The best thing a flower-lover can do is buy locally to reduce the travel-related carbon footprint, says Julia Zini. (Black Press Media)

VIDEO: Flower fans push industry to be more eco-conscious

Vancouver shop owner Rosemin Jutha says she buys 90 per cent of her flowers from United Flower Growers

Julia Zini loves to give and receive flowers for any occasion, but for the first time she’s reconsidering whether to buy a traditional bouquet of roses synonymous with Valentine’s Day.

The Regina schoolteacher says she only recently learned that the favoured blossom has to be imported this time of year, a cost to the environment that has the increasingly eco-conscious Zini considering alternatives.

“I don’t think I’ll necessarily avoid them, but I will look at other, local options first,” says Zini, who expects she and her husband will celebrate with a nice dinner instead.

Romantic sentiments are increasingly tinged with a bit of environmental worry at this time of year, say many in the floral industry shifting their practices to more sustainable offerings such as locally grown flowers.

Vancouver shop owner Rosemin Jutha says she buys 90 per cent of her flowers from United Flower Growers, an auction for local growers that benefit from B.C.’s milder climate.

Her store — Queen Bee Flower Shop, located in the upscale South Granville neighbourhood — limits water use, reuses containers and materials where possible and uses biodegradable packaging and wrapping paper made from recycled materials.

“There’s a lot of wastage in the industry the way things are packaged,” acknowledges Jutha, noting that includes non-recyclable and single-use materials such as cellophane and foam — which she still uses.

“I have a recycling water pick program so that when we do an arrangement, we ask (the customers) to bring them back or take it back to another florist,” she says, referring to the small water-filled containers that keep a stem’s cut end hydrated.

“And we ask: Do you want to use brown paper?”

The best thing a flower-lover can do is buy locally to reduce the travel-related carbon footprint, she says. A side benefit is that usually means the flower are “really fresh” and last longer, especially if it’s a hardier variety.

Still, that can be a hard sell on Valentine’s Day when buyers typically seek delicate and exotic arrangements designed to impress, she admits.

During the lead-up to the 14th, only half of her stock is locally grown to accommodate more traditional demands: “They all want their roses.”

Terrapass, a climate change group that provides public education and helps businesses analyze their carbon footprint, says roses are especially problematic because they are a warm-weather flower that is typically flown in from the southern hemisphere and then transported to local markets in refrigerated trucks.

READ MORE: How much do you know about love and romance?

More than 100 million roses make the journey to the United States, it says, producing 9,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

A flower’s end-of-life can be problematic, too.

Emily Alfred of the Toronto Environmental Alliance reminds recipients to put their spent bouquets in the green bin for compost, not the trash.

Like all organic material, flowers that go to landfill end up decomposing and releasing methane, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere and contributes to smog and global climate change.

Corporate events and weddings are where floral waste can really add up, says Kalynn Crump of ReBloom, which collects event flowers that would otherwise be thrown out and donates them to nursing homes, hospices, shelters and other organizations.

Crump says she started her company in Calgary in 2014 after working in public relations and seeing gorgeous blooms tossed as soon as a party ended — sometimes thousands of dollars worth of flowers that had only been enjoyed for a few hours.

“The florist would come in and just grab the vase, throw the flowers down on the table, and that was it, they wanted their vase back because they were rented,” says Crump, whose coast-to-coast clients include businesses and wedding couples, but also event venues that are gradually realizing their own role in curbing waste.

Crump recalls coming across a dumpster full of beautiful white hydrangeas behind a posh downtown Toronto hotel, the aftermath of a big wedding where she guesses staff were forced to quickly clear a ballroom to make way for the next big event.

She showed them the photo and that hotel is now a client, she says, noting a “significant change” in attitude among businesses and hotel chains over the past two years. She says ReBloom diverted 43 tons of floral waste from landfills since 2014 and wants to divert 20 more tons this year.

Zini used ReBloom to donate flowers from her 2018 wedding in Toronto to a local women’s shelter and seniors’ home. She estimates spending about $3,000 on the flowers and an additional $800 to turn them into smaller bouquets and arrangements.

“Ideally, (a wedding) happens once and there are things that you want to be special because they happen once,” she acknowledges.

“But that being said, the waste (includes) wasted food, dresses that are never worn again, flowers in the garbage. I wanted that special day, but I wanted to reduce the waste as much as I could.”

That’s a sentiment the similarly themed Violet Heart Project in Toronto — a not-for-profit that also repurposes event flowers — hopes will one day be inextricably linked with the floral industry.

“This just needs to be the normal thing that everybody does,” says Julie Danaylov, one of the founding board members.

Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Gift GuideHolidays and Seasonal EventsNature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

New branch of Royal BC Museum to be built in Colwood

New faclity in the Royal Bay development will house collections, archives and research department

Metchosin inmate sentenced to 12 months in jail for escaping custody

Sentence to be served concurrent to a life sentence he was already serving

Sooke RCMP searching for two people, reported missing on Sept. 10

Alannah Brooke Logan, 20, and Beau Richard Santuccione, 32, last seen on Otter Point Road

Victoria man plans 30-hour walk to raise funds for vulnerable youth

Take a Hike engages youth in intensive, clinical counselling and outdoor experiential learning

Opponent of proposed Sidney cannabis store calls on councillors to heed health authority advice

Council to consider revised application from Happy Buddha Cannabis on Sept. 28

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

POLL: Do you plan on allowing your children to go trick or treating this year?

This popular annual social time will look quite different this year due to COVID-19

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Comox Valley protesters send message over old-growth logging

Event in downtown Courtenay was part of wider event on Friday

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

B.C.’s COVID-19 economic recovery plan: Top 5 things you need to know

Jobs training, tax incentives for employers to hire staff and more

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

Most Read