In a little-known Hallmark holiday back-story, the disturbingnature of which rivals even Valentine s Day, the woman who founded Mother s Day, Anna Jarvis , actually spent the last years of her life fighting against itscommercialization. In the short nine years that it had existed, forAnna, the day lost its meaning. Obviously, she lost her fightagainst the day s commercialization; today Mother s Day hasbecome one of the most financially successful U.S. holidays. The500 carnations (her mother s favorite flower) that Anna deliveredto that original service started a tradition that saw Americansspend close to 2 billion dollars on flowers for Mother s Day lastyear alone. |
Two billion dollars on flowers! In an extremely ironicend to her life, it is said that Anna died penniless in a nursinghome, her final bills paid for by the Florist's Exchange. Mother s Day may be commercialized beyond the point of no return,but with a little effort, you can honor your mom in a way thatwould make poor Anna Jarvis smile. Adding insult to injury, that two billion dollars on flowers is notonly an ostentatious show of commercialism, but the cut flowerindustry, with approximately 80 percent of cut flowers beingimported into the US, contributes to a serious overuse ofpesticides. Because flowers are considered a"non-edible," the restrictions for pesticide use arenot as stringent as they are for food items.
This amounts tosignificant problems for human and animal health and as well aswater, soil and air. They are especially harmful to the workers whohave to apply them; there are even signs of secondary pesticide exposure for the family members who live with these farm workers (thinksecond hand smoke). The same interest in transitioning industrial acreage tosustainable food farming, we should also think about transitioningthe floriculture industries in the U.S. and abroad.
Many companiesand third party certifiers are working to improve worker protection and reduce dependence onpesticides . There are other things you could buy to celebrate your mom, butif you re buying her flowers this weekend (yes,Johnny-come-latelies, Mother s Day is this Sunday!) it isimportant to seek out these more sustainable options. The majorlabels to look for are USDA Organic, Veriflora, TransFair USAand Sierra Eco. Local, sustainable and/or organic flowers are possible to find, sostart looking! And remember the more locally you can purchase them,the better. Where to get local, sustainable and/or organic flowers? Farmers Markets (Find one near you at EatWellGuide.org ) Farms/Farm Stands Your yard, a neighborhood lot, a friend s or family member sgarden Online options for flower delivery? Farm Girl Flowers (San Francisco) Gardenia Organic (NYC) Organic Bouquet California Organic Flowers The Fifty Mile Bouquet Search Google for sustainable/organic flower delivery near you Why are conventionally-raised flowers problematic? Flowers classified as non-edibles have fewer restrictions thanedibles and are often heavily sprayed with toxic chemicals.
Thisresidue is still on the flowers when they are purchased. Pesticides used on conventional flowers cause health problems forthe workers and farmers including skin rashes, respiratoryproblems, eye problems, infertility and links to cancer. Communities near non-organic flower farms can be contaminated. Pesticides used in conventional flower production poisongroundwater and soil. Wild animals that feed near conventional flower farms can bepoisoned.
The high demand for water strains local aquifers. Workers can be subjected to extremely long work weeks in highseasons. The floriculture industry in the US is one of the heaviest users ofpesticides. The pesticides used are highly toxic to bees. Methyl Bromide is being phased out elsewhere, but the floricultureindustry has won repeated exemptions to the Montreal Protocol, thelandmark treaty phasing out substances that deplete the ozonelayer.
Flower Miles! Approximately 85% of the most common fresh cut flowers –roses, carnations and chrysanthemums are imported, mostly fromSouth America. A total of 79% of US flowers are imported fromanother country. Imported flowers are mainly checked for pests, not pesticideresidue. If they have pests during importation they can befumigated even further.
And don t forget that there are other options for Mother s Day.Make something, bake something, cook something, recycle something Moms want to honor Mother Earth on Mother s Day too. Five alternatives to flowers: Make her dinner (or take her out to a sustainable restaurant ). Treat her to an organic spa day (or some fraction thereof Momslike massages!). Tickets to a live performance, or museum, or botanic garden.
Clean her house! Or some other type of service. Donate in her name. Moms are generous, they like that kind ofstuff. Mother s Day may be commercialized beyond the point of no return,but with a little effort, you can honor your mom in a way thatwould make poor Anna Jarvis smile.
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