In Greek mythology, roses were said to have sprouted from the tears of Aphrodite, goddess of love, as these tears fell into the soil, mixing with the blood of her injured lover. The story of how supermarket roses come to arrive stacked in their plastic sleeves is, in some ways, equally violent.
Over 90% of all fresh cut roses imported into the UK arrive via plane, largely from countries that line the equator such as Kenya and Colombia. February 14th causes an inevitable spike in imports, with Heathrow cargo statistics predicting that an estimated 7,797,297 stems or 570 tonnes of fresh cut roses will move through Heathrow airport alone this month. Boris Johnson while introducing the Government’s 2021 Net Zero Strategy claimed that ‘over the last three decades we have already reduced our emissions by 44 per cent’. However this statistic failed to take into account emissions released from aviation, imports, and exports, that when included, cut this figure to a meagre 10%. The manipulation of these statistics may recalibrate a more palatable carbon footprint, but the the environmental damage is still done.
Alongside rose’s sizeable carbon footprint, the combination of excess plastic packaging to hold sometimes even individual stems, and the pesticides liberllly sprayed over mass crops do not paint a good picture environmentally. These environmental concerns extend onto local populations, largely of the global south, to become issues of public health. Studies found that for children living in close proximity to Ecuador’s floricultural greenhouses, exposure to such high quantities of pesticides had already altered short-term brain activity.
It’s enough to make you think twice before buying a bunch for a loved one. But there’s no denying that flowers a lovely gift both to give and receive . If you’re looking for a bouquet with a little more of an ethical conscience, organic produce delivery company Natoora suggest Camelia, Cyclamen, or Winter Cherry Blossom. Daffodils are the obvious choice for a UK grown flower that is almost aggressively joyful, blaring out spring through orange trumpets. They can also be found for just £1 a bunch so are the perfect choice for a student budget.
Unlike cut flowers, houseplants remain living, breathing creatures, and will continue to filter the air of your loved ones indoor spaces beyond February and well into the year. Meanwhile flower subscription such as those offered by SSAW Collective, as a part of their ‘Why buy roses in February’ campaign, offer a bouquet of seasonal, regeneratively farmed flowers to arrive your doorstep on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly basis. Natoora suggest a bouquet ‘raddichio not roses’, the bitter winter leaves spiralling in deep red hues, not dissimilar to the petals of roses. Unlike roses, once the leaves start to wilt, they can be eaten raw or braised, rather than ending up in the compost bin.
For non-floral gifts, a trip to Didsbury offers natural wine at Reserve Wines, organic coffee at Mercado, or honey collected from Burton road hives sold at A Taste of Honey. Moving away from the traditional bouquet of roses leaves room to find not only an ethical gift, but a more thoughtful or personal alternative.