Roses and their environmental impact…


When you walk past a local florist and catch a wiff or sight of a beautiful bouquet of roses do you ever stop to contemplate where they were from, and how they ended up there, ready for you to buy.

While many of us, myself included, love roses we seldom consider where they have come from how their production and trade impact on the environment and human life.

Some facts that may shock you:

* In many cases large transnational corporations reap huge profits from the trade in roses. Often these profits are not distributed evenly (ie wages for workers) or reinvested back into the community nor used to clean up the resulting pollution and toxic residues.

* The chemicals used in rose production are among the most toxic in the world, us there are very few regulations because they are not for consumption. For example 20% of the pesticides used in the rose trade in Colombia are not permitted for use in USA or UK because of their risks to human health.

* Residues from these chemical often leach into the soil and local water supply forcing small independent farmers to abandoned their land as it becomes to toxic to maintain.

* Fertilizers are another key concern in the such industries because a great amount of fossil fuels are required to mine, process and transport. For example to produce 1 kilogram of nitrogen-containing fertilizer approximately 2 liters of oil are required.

* Large scale rose plantations require significant amounts of irrigation often placing immense pressure on local drinking water supplies and over time can causing a dramatic loss of soil quality and the resulting salinization (the accumulation of salts near the surface of the soil) renders many farmlands useless.

* The trade in roses has become a dominant industry in countries such as Colombia. This singular style of  industry does not provide locals with alternative options and as a result workers, in order to survive, have little choice but to take on the low waged jobs despite the harsh condition and known health risks. Liberalized “free” trade, reduced tariffs and the low level of regulations are the key contributors in the lack workers rights and have made the use of poisonous chemical cocktails of fertilizers and pesticides possible.

What are the alternatives?

While the facts above are shocking and confrontational they do not suggest you should never buy a bouquet of roses again. While working conditions are tough and the environmental impacts are significant, many national economies rely on this trade and to completely eliminate this would have devastating consequences for many communities.  However, the current situation must be changed and there are many alternatives that give us to the power to influence this change. For a variety of examples of actions you can take to make a difference see the list below. One of the most “easy” options, which is gaining in popularity, is to change your consumer habits to support Fair Trade. (visit the World Fair Trade Organization website here). Fair trade products ensure a high standard of working conditions (including reducing the exposure to toxic chemical fertilizers and pesticides) and fair wages. Many fair trade projects invest a percentage of the profits back into the local community and encourage research into environmentally sustainable options of trade and production. Many countries have an official fair trade organisation and can provide you with the relevant information to help you improve your consumer habits.

So next time you walk past that florist, perhaps you will stop for a moment to think, and you will realize that this new knowledge has empowered you to make an informed consumer decision that will have a positive impact on our world. You are the consumer, and you have the power!

Take Action!
What you can do to make a difference

* Buy Fair trade! Create a demand for fair trade by using the power of your pocket. Next time you are planning on buying roses for a loved one, or are planning a special event try to source fair trade roses. A simple internet search should help you locate a supplier in  your area. My local supermarket even is offering fair trade roses now.

* Talk to or write to your local flower sellers and ask them, where their roses come from, if they sell fair trade rose and if not are they able to start offering them. Once again an example of he power of consumer demand.

* Inform others. Talk to friends, family and colleagues about the trade in roses and the impact it has on people and the environment.

* Forward this blog posting onto others who want to make a difference. –

* Grow your own (or give a living rose plant as a gift) if you have a garden, balcony or even a spot on a windowsill you can grown your own roses. There are hundreds of sizes, colours and variety and there’s bound to be something to satisfy your senses plus if you look after them they can last years!

* Sign petitions and place pressure on corporations and governments to regulate working conditions, monitor chemicals used and ensure corporations take environmental responsibility.

* If you have any other suggestions please leave a comment below as we are all in this together and we can empower positive change!

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jeremy Nathan Marks on July 19, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    Thanks for a really good blog post. I posted your link on my own blog.


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