A man with a small bunch of flowers stands on the footpath when a passerby asks him, “Why are you buying flowers in a supermarket? They’re everywhere. Just pick them.” The man with the flowers grins and shrugs. His quartet of purple gerberas and peachy rosebuds is from the nearby discounter, labeled with an Irish flag. Beneath the Tricolour, a small print reads, “Packed in Ireland.”
It’s not clear where in the world these flowers grew. They are a product of a complex web of logistics, fossil fuels, water consumption, chemistry, and horticulture that enables a wide variety of flowers to be available to Irish consumers year-round. Like many aspects of life, it’s both impressive and worryingly disconnected from nature.
What could be greener than a bunch of flowers? Peel back the layers, and you find an arsenal of pesticides and herbicides. Hazmat suits and breathing apparatus are standard uniform in the vast flower polytunnels that supply the market. Producing a single rose requires between 7 and 13 liters of water. As the climate crisis deepens, Kenya, the world’s third-largest cut flower producer, faces severe droughts affecting millions of people.
Cut flowers are routinely doused in preservatives to keep them from wilting or fading. They are shipped in freight aircraft and refrigerated diesel trucks, wrapped in single-use plastic, and poked into the squeaky green blocks of floral foam, a forever pollutant that can break down into toxic microplastics that remain in the ecosystem for millennia. To some purists, the products of this system are frankenflowers, smelling of nothing and obliterating the creativity that’s needed to work with what’s growing around us on any given day.
Read more at irishtimes.com