Workers packing flowers in Columbia - Photo Credit laborrights.org
I guess I should have had an inkling. I remember once one of the “Real Housewives of New Jersey” saying she’d had all her flowers flown in for the wedding. Until then, I had no idea that not all flowers sold in the US are grown in the US. I suppose I should have also realized that like most produce grown, flower farmers use huge amounts of pesticides. But sadly, until today, I didn’t really know the facts behind the flower business.
Today I received a Change.org email letting me know that 1-800-Florists sources their flowers from countries in Central and South America as well as Africa. They do this because their climates allow for year-round growing seasons and us American’s demand that we have everything available to us at all times.
Forget about the nightmare cost to the environment for shipping these flowers, fresh daily, to the clamoring US buyers. What’s worse is that workers in Kenya are reportedly being forced to work 8-12 hours a day for less than a dollar a day. And in Colombia and Ecuador, during the Valentine’s and Mother’s Day holidays when flowers sales are at their peak, most workers are made to work 80 hours a week without overtime.
Now you may say, “at least they have a job”, or “that’s the going wage there”. I’ve heard that a lot. But even if you don’t agree their standard of living should be higher, maybe the knowledge that workers on the Kenyan flower plantations are handling dangerous chemicals without protective gear and in addition to their unsafe working conditions they’re living in cramped and squalid living conditions. Additionally, it’s reported that over half of the female workers have been sexually harassed or assaulted on the job.
Change.org is targeting 1-800-Flowers because they have the power and the clout to do something about the exploitation in the cut flower industry. They currently don’t offer a single Fair Trade certified flower or provide any information at all about where their flowers come from*. We’re asking 1-800-Flowers to stop being part of the human trafficking and exploitation problem and work towards being a part of the solution.
You can help. Buy flowers from known Fair Trade florists -many Whole Foods Stores carry Fair Trade Flowers. What should you do if you don’t have Fair Trade flowers available locally? You can purchase online fromOrganic Bouquet. They’ve been offering sustainably grown flowers since 2001. They also offer eco-elegant gifts, organic chocolates and more! Their partner artisans and growers to our adherence to rigorous U.S. and international sustainability standards and they obtain their products from companies who provide safe and just working conditions and a livable wage, and partner with artisans and farmers who re-invest in their communities and take pride in their craftsmanship.