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Green Flowers: A Real Bed of Roses

Are organic flowers a safer alternative?

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Green flowers like these organic roses are a healthy eco-choice.

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Who wants organic flowers? After all, nobody eats roses.

True enough, but most roses are grown by workers toiling in dangerous, low-wage working conditions, require massive amounts of synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, then are shipped thousands of miles in gas-guzzling, energy-sucking refrigerated compartments.

Come on -- are regular flowers really that horrible?

While critics of the flower industry admit that the stable wages provided by flower growers are a benefit to workers, and some growers have tried to provide housing, schools and health care for their communities, flowers do have a huge social and environmental impact.

How bad can it be? We're talking about a dozen roses.

Actually, we're talking about a multi-billion dollar global enterprise. Remember that the floral industry is just that -- part of the agricultural industry. And at some flower farms, workers' complaints of nausea, skin eruptions, headache, dizziness and fainting -- all symptoms of pesticide exposure -- are daily events. In California, flowers rank sixth among all crops causing pesticide illnesses. It's especially troubling that many of the workers in the flower industry are women of child-bearing age, who are more vulnerable to the effects of pesticides, as are their babies.

Yikes. Can a bouquet of flowers really be a deadly gift?

Not for the receiver. Even florists who work with flowers every day aren't likely to have serious health problems. But the environmental impact of hundreds of acres of flowers, doused with tons of synthetic chemicals, is undeniable. Part of the problem is consumer demand for flawless, perfect flowers. The USDA, which inspects shipments of flowers and plants from other countries, can reject an entire shipment if they find just one insect, or a single leaf with a spot of fungus.

So green flowers are a better alternative?

Most people think so. There are other certifying programs, like Florverde in Colombia and Germany's Flower Label Program, but many of these are voluntary, self-regulated programs. Certified organic flowers, on the other hand, are inspected throughout the growing process to ensure a healthy, chemical-free flower. And besides being better for the environment and for workers, some people have noticed that organic flowers tend to last longer.

So where can I buy organic flowers? A green florist?

Because it's still a relatively small market, you'll probably have to order them online (which means no last-minute rush to the flower shop). Do a simple search for "organic flowers," or try established retailers of green flowers like California Organic Flowers or Organic Bouquet.

I guess green flowers, or a dozen organic roses, are the way to go this Valentine's Day.

Yes, it seems green flowers' time has come. Of course, you could also consider other earth-friendly gifts, like some organic chocolates, organic wine, or another gift that won't die in a week. Some women think a dozen roses is a generic present that says, "He didn't really think about this gift," so maybe this year you can buy something for your honey that will last a long time -- just like your love. (Awww...)
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