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Brandi Cowen From the Editor: June-July 2012

Sustainability Blooms

Written by Brandi Cowen
A new book is drawing a lot of attention to the so-called “slow flower movement.” Taking its cue from slow food and The 100 Mile Diet, The 50 Mile Bouquet: Seasonal, Local and Sustainable Flowers challenges consumers – and, by extension, florists – to source locally grown, cut and sold flowers. Over 144 pages, Debra Prinzing and David E. Perry take readers on a field-to-vase journey, pulling back the curtain for an inside peek at the floral industry in the United States.

In conversations across the supply chain, I’ve heard repeatedly that consumers aren’t interested in the inner workings of the industry. They want flowers that look pretty, smell nice, and have a (sometimes unreasonably) long vase life. In a lot of cases, that’s probably true. But the attention that a book devoted to sustainable blooms has received gives me hope that more consumers will start to take an interest in how all those pretty flowers arrive at their neighbourhood flower shops.

I think we’re already seeing this shift to some degree. Our Top Shop this month makes no secret of its commitment to doing business in an eco-conscious way (see page 12 for the full story). From sourcing sustainably produced flowers to choosing Earth-friendly packaging options, Sweetpea’s is green and proud of it. This is by no means a draw for all of the shop’s clientele, but that’s OK. Customers who don’t care about shopping sustainably aren’t likely to take their business elsewhere as long as Sweetpea’s delivers on quality and service. For the customer segment concerned about treading lightly and leaving a smaller footprint on the planet, the shop offers added value over its competitors.

For any florist contemplating a green shift, cost is probably a top concern, and with good reason. A Nielsen poll conducted last year found that just 12 per cent of Canadians would buy an eco-friendly product, even if it were the more expensive option. That’s a lot less than the 47 per cent who reported that they would buy “whatever is cheaper/better value for money.” It’s a bit of a good news, bad news situation: Canadians are willing to buy green, but only if it doesn’t cost them anything extra.

Cost is about more than just the number that appears on a price tag though. At Rosa Flora, a Dunnville, Ont.-based flower grower, staff understand that the business of raising blooms can take a toll on the environment. As our very first Get To Know A Grower profile on page 24 reveals, Rosa Flora has committed to minimizing its impact on the environment while maximizing its presence in the community. From raising flowers in energy efficient greenhouses and introducing integrated pest management programs aimed at controlling problem bugs to supporting the charitable causes its workers care about, this grower is committed to sustainability.

It’s anybody’s guess whether The 50 Mile Bouquet will do for flowers what The 100 Mile Diet did for food. What’s clear is that the trend toward informed consumers making conscious choices about the products they purchase isn’t going away any time soon. Florists who can tell the stories of their stems are well positioned to leverage this consumer curiosity into long-term relationships – a move that really greens your bank account.
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