5 ways to give sustainable flowers this Valentine’s Day 

Show those you love, and the Earth, that you care

Nothing says, ‘I’m thinking of you’ quite like giving someone a bunch of flowers.  

Flowers have been able to communicate what we so often cannot put into words with their colours, shapes and scents, for as long as we can remember. 

And our beloved bouquets are big business too, especially on major calendar dates such as Valentine’s Day.

Happy elderly couple hugging under the tree covered in snow. Man giving red roses to woman.Credit: Shutterstock / CameraCraft

This year a predicted £261 million will be spent on bouquets for 14th February, the British Florist Association (BFA) says. A spokesperson for the organisation told us that approximately 250 million stems will be sold globally to mark the occasion (with roses alone making up a third of this). 

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Saying ‘I love you’ with sustainable flowers

From the coffee we drink to the holidays we go on, making more eco-friendly choices is becoming second nature for many of us. And it seems we’re keen to choose more sustainable flowers too. 

a female florist ties a ribbon bow on a bouquet of flowers wrapped in craft paper on the desktop.Credit: Shutterstock / Malinka333
Packaging is becoming more sustainable

“We’ve noticed a change in consumer demand, which is something that we track with our Insights team,” says John Hackett, CEO of Arena Flowers (an ethical flowers business, which has been accredited by the Ethical Company Index for 15 years). 

“People are asking more about removing single-use plastics, the provenance of products and fundamentally, they want to know that when they treat themselves or someone they care about, the products aren’t doing harm to the environment.” 

“People are asking more about removing single-use plastics”

From zero-waste to carbon-neutral, there’s a lot of sustainable jargon to digest when making any purchase.  

So, if you’re keen to say it with flowers, but don’t want your blooms to add to environmental gloom, try making these simple, sustainable switches.  

1. Dried flowers

Try going dry

Choosing professionally dried flowers is an excellent way of buying a present that will outlive any fresh bouquet.  

There are companies that specialise in dried flowers, such as Amaranté London. CEO and founder Kay Sheera was keen to preserve fragile flowers to improve their sustainability, and has created a collection sourced from a Fairtrade farm in Ecuador. The company uses natural preservation to capture each rose at the height of its beauty. 

Of course, anyone can dry a bouquet they’ve been gifted – whether that’s for the blooms to be on decorative display, pressed in a book or within framed glass. Here’s a tutorial to get you started at home.  

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2. Zero-waste packaging

Reduce, reuse, recycle

A typical bouquet from a supermarket is often wrapped in cellophane with tape and comes with a plastic sachet of plant food.  

However, Sainsbury’s was the first major supermarket to switch to paper packaging back in 2019. The industry is moving in the right direction with eco-friendly packaging, so if you’re visiting a local florist or shopping online, check how they are wrapping their bouquets. 

“Most professional florists are now using a special cellophane, which is biodegradable, and craft paper”

“Most professional florists are now using a special cellophane, which is biodegradable, and craft paper,” the BFA told us. Be aware that many councils won’t accept biodegradable plastics in recycling or garden waste bins, so paper is a better choice if you can. 

Online florists, such as Bloom & Wild, have long been championing flower delivery in cardboard boxes that fit through the letterbox. These can then be popped into the recycling.  

Woman trimming flower stems with scissors that have arrived in a cardboard box through the letterbox from florist Bloom & WildCredit: Bloom & Wild
Bloom & Wild has been sending sustainable flowers in boxes for years

Arena found a novel way to repurpose the large amount of green waste that is inevitably produced in flower production. 

“We continue to collect and segregate our green waste, but now it is sent to a paper mill and mixed with recycled fibres to create the paper which we wrap all our products in,” says Hackett.  

“The paper is entirely compostable, and so this world-first closed-loop system removes pressure on landfill, reduces the number of recycled fibres used in the paper production process, and is a beautiful solution.”

As well as packaging, keep an eye on delivery methods, as some florists will use electric vehicles or bikes. Of course, nothing beats walking to your local florist and hand-delivering flowers to keep your carbon footprint down. 

3. Gift a flowers subscription

Break the chain of supply and demand

Whether you’re streaming the latest TV series or trying new wines – subscriptions are useful for managing our finances while indulging our interests.  

Choosing to gift a flower delivery subscription for someone you care for, rather than buying a bunch when the time calls for it, can have a positive impact on the growing environment, using flowers grown seasonally, rather than adding to the push for certain blooms throughout the year. 

