Flowers for Valentine’s Day might seem like an appropriate gift for a nature lover, but the flower industry is rife with unethical and unsustainable practices.
Last Valentine’s Day, Mother Jones reported that flower farms in Colombia and Ecuador employed thousands of children in unsavory working conditions. Around 63 percent of flowers sold in the floriculture industry are grown in Ecuador, and 23 percent in Colombia. According to the International Labour Organization, Ecuador had more than 40,000 child workers in 2000. Colombia’s numbers were similar, but the country has enacted new labor laws faster than Ecuador, which is currently under scrutiny for child labor practices.
Toxic pesticide use is also rampant in order to grow perfect flowers that maintain shape and structure while in transit to the United States. Long-term exposure to pesticides and fungicides has caused many workers to become ill.
In the U.S., an organization called VeriFlora created a labeling system for sustainably- and organically-grown cut and potted flowers, similar to the labels of organic food.