environmental costs. Wether it is for the planet or for the humans of this planet, it is NOT all rosy when it comes to flowers.
The Environmental Impact
The majority of the flowers produced in the West come from the Netherlands, but increasingly, flowers are coming from Kenya, Ecuador, Sri Lanka, Colombia (which is the largest single producer of cut flowers) and China.
Flowers must get to their customers between 3 to 5 days after harvest: this means heavy energy requirements for refrigeration and transport. Flowers lose 15% of their value per additional day of transit. And before you think it is more environmentally friendly to get Dutch flowers rather than Kenyan ones because Kenya is farther geographically, flowers produced in the Netherlands emit up to 6 times more CO2 than the ones coming from Kenya! That is because greenhouses, fuelled with on-renewable carbon sources of energy are needed to meet ideal temperature requirements for flower growth. The CO2 emissions are further exacerbated by intense transport and processes. As if that was not enough, the refrigeration process needed for long-haul transport releases hydrofluorocarbons, which is 9 times more harmful to the atmosphere than CO2!
And we too wish this is where the environmental damage of the beautiful flower industry ended, but it keeps on getting worse.
Flower farming is not subject to the same regulations as edible crops, which means pesticides and herbicides are used at MUCH higher rates. This leads to destruction of local habitat like eutrophication, the manifestations of which are an increase in suspended particles, decreased water quality and clarity, and increased precipitation frequency (reminder that this occurs in parts of the world with life-threatening water issues). And as if that was not bad enough, this heavy use of pesticides leads to a sharp decline in pollinator species. In fact, neonicotinoids (a powerful pesticide) can be found in 75% of honey samples collected worldwide!
The flower industry directly participates in the decline of biodiversity of agricultural landscapes. It is particularly water-intensive: the water print of one rose is estimated to be 7-13 litres of water! This has, as you can imagine, detrimental effects in water-poor countries where these flowers are produced.
The Human Impact
Now when it comes to the human ethics of it, it unfortunately does not get much better.
Sure we could argue that the flower industry is a source of income to some locals, but the workforce is usually underpaid and overworked. Workdays can be up to 16h, with double shifts in periods of high demand like Valentine’s Day. Occupational injuries are common, and floriculture workers are constantly exposed to toxins and fertilisers, leading to known health damage for this workforce.
Ok by now you are probably not reaching for your bad to get flowers from your mainstream supermarket, but this does not mean you cannot enjoy the beauty and luxury of flowers in more ethical manners.
Rose’s Smile is our moisturiser for sensitive skin. Yes we are using this stream of attention of yours to highlight that the Damascus rose flower water along with its other antioxidant and skin-saving ingredients are ethically and ecologically sourced from Moroccan women collectives. The ethics and the aesthetics have been on Uzza’s mind since the beginning, and Rose’s Smile is the perfect gift to yourself or to a loved one.
Rose’s Smile is fragrance-free, endocrine-friendly, cruelty-friendly, packaged in recycled ocean plastic, 98% of natural origin and like all Uzza products, combines North African Ethnobotany with the latest dermatological science.
Other ways of enjoying blossoms ethically include growing your own flowers, gifting plants, or gifting the planting of a tree - all of which has positive impact on the atmosphere and pollinators.