Woman Sitting On Sofa Using Laptop At HomeCredit: Shutterstock / Monkey Business Images
You can sign up for a sustainable flower subscription from the comfort of your home

“A subscription will provide them with a regular, glorious display of seasonal stems that doesn’t place that increased stress on a supply chain that is already under pressure in the current global market,” says Hackett.  

“A grower produces a number of stems from their land on a regular basis, but for high demand periods, like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, they halt regular growing in order to make room to meet the demand.  

“That means they lose production and trading time for several weeks both before and after these peak periods, which creates a price increase throughout the entire supply chain.” 

4. If you can’t buy local, buy Fairtrade

A fair trade for sustainable flowers

The UK fresh cut flower and indoor plant market is worth around £2.2 billion at retail level, according to the Flowers & Plants Association. And in 2019, a whopping 90% of the cut flowers we purchased were imported, according to Marketing Donut. 

Most roses need a warm climate to grow, the BFA told us, with Colombia and Ecuador being two countries that produce beautiful roses. 

Roses in the truck being transported on a rose farm in ColombiaCredit: Shutterstock / Prayoga Fullepos Prayoga
Many roses are grown on farms, like this one, in Colombia

“However, the Netherlands is where most of our floral products come from,” they say, “and the use of British flowers there is growing every year.” 

Florists will be able to source seasonal flowers for their blooms (with a seasonal, British-grown flowers for every month of the year guide highlighting which is most-used and when), but what about when we want roses in February?  

Many companies work with Fairtrade farmers abroad to ensure ethical standards. 

“There’s an independence to the rigour with which Fairtrade certifies suppliers,” says Hackett.  

“Combined with branding, it makes it easier for consumers to know that when they’re buying a product… they’re not exploiting others. 

“We’ve seen the value of Fairtrade on farms in Africa, with the introduction of gender committees, worker representation committees and specific projects that enable schooling, maternity hospitals and local infrastructure projects to be developed.” 

5. Choose a potted plant instead

A gift that can grow

There’s a whole world of meaningful plants that are a long-lasting alternative to sustainable flowers. If you’re looking specifically for Valentine’s gifts to grow – outliving a cut bouquet – then Kew has put together this selection of romantic plants that’ll set hearts racing.  

peace lily in wicker pot near window indoors.Credit: Shutterstock / New Africa
Peace lilies are a popular gift

Potted peace lilies are a popular gift for a range of occasions, while some people buy a rowan (or mountain ash) tree (which in Celtic mythology symbolises the tree of life) for a newborn.

If your sights are set on a statement bunch of flowers this year, then Hackett warns of these are the red flags that might suggest a florist is not sustainable: 

  • Florists supplying stems long before or after their natural season 
  • Products wrapped in swathes of cellophane 
  • Not knowing the provenance of their product – if they’re not certain of where they’re buying from, how can they be confident that their suppliers are treating workers properly and paying them what they deserve? 

There are also ways we can ensure our cut flowers last as long as possible once we’ve got them home and unwrapped. 

The BFA suggests you always place your flowers in a cool environment, away from draughts or heating and out of direct sunlight. Try not to place them in the kitchen (especially near food or a heat source), on a windowsill or above a radiator. 

Woman sits at kitchen table putting white cut flowers into a ceramic vaseCredit: Shutterstock / Hananeko_Studio
There are ways to prolong the life of your flowers once they’re home

The BFA has its own expert tips to care for and hopefully increase the life of your loose-stem flowers, hand-tied bouquets and basket arrangements. 

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Rosanna Spence

Written by Rosanna Spence she/her

Updated:

Rosanna Spence is a Staff Writer for Homes at Saga Exceptional. Rosanna has been a journalist for nearly 10 years, reporting on a huge array of topics – from microwaves to cocktails, sustainable buildings, the Caribbean islands and beyond. She’s interviewed chefs at the helm of Michelin-starred restaurants and chatted to countless CEOs about their businesses, as well as created travel guides for experienced travellers seeking life-changing adventures.

Rosanna loves nothing better than getting under the skin of a topic and is led by an unwavering curiosity to share information and stories that inform and inspire her readers – a mission that has taken her around the world. Throughout her career, she has created content for Business Traveller, i-escape.com, Pub & Bar, BRITA, Dine Out and many more leading titles and brands.

She turned her attention to the Homes sector as a result of an ongoing renovation and improvement project, which takes up a fair amount of her time outside of work. When she’s not comparing carpet samples or debating the pros and cons of induction hobs, you’ll find Rosanna exploring Bristol’s food and drink scene, obsessively watching horror films, or donning some walking boots and heading for the hills.

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