I adore what I do - I'm a florist and enjoy working with flowers everyday! However I feel so torn when it comes to sourcing flowers for my business to keep up with the rising demands of holidays and off season wedding accounts. Ordering in flowers is quick and easy; not to mention the cheaper option. However, the journey each stem takes from seed to shop is complicated.
According to U.S. Census Bureau data analyzed by WorldCity, in 2019 a staggering $790 M in flowers were imported from Colombia to Miami alone. This figure does not account for imports from other massive producers such as the Netherlands and Ecuador. These figures expecting to rise into 2020.
Columbia is known as the "land of flowers" and their flower industry is prominently one of the countries most valuable export alongside coffee. But the question is, why are we now importing so much from Columbia and not from the Netherlands and Ecuador as in the past?
Firstly, one of major reason is that Columbia is only a couple of hours to Miami International Airport, which processes tens of thousands of tonnes of fresh picked flowers every year. Also, Colombia has incredible biodiversity, with more than 130,000 different plant species on its soil thanks to its range of climates and eco-systems. There’s a place for every plant. Secondly, Colombia has near-perfect conditions for commercial flower production, which is why its flowers are so perfect for the fresh-cut floral industry.
Air freight is the preferred mode of transportation for most flower imports, which have been steadily rising in the last two decades. More and more flowers are now grown outside of the U.S. instead of in U.S. flower farms. Transit times from farm to retailer may take as few as four days. With flower imports only set to increase, this is ideal for retailers making it easy and cheaper to acquire flowers year-round. However, you may be wondering what impact this will have on our economy and more importantly the impact it will have on our environment.
Recognizing this is a major problem, the "Slow Flower Movement" is becoming more and more popular. Like our food, don't we as consumers deserve to know where our flowers are coming from, and how they have been grown? The slow flower movement is beginning to shake up the floral industry and is currently gaining traction across the country. The idea of the movement is buying flowers that are locally sourced and using more blooms which are in season. These approaches therefore create less demand for importing and reduces the carbon footprint from the farm to your vase. Not to mention it also helps sustain local farmers and their families by supporting local communities.
However, the biggest problem as a year-round florist I face is how can I be more sustainable during those out of season growing months?
Can I embrace both the supply and demand, support local flower farms, and reduce my carbon footprint?
Well it's not easy, after all you still have to run a business and I’m still figuring it out but, I have learned a few things;
1) Do your math! - I must admit this is the hardest for me. Calculating what I'm going to use for events and future projects is always a challenge. Am I going to get busy? Or am I not? I try and track my weekly deliveries, but I don't always get it right. This means I might have to call the wholesalers twice or more in one week. My overall goal is to reduce multiple deliveries to the shop, and have 0% waste!
2) Ask friends, neighbors, fellow flower growing enthusiasts if you can help them by buying their flowers for events during prime growing months. This is a great way to create your own support network, and get learning about your local farmers.
3) When talking to clients about requiring a particular flower you know isn't in season, you can try by giving them other options in that same look and color. Usually they are open to suggestions, and equally looking for ways that will help to be more sustainable.
4) Gain knowledge of flowers in season and growing time frames. Mother nature can be beautiful and unpredictable.
5) Lastly, and most importantly do not be discouraged by the fact we have a long way to go before our climate and flower importing can get better. What's most valuable is recognizing that small day-to-day changes can be made, and focusing on those positive impacts for yourself and your community.
- Be blooming good, Sarah