Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Think before you buy a rose for Valentine's Day

It's Valentine's Day and I'm sure there will be a lot of flowers being bought today. But before you go out and spend on some flowers, do think about where they come from and how they impact the environment.

Environmentalists have long been pushing people to buy flowers that are produced locally because they do not contribute to increased carbon emission that are produced by aircrafts that carry flowers for long distances to their intended destinations. Now, the British government has said that food miles alone is not a reliable indicator of the environmental impact of food transport and urged the British public to buy African flowers for Valentine's Day. From Guardian:
International development secretary Hilary Benn said that while people wanted to buy ethically and do their bit for climate change, they often didn't realise that they could support developing countries and reduce carbon emissions.

"Recent research shows that flowers flown from Africa can use less energy overall than those produced in Europe because they're not grown in heated greenhouses.

"So, this Valentine's day, you can be a romantic, reduce your environmental impact and help make poverty history.

"This is about social justice and making it easier, not harder, for African people to make a decent living."

... Mr Benn pointed to a recent study that showed emissions produced by growing flowers in Kenya, where it is warm and sunny, and flying them to the UK can be less than a fifth of those grown in heated and lighted greenhouses in Holland - Europe's main producer of flowers.
Also think of the people who are working in flower farms such as in Bogata, the capital of Columbia, the world's second largest cut-flower producer after Holland. These workers together with the flowers are often exposed to potentially toxic chemical substances. From Xinhua:
A survey of 84 farms between 2000 and 2002, partly financed by Asocolflores, the exporters' association, found only 16.7 percent respected pesticide manufacturer recommendations to prevent workers for 24 hours from re-entering greenhouses sprayed with the most toxic of pesticides.

Carmen Orjuela began suffering dizzy spells and repeated falls in 1997, while working at a flower farm outside Bogota. During the peak season before Valentine's Day, she said her employer forced workers to enter greenhouses only a half-hour after they had been fumigated.

"Those who refused were told they could leave -- that 20 people were outside waiting to take their job," said Orjuela, who quit in 2004.

Orjuela's employer, Flores de la Sabana, denied ever disregarding manufacturer-recommended re-entry times, but a 2005 toxicology study from Colombia's National University obtained by The Associated Press confirmed that Orjuela's illness was "directly related to an important exposure to potentially toxic chemical substances." A government arbiter finally ordered the company to pay her a pension equal to the 200 dollars monthly minimum wage earned by most workers.

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