Buying Mother’s Day Flowers? Read This First.
May 7, 2022
By Megan Boyle, Editorial Director
This Sunday children will warm the hearts of mothers nationwide by presenting them with beautiful bouquets of flowers.
But choosing the right bouquet for Mom isn’t that simple.
Before you place your order, here’s what you should know.
About those flowers
Where do they come from? About two-thirds of the flowers sold in the U.S. come from Colombia, amounting to a $1 billion-plus business. Some 90,000 people – mostly low-skilled, low-income and female – work in the Colombian flower industry, which has a poor record for workers’ rights.
To meet strict U.S. import rules that aim to prevent imports of insects and plant disease, growers may treat flowers with pesticides, chemical fertilizers and toxic fumigation. In 2022 two researchers from the University of Munich determined that flower growers used certain pesticides in concentrations that posed health risks to workers.
Some of the medical problems these workers suffer can be severe. According to the Victoria International Development Education Association, two-thirds of flower industry workers experience headaches, nausea, impaired vision, asthma, respiratory and neurological problems and knee and back injuries. Women in the industry report higher rates of miscarriage and birth defects. There’s also evidence that workers’ children have health problems that may have been caused by exposures to chemicals their parents bring home on their clothing.
Chemicals may linger on stems, leaves and petals of flowers, stick to the hands of consumers and pollute the air inside their homes.
What can you do?
Your purchasing decision matters. Consider these tips:
- Shop organic. Keep pesticide residue away from your family and off growers’ hands by choosing flowers that are certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Look for them at your nearby florist or market, or search online for sellers like California Organic Flowers or Organic Bouquet.
- Buy local. Visit your local farmers’ market and get to know growers in your area. Ask questions about their gardens and how they handle pest control, weed abatement and soil rejuvenation.
- Try certified. Seek Fair Trade bouquets or those certified by the Rainforest Alliance or VeriFlora, which sets environmental, social and economic sustainability standards for water conservation and workers’ rights.
- Grow your own. Grab a shovel, compost and seeds for a home gardening lesson with your kids. Not only will they learn; you’ll have more flowers next year.