I still love getting (and giving) flowers on Valentine's Day, but I want to do it more consciously, and I'm betting my neighborhood store doesn't grow roses the best way. Any tips for purchasing sustainable flowers?
Flowers are the perfect present in my book, and not just on Valentine's Day. They can make any event — from birthdays and anniversaries to promotions and retirements — special. Fortunately, you have a whole bouquet of alternatives to conventionally grown flowers and plants.
- Forage in your own yard. Even though it's February and snowy in the northern half of the country, you might be surprised at the beautiful branches and vegetation growing on your property in winter. For example, at least on the East Coast, the holly trees are bursting with plump red berries. Collect a hefty bunch of whatever you can find, put it in a beautiful vase, add a reusable ribbon and voilá, present complete.
- Give a plant. As delightful as it is to receive flowers, after a week, they die and need to be tossed out. Why not give a long-living plant instead? Choose an indoor plant like a peace lily or Chinese evergreen, whose beautiful foliage also helps clear the air. Or give a pot full of herbs that can brighten up a windowsill, then be transitioned to your outdoor porch, patio or garden in the spring.
- Buy local. Check Local Harvest to find flower growers in your area. Because they're relatively close, they might use fewer or no pesticides and less energy to get flowers to your door. Farmers' markets also sell flowers and greens that can make wonderful botanical gifts.
- Try seeds and bulbs. With spring fast approaching, seeds have started showing up in grocery stores and garden shops. Choose a selection that will grow well in your loved one's home, and fashion them together in a handy basket with a trowel and some gardening gloves. If this seems like too much work, put five or six tulip or narcissus bulbs on stones in a decorative shallow bowl. The bulbs will start sprouting once they're watered and when they bloom about six weeks later, your love will thank you all over again.
- Order certified organic flowers. If you do buy flowers, try Organic Bouquet or look for flowers that have been eco-certified by VeriFlora.
- Shop storefronts. Whole Foods, food coops, natural food stores and other responsible retailers are increasingly carrying organically grown flowers and plants. If you don't see them when you shop, ask.
Have other surefire ways to get sustainable flowers? Share them by commenting below.
Diane MacEachern is the author of Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World, and a popular blog, Big Green Purse.