Day 116 / 365

When it comes to your wedding, there's not a girl that doesn't picture a floral bouquet being part of her day. What we don't picture though is all that comes before and after that bouquet is created, nor the chemicals each beautiful arrangement holds. 

Before creating a similar post on slow flowers for the #GoneGreen2016 series, I had never before thought about where my flowers came from in a way that gave me an answer deeper than “from the earth". Growing up in Canada we have an abundance of flowers in the Spring and Summer but everything dies when the freeze comes in, so when I bought flowers in the colder months, I figured farmers had grown them in greenhouses locally, and the 'green' in greenhouse meant it was, well, green (eco). To me, flowers seemed too delicate and frivolous for travel, and thus, logically and financially ridiculous to import.

Turns out I was wrong. And because of the use of low-cost imports which supply the majority of the flowers we find, 50% of U.S flower farms have gone out of business since 1992. According to an infographic I was sent by founder Debra Prinzing, 75% of Americans don’t know the origins of their flowers (same goes for their food). 

Currently, the U.S imports around 80% of flowers sold, same goes for the U.K. 40,000 boxes of flowers arrive daily, and that number quadruples during the weeks of Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. This means about seven daily flights, six days a week are up in the air busting out some mean carbon dioxide with each flight. All to bring flowers from where they grow to where they’re bought.

As we don't eat them, they're not monitored for pesticides which cause harm to growers, workers, and the eco-systems, tainting the fresh water in the communities in which they grow. Most pesticides used are banned in industrialised nations. These pesticides irreversibly harm human health and biodiversity in the regions they're grown, further impacting the environment and communities negatively (causing birth defects, genetic damage, cancers, and poisoning food, wildlife and water supply). 

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested rose samples purchased from American retailers in 1998. In their tests, they found presence of a dozen different pesticides, including two "probable carcinogens", one of which was present at a level 50 times higher than permitted in food.

The chemicals and pesticides used on the flowers to keep the crops bountiful and alive for their airplane ride and distribution now guarantees that each time you take a whiff of your gorgeous bouquet, you're inhaling a shit ton of chemicals, chemicals which also happen to be weapons against bees and other insects important to biodiversity. 

Once they arrive, you and your family breathe in those health-harming chemicals (this is why some adults and children report headaches from cut flowers). They then end up in the landfill along with all our other disposable objects, only these chemical filled flowers won't biodegrade without harm, they will continue to poison the environment as the chemicals work their way into the soil and surrounding wildlife, while the flowers contribute to global warming as carbon monoxide secretes from its slowly degrading core. 

So how does one celebrate their wedding day ethically and sustainably?

1. Ask your florist/grocery/wholesaler for locally grown flowers, if they don't have them, tell them you would love to see them supply some local options (and don't support them if they don't).

2. If you're buying in a grocery store, look for origin-specific labels and shop fairtrade (you guessed it, we've got slave labor problems in the flower industry!)

3. Try a dried flower bouquet created with flowers who started their life in season and were sequestered organically and ethically.

4. If neither your local florist nor your grocery store can provide you with sustainably sourced local flowers, try visiting:
[USA] for some terrific sources for organic and locally grown bouquets.
[UK] The British Flower collective has some wonderful floral stylists too. 
[CANADA] Design Sponge has a great list of local florists in the U.S.A and Canadathem