14 February 2011

Beware Red Roses

Well its Valentine's Day and the florists are awash with red roses. They may look beautiful but they are contributing greatly to habitat damage in countries such as Kenya where vast flower plantations raise the flowers for the western markets.

In Kenya, flowers are the third largest export and the industry employs thousands of people.  Many of these flower plantations are located around the beautiful Lake Naivasha in the Rift Valley. The lake is an important wetland area rich in wildlife, but as flower production grows, so does the demand for water and this vitally important wetland is under threat.  The warning regarding the risk to the wetlands comes from ecologist  Dr David Harper at the University of Leicester who has spent 30 years researching these wetlands.

Many supermarkets sell these flowers with a fair trade label, which may mean that the workers get paid fair pay and treatment, but does not mean that the production of the flowers is environmentally friendly.

 Then these flowers are then shipped halfway across the world by air, so have a pretty hefty carbon tag too.

When you buy that bouquet of flowers check the label. Many come through Amsterdam, so a label saying the flowers are from Holland can mean they come from somewhere like Kenya. Far better is to go for something produced locally, or better still avoid buying the flowers altogether and donate the money to charity.

Photos Red roses by Peter Landon, Flower plantation and Lake Naivasha by Chinch Gryniewicz

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