By Megan Dobransky on Dec 10, 2010

Lifecycle of an Eco Flower

Christmas and Hanukkah account for 30 percent of all fresh flower and plant sales in the U.S.

EcoFlowers.com worker at a packaging center on a farm in Ecuador. Photo: Organic Bouquet

Before you select that perfect bouquet for Grandma or poinsettia for Aunt Peggy, have you ever stopped to think about the environmental impact of the floral industry? From growing to shipping to disposal, a lot goes into making the holidays fairer with flora.

According to Robert McLaughlin, CEO of EcoFlowers.com, one of the largest online providers of eco-friendly and organic wholesale florals, sometimes flowers are grown with synthetic chemicals that can be dangerous for the environment and the workers that handle the flowers.

Organic Bouquet, the parent company of EcoFlowers.com, doesn’t use these types of chemicals. They also utilize a carbon offset program through CarbonFund.org to ensure they are carbon neutral throughout the growing process and beyond. Look for organic blooms if you’re concerned about pesticides and chemicals in your arrangements.

All of Organic Bouquet’s products are made from recycled materials and printed with soy-based inks. While not all companies use recycled materials in their packaging, remember that most plastic and cardboard that is used to package flowers can likely be recycled by you, the consumer.

Many fresh flowers are shipped in aircraft holds from Europe, which is home to more than half of the world’s flower production. This can shorten the life of the flower, so many growers work directly with consumers to ship products by mail order or with packagers that ship the flowers to grocery stores and markets.

Try ordering from growers that are closer to home or ship directly from their nurseries.

EcoFlowers.com, for instance, saves more than eight days of shelf life by using its own marketing and distribution model, while also offering next-day shipping for retailers that need the freshest products.

Almost all commercial growers supply floral preservatives with fresh flowers. These little packets generally contain acid that helps move water up the stem, sugar to act as food and biocide – which kills bacteria that can clog the stem.

Biocides can be harmful, but there are non-toxic and all-natural varieties available to replace any toxic chemical that might come with the flowers. Or you can make your own.

Marion Owen, co-author of “Chicken Soup for the Garden’s Soul,” says not to throw your flowers or plants away at all. Instead, recycle them by drying or pressing them. “Keeping the flowers and foliage out of the landfill or into compost piles far outweighs the amount of chemicals involved.”

In the case of Organic Bouquet, where chemicals are less of a concern in disposal, McLaughlin says composting them is the best option.

“Because organic flowers and waste are grown without harmful synthetic chemicals, flowers at the end of their lifecycle can be introduced to compost and reused as natural fertilization in new food and flower crops,” says McLaughlin.

[holidaySearch type="recycle" what="cardboard" whatlabel="cardboard"]

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