The gift that mother nature will appreciate more than cut flowers this Sunday is a lively indoor plant (Image source: Pinterest)
By Lara Pacillo | @LaraPacillo
With Mother’s Day just around the corner, a beautiful bunch of flowers might seem like the perfect gift.
However, the negative effects of cut flowers on the environment and flower industry workers could force us to ditch the bouquet and give mum an indoor plant instead.
Cut flowers cause serious environmental issues concerning pesticides and water quality, according to Ambio journal.
As they are not edible crops, cut flowers do not have regulations on pesticide residues in many exporting countries and are therefore one of the biggest consumers of pesticides worldwide.
In major cut flower exporting countries such as Ethiopia, Ecuador and China, the high levels of chemicals cause harm to cut flower workers, aquatic animals and non-target soil organisms, while increasing the pesticide resistance of targeted pests.
Further, the chemical drainage from flower farms extremely pollutes water bodies, threatening the health of people and wildlife alike.
According to the International Journal of Law, the cut flower industry creates job opportunities in Ethiopia, where unemployment is a pressing issue.
However, this comes at the cost of workers’ health.
“Health and safety provisions are often poor, with workers not being provided protective clothing, toilets, washing facilities and drinking water,” said Solomon Dibaba, law lecturer at Oromia State University, Ethiopia.
Resultantly, workers are exposed to harmful pesticides, chemicals and herbicides through contact and inhalation.
This can cause serious health problems including poisoning, cancer, birth defects and reproductive complications.
Founder of online florist Daily Blooms, Courtney Ray, said it is concerning that 10 per cent of flowers sold in Australia are imported.
“The flowers go through quarantine, are sprayed to ensure they do not carry any bugs or infections and are then sent to the flower market or wholesalers throughout Australia,” she said on her website.
“They then go through the process of being frozen and air-freighted just to get to Australia … it’s a little shocking don’t you think?”
Ms Ray said flowers are imported because it is cheaper to grow them in countries where the climate is warm all year round.
“Whilst this may not seem like much of an issue, the wages and terrible working conditions of the local workers overseas is,” she said.
Imported cut flowers contribute to our carbon footprint too.
Flowers imported from warmer countries like Kenya initially have a low carbon footprint as they are grown outside in the sun year-round but their transportation to Australia generates huge carbon emissions.
Cut flowers also raise environmental concerns surrounding plastic wastage, with bouquets wrapped in cellophane.
Owner of online store Green Leaved Garden, Emma Pelle, said indoor plants are better for the environment than cut flowers as they often come with less plastic wrapping.
Ms Pelle said indoor plants last longer as well.
“With flowers, you’ve only got five to ten days of life in them, but with indoor plants you’ve got years and years of enjoyment.
“It’s a gift that keeps on giving.”
In turn, Ms Pelle said “you get more value for money” with indoor plants, as they are similar in price to cut flowers, yet survive so much longer.
Plants also have air purifying abilities, which is great for indoors, and add vibrancy to the home, she said.
“I find greenery in the house relaxing; it just changes the whole ambience of the living area,” Ms Pelle said.
However, if flowers remain a must for Mother’s Day, there are still ways to gift them consciously.
This includes sourcing flowers that are organic and locally grown, which is better for the environment and supports local businesses.
You can also ask your florist to wrap the bouquet in butcher’s paper instead of plastic.
Not sure which indoor plant to get your mum? Here are some suggestions:
- Succulents or cacti
These plants are perfect for busy mums as they are low maintenance and hard to kill. They also come in various shapes, sizes and colours, so you can choose one that will best suit her taste.
- Mini herb garden
If your mother loves to cook, this one is for her. Not only are they cute but you can eat them too.
While orchids are a bit more challenging to care for, they come with a high reward. These pretty plants are for mums who have a green thumb and are not afraid to use it.