Over 190 million roses will be bought for Valentine’s Day this year along with chocolate and jewelry. I had never really given much thought about where the flowers we buy at the store are grown. It turns out that about 80% of cut flowers sold in the United States come from overseas. (www.oneworldflowers.org). They are grown mostly in Central American, Northern South America, and Africa where the climates are conducive to year round growing. Non fair trade flowers are laden with pesticides and other chemicals to keep them looking fresh for the stores. At any time, over 120 chemicals are used in the flower growing industry, some of which are carcinogenic.
Flower producers employ mostly women often paying them only $1 per day. In addition to chemical exposure, they are exposed to other dangerous working conditions, long working hours, inability to organize for fair wages, and in some cases sexual harassment. While many are happy to have a job, they are still living on the margins of society.
It is common practice to think about fair trade in the context of coffee and chocolate as well as jewelry. These items are getting easier to find, especially here in NE Ohio. We also need to consider flowers when we think of fair trade products.
Certified fair trade flower producers must provide safe working conditions, limit the types of chemicals they use, pay a living wage, and allow for workers to unionize for their own protection and well-being. The advantage to purchasing fair trade flowers is a guarantee that a woman is being paid a living wage, receiving access to health care, there is no child labor and the environment is not being affected. You can also guarantee that you will not have to worry about hazardous chemicals when you give them to your sweetheart. Plus, you get higher quality flowers. Worth every penny.
Our website has links to two online sites that sell certified fair trade flowers to individuals. Fair Trade America and Fair Trade USA provide a list of businesses that sell flowers wholesale. Print out the lists and share it with your local florist. Let them know that when they buy and sell fair trade flowers they are making a difference in the lives of women. And that you will be more inclined to buy flowers from them rather than the supermarket next time.
Check out these sites to learn more about certified fair trade flowers: