Why you shouldn't buy flowers this Mother's Day if you care about the earth

Theresa Kluge/Lum3n Creