New England is a great place to be in the Spring because we can see a milieu of flowers growing everywhere. They adorn the landscape with beautiful vivid colors and designs –they remind this accessory-loving fashionista of earrings, necklace pendants and bracelets… but for your home—!
However, on a recent walk, I started to really wonder how I could take these gorgeous flowers home, without devastating the environment or fortifying oppressive work structures in the countries these flowers are purchased from.
In that vein, I have a few facts I would L-O-V-E to share about Fair Trade flowers!!! Did you know that the CUT FLOWER industry is a $6.2 billion dollar industry?? Approximately 59% of the cut flowers we have in the US come from Columbia and 19% come from Ecuador. The typical wage for an Ecuadorian rose farmer is $150/month which is roughly equal to about $.04 per rose sold in the US.
Let’s dig a little deeper and see how this industry affects workers and the environment:
*Close to 70% of cut flowers sold in the USA are grown overseas, where growing conditions are better, labor is cheaper and pesticide regulation is more lax.
*Flowers grown with traditional methods are doused with insecticides, fungicides, growth regulators and fumigated with toxic methyl bromide.
*Studies in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives have found symptoms of pesticide poisoning in workers in Colombia and Ecuador.
*In Ecuador, nearly 60% of flower workers surveyed showed poisoning symptoms, including headaches, dizziness, trembling hands and blurred vision.
On a brighter note, we DO have a happy alternative: Fair Trade Flowers!!!
Check out this cool PBS special on fair trade flowers. It talks about all the wonderful accomplishments fair trade flowers offers farm workers in Ecuador such as childcare, capacity building classes in budgeting, micro-loans to build their homes, project management workshops and health protection for the workers!
Yay for Fair Trade flowers….just another way of appreciating all the gifts mother Earth has given us without defacing our beautiful world or hurting the people who live and labor in it!