Q: I usually buy my mom flowers and chocolates for Mother's Day, but I hear those might not be so eco-friendly. Now what?
A: Remember the days when you took a whole week out of your month to work on your Mother's Day present? Okay, so you were in kindergarten, but still. A lot of love went into those construction-paper hearts. How much thought do you put into that last-minute dash to the florist and card shop now? Maybe it's time to pull out that copy of Where Do Flowers Come From.
Did you know that over 100 million flowers are grown, flown and wrapped in plastic for your buying pleasure every year? Each one is trucked and jetted an average 1,500 miles. That's a hell of a lot of fossil-fuel-burning and greenhouse-gas-generating just to bring you that yellow rose. In Colombia alone that's one cargo plane full of petals every three hours.
But the real eco horror show happens in fields and greenhouses, where hundreds of different pesticides are used that end up contaminating groundwater, sometimes not so indirectly. (Reports from Costa Rica document direct discharges into waterways, for instance.) In other areas, the use of groundwater in the cultivation of plants has led to dropping water tables. The quest for perfect, pest-free flowers often means that the super-toxic and ozone-depleting fumigant methyl bromide is sprayed (although an increasing number of countries have either banned or are trying to phase out the nasty substance).
But if your mom adores the bright blooms you bring her every year and you hate to break with tradition, don't fret - you do have options. Eco Flora (416-254-2674 or www.ecoflora.ca) offers beautiful bouquets of wildcrafted, certified organic and organic flowers, although right now they mostly have non-organic fair trade mums and roses that are lower in pesticides and certified by Germany's green seal program ($20 and up for bouquets). As a general rule, Eco Flora's products either come from Canada or the U.S. or are fairly traded. They even come wrapped in compostable cellophane wrapping!
Hatcher Florist on Yonge (www.hatcherflorist.com, 416-221-5557) sells roses, carnations and more from Sierra Eco-certified farms. Like green seal flowers, the buds aren't organic, but less pesticides were used, greener practices are in place, and farmworkers are treated according to International Labour Organization standards. Both florists deliver throughout the GTA, but only Hatcher has a storefront. Mom's a snowbird or lives in the U.S. full-time? You can always order from www.organicbouquet.com .
If your mother's passion for chocolate is as strong as, well, my mother's, stick to your annual choco-box practice - just know that the conventional stuff is riddled with eco implications. Nearly gone are the days when cacao trees were allowed to grow under the misty rain forest canopy, where they provided comfy homes to all kinds of creatures. The globe's $60 billion chocolate craving has pushed the plants into the full sun, where they sprout more beans but are much more prone to disease and bugs. And you know what that means: more toxic pesticides like the hormone-disrupting lindane (traces of which were found in 20 samples of chocolate tested by the British food industry). And just as with flowers, you see all the same threats to waterways, workers and wildlife. Luckily, maternal chocolate fixes can be satiated with tasty fair trade organic morsels. Delight is the first chocolatier we know of in the city that makes such sweets. Get flavours like ginger or chai at Karma Co-op on Palmerston (although you have to become a member of the co-op), Big Carrot on Danforth, and the Healthy Butcher on Queen West (from $5.97/box of four).
If you're ready to branch out from the flower/chocolate combo, peruse a fair trade shop like Ten Thousand Villages on Yonge or Danforth for teapots, jewellery and other doodads. Check out the fair trade wrapping paper and cards made with hyacinths that would otherwise be choking Thai waterways.
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