This is a guest post by Ivan Van Wingerden of Ever-Bloom in Carpinteria, CA.
You can follow Ivan and his adventures at Ever-Bloom on Twitter.
Watching from behind my shopping cart, I can’t help but observe a few fellow customers scrutinizing different bunches and bouquets of flowers in the large display at our local supermarket.
I can hear them discussing color, longevity, and what room it would look best in. They knew which flowers would likely last longer based on how open they were and appeared to have a very discerning eye for what they were looking for.
What I didn’t hear them talking about was whether they were grown at a farm or greenhouse nearby, or whether these pretty petals had a more international set of roots. After a few more minutes of deliberation, they decided on a large and beautiful bouquet filled with roses, gypsophila, and greens. As a consumer, I could appreciate their choice since it fulfilled their need for a nice bouquet of flowers and it was likely close to what they wanted or imagined in their home. However, as a flower farmer, I felt that familiar twinge of frustration that they passed up the many bouquets and arrangements that bore the CA Grown label. None of the flowers on this display happened to be from my farm, but many were from fellow farmers who I knew well and I knew had grown them less than 20 miles away.
I pushed my cart closer to the display and decided to make a quick check on labels.
The giant bouquets of roses all had stickers indicating that they flew out of Colombia. Grabbing my iPhone I asked Siri what the flight distance from Bogotá to LAX was. Discounting the transportation within Colombia itself, the roses these customers were buying had flown 3,493 miles and then were put in a truck and transported another 200 miles to the supermarket. Asking Siri a few more questions, the quick math indicated that the flight from Colombia emitted almost 7,000 pounds of CO2 versus less than 100 pounds for a truckload of local California flowers. Ruminating on the vast disparity in energy consumption I couldn’t help but feel these women would have likely bought the CA Grown flowers if they had been more informed on their origin and proximity to the market.
But what about other parts of the United States? Surely I wasn’t being fair comparing the transportation footprint of internationally grown flowers sold in a supermarket in such close proximity to the nation’s “Flower Basket”—that would be like comparing the footprint of Peruvian potatoes in an Idaho market. However, after equating the environmental impact of flying flowers from South America versus trucking flowers from the many farms in California, I was personally surprised to discover that even reaching the far corners of our country, the footprint of California Grown flowers was approximately 1/10 the amount of energy in transportation compared to the South American flowers that flew into Miami and then trucked to their final destinations.
Unfortunately, this type of information isn’t readily available to consumers today. That is why I am excited about the future of the sustainability program being developed by our California Cut Flower Commission. I believe the transportation footprint of flowers to be of important significance to discerning floral consumers. My hope would be that a certification would help provide that assurance and education that is missing in today’s decision-making process for flower buying.
I personally feel that most consumers would choose the local bouquet if they knew the story behind it and was made aware of the drastically lower environmental impact. So, out of respect for the environment and admiration for the other flower growers in the United States, I am going to begin doing my part to encourage consumers to also buy flowers proudly emblazoned with the CA Grown or American Grown stickers.
It makes a difference.
Does the distance flowers travel today concern you?
Should the transportation footprint of flowers be important information for consumers to be aware of?