What are you gifting your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day? A last-minute bouquet of red roses on the drive home from work might seem like the perfect gift, especially if you forgot to plan ahead. However, buying roses in February comes at a cost to the environment.  

Roses grow in warm climates, so most of the red roses you’ll see around town this month were probably grown in Latin America, in countries like Columbia and Ecuador. Many might assume that the cutting of flowers is where the non-eco-friendly factor comes in — much like with chopping down trees for lumber — but that’s not the case. Is it the production on-site? No again. Most of these flower farms employ workers who pick by hand, without industrial harvesting equipment. The real problem lies in the transportation.

To get from Latin America to the States, the flowers are transported by air. Typically, flowers grown in other seasons are transported using passenger planes that would be taking off anyway. But with the seasonal demand, growers must make special shipments. Fun fact: transportation emissions make up 28 percent of the United States’ total greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In past years, during the three weeks before February 14, flight numbers increased so much that an estimated 114 million liters of fuel was burned strictly to deliver flowers. In all, these flights emitted 360,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

The problems don’t stop there. Once the flowers land in Miami, ground transportation delivers them across the county. If you think regular semi-trucks are bad for the environment, wait till you meet these guys. Roses have to be kept cool in order to prevent wilting, so special trucks are outfitted with refrigeration systems. These trucks burn about 25 percent more fuel than regular diesel trucks, which also produce more pollutants than regular gasoline-powered vehicles.

So what can you do? One recent trend is the “slow flower movement.” This movement is a trend of small, locally-owned flower farms that use greenhouses to grow flowers locally. Local greenhouses don’t get hot enough for the timeless red rose, but you can have your pick of early-springtime blooms, such as tulips and narcissus. There are plenty of these slow-grow farms in the area, like Triple Wren Farms (Ferndale), HB Farm (Bow), SUOT Farm and Flowers (Burlington), Floret (Mount Vernon), and many more. You can search more slow-grow farms on SlowFlowers.com.

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