Ask G

Ask G: Fragrant fair trade flowers

Are any florists able to offer fair trade bouquets, or are there alternatives to sending flowers?

I’ve spent hours on the Internet trying to find a company that delivers fair trade roses or other flowers in Australia. I’ve drawn a disappointing blank. Are you aware of any florists offering fair trade bouquets?
- Gillian Cave, Sunshine Coast, QLD

Ask-G-flowers

Credit: sxc.hu

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I love vases of flowers inside my house – which is why I grow them in my garden. The cut flower market is all about visual perfection and seasonal demands (such as Valentine’s Day), so it is typically high in synthetic chemical use and involves carbon-intensive refrigerated transport from flower farms around the world, including those with questionable working conditions and pay in developing nations in Africa, South America and South East Asia.

Even in developed countries with high OH&S standards and fair pay, the environmental cost can still be high.
A Cranfield University report found that the carbon footprint of Dutch roses is nearly six times that of Kenyan roses, due to the high energy needs of artificial lighting and temperature control to raise roses in Holland.

A handful of flower companies are going organic and/or trying to reduce their impacts, but in the absence of other information, assume the worst! Fair trade certification programs and organisations, such as the Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand (www.fta.org.au), aim to ensure safe conditions and fair pay for workers and farmers in developing countries, so they focus on goods that can’t be sourced locally in Australia. Due to Australia’s long distance from farms in developing countries, fair trade certified goods sold here tend to be non-perishable items, such as coffee and cocoa. Perishable items, such as cut flowers, require refrigerated transport, which increases their environmental impact, so it’s unlikely that flowers and other perishables will become available here under fair trade certification. Try the gift of a flowering native plant, or websites such as www.growinggifts.com.au, www.naturallygifted.com.au or www.kindredgifts.com.

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**Online editor's note: Since publishing this article, the first certified fairtrade flower company has started up called Instant Karma Roses - it now supplies customers throughout Melbourne and wholesalers across the country. Check them out at: www.instantkarmaroses.com.au