The best thing a flower-lover can do is buy locally to reduce the travel-related carbon footprint, says Julia Zini. (Black Press Media)

The best thing a flower-lover can do is buy locally to reduce the travel-related carbon footprint, says Julia Zini. (Black Press Media)

VIDEO: Flower fans push industry to be more eco-conscious

Vancouver shop owner Rosemin Jutha says she buys 90 per cent of her flowers from United Flower Growers

Julia Zini loves to give and receive flowers for any occasion, but for the first time she’s reconsidering whether to buy a traditional bouquet of roses synonymous with Valentine’s Day.

The Regina schoolteacher says she only recently learned that the favoured blossom has to be imported this time of year, a cost to the environment that has the increasingly eco-conscious Zini considering alternatives.

“I don’t think I’ll necessarily avoid them, but I will look at other, local options first,” says Zini, who expects she and her husband will celebrate with a nice dinner instead.

Romantic sentiments are increasingly tinged with a bit of environmental worry at this time of year, say many in the floral industry shifting their practices to more sustainable offerings such as locally grown flowers.

Vancouver shop owner Rosemin Jutha says she buys 90 per cent of her flowers from United Flower Growers, an auction for local growers that benefit from B.C.’s milder climate.

Her store — Queen Bee Flower Shop, located in the upscale South Granville neighbourhood — limits water use, reuses containers and materials where possible and uses biodegradable packaging and wrapping paper made from recycled materials.

“There’s a lot of wastage in the industry the way things are packaged,” acknowledges Jutha, noting that includes non-recyclable and single-use materials such as cellophane and foam — which she still uses.

“I have a recycling water pick program so that when we do an arrangement, we ask (the customers) to bring them back or take it back to another florist,” she says, referring to the small water-filled containers that keep a stem’s cut end hydrated.

“And we ask: Do you want to use brown paper?”

The best thing a flower-lover can do is buy locally to reduce the travel-related carbon footprint, she says. A side benefit is that usually means the flower are “really fresh” and last longer, especially if it’s a hardier variety.

Still, that can be a hard sell on Valentine’s Day when buyers typically seek delicate and exotic arrangements designed to impress, she admits.

During the lead-up to the 14th, only half of her stock is locally grown to accommodate more traditional demands: “They all want their roses.”

Terrapass, a climate change group that provides public education and helps businesses analyze their carbon footprint, says roses are especially problematic because they are a warm-weather flower that is typically flown in from the southern hemisphere and then transported to local markets in refrigerated trucks.

READ MORE: How much do you know about love and romance?

More than 100 million roses make the journey to the United States, it says, producing 9,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

A flower’s end-of-life can be problematic, too.

Emily Alfred of the Toronto Environmental Alliance reminds recipients to put their spent bouquets in the green bin for compost, not the trash.

Like all organic material, flowers that go to landfill end up decomposing and releasing methane, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere and contributes to smog and global climate change.

Corporate events and weddings are where floral waste can really add up, says Kalynn Crump of ReBloom, which collects event flowers that would otherwise be thrown out and donates them to nursing homes, hospices, shelters and other organizations.

Crump says she started her company in Calgary in 2014 after working in public relations and seeing gorgeous blooms tossed as soon as a party ended — sometimes thousands of dollars worth of flowers that had only been enjoyed for a few hours.

“The florist would come in and just grab the vase, throw the flowers down on the table, and that was it, they wanted their vase back because they were rented,” says Crump, whose coast-to-coast clients include businesses and wedding couples, but also event venues that are gradually realizing their own role in curbing waste.

Crump recalls coming across a dumpster full of beautiful white hydrangeas behind a posh downtown Toronto hotel, the aftermath of a big wedding where she guesses staff were forced to quickly clear a ballroom to make way for the next big event.

She showed them the photo and that hotel is now a client, she says, noting a “significant change” in attitude among businesses and hotel chains over the past two years. She says ReBloom diverted 43 tons of floral waste from landfills since 2014 and wants to divert 20 more tons this year.

Zini used ReBloom to donate flowers from her 2018 wedding in Toronto to a local women’s shelter and seniors’ home. She estimates spending about $3,000 on the flowers and an additional $800 to turn them into smaller bouquets and arrangements.

“Ideally, (a wedding) happens once and there are things that you want to be special because they happen once,” she acknowledges.

“But that being said, the waste (includes) wasted food, dresses that are never worn again, flowers in the garbage. I wanted that special day, but I wanted to reduce the waste as much as I could.”

That’s a sentiment the similarly themed Violet Heart Project in Toronto — a not-for-profit that also repurposes event flowers — hopes will one day be inextricably linked with the floral industry.

“This just needs to be the normal thing that everybody does,” says Julie Danaylov, one of the founding board members.

Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Gift GuideHolidays and Seasonal EventsNature

Just Posted

Workers had a busy time today repairing a broken main water line. (District of Houston photo)
Water service being restored

Main line on 13th had broken

Flags at the District of Houston administrative building were lowered last week following the news that the remains of as many as 215 children were found buried on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. The flags were raised back up yesterday. (Houston Today photo)
Flags lowered in memory

Flags at the District of Houston administrative building were lowered last week… Continue reading

Bruce Tang- Unsplash photo
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

“Older adults in our communities continue to find themselves in vulnerable situations… Continue reading

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Most Read