An organic flower business is a great green business opportunity for anyone with a green thumb and a love of beauty.
Why Organic Flowers?
Currently, most cut flowers sold in the United States are grown in Latin American countries such as Columbia, Ecuador, and Peru. The laws governing use of chemical pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides are typically much laxer in these countries than in the US. About one fifth of the chemicals used in Latin American flower farms are restricted or banned in the United States, including DDT and methyl-bromide.
Workers on flower farms often suffer from health problems as a result of inadequate training and protective gear when handling such dangerous chemicals. A study in Columbia found that workers were exposed to an average of 127 different pesticides alone, and two thirds of Columbian flower workers report impaired vision, respiratory problems, or neurological problems. Rates of stillbirths and birth defects are also unusually high among female workers.
Pesticide use is also high in the floral industry in the United States. A study by the Environmental Working Group found that roses grown in California had levels of cancer causing pesticides 1,000 times higher than comparable food products.
In addition to threatening the health of workers and consumers, the high rate of pesticide and other chemical use in the floral industry can contaminate water supplies and threaten local ecosystems.
Growing and selling organic flowers protects the health of workers, consumers, and the environment.
Starting Your Organic Flower Business
Depending on your interests, you may wish to grow organic flowers, sell organic bouquets, or both.
There are a number of excellent resources available to help you learn organic floriculture techniques, including Lynn Byczynski’s classic The Flower Farmer: An Organic Grower’s Guide to Raising and Selling Cut Flowers. Organic flower growing also combines well with a number of other great green business opportunities, including organic beekeeping and green bed and breakfasts.
In order to prove your eco-credentials as an organic flower grower, you may be interested in seeking certification. The most widely recognized ecolabel in the cut flower industry is Veriflora. In order to be certified, you must prove that you meet Veriflora’s standards for sustainable flower production, fair labor practices, and product quality, among others. Once certified, your business will be listed in Veriflora’s online directory of sustainable growers, retailers, and other business – a great boost for your green cred!
If you are more interested in arranging flowers than growing them, Veriflora is a great resource for finding sustainable wholesalers as well!
In addition to growing or purchasing organic and sustainably raised flowers, you can also go green in other ways. Another of the main environmental impacts of cut flowers is delivery. You can ship your bouquets in boxes made from recycled materials and printed with eco-friendly inks. For local deliveries, consider using eco-friendly transportation, such as a biodiesel-powered van or a green courier service. Other ways you can green your organic flower business is by using recycled or upcycled vases, printing advertising materials on recycled paper, and partnering with other green businesses to offer specialty bouquets. Organic roses and fair trade chocolate for Mother’s Day? Cheery wildflowers and shade grown coffee for Final’s Week? The possibilities are endless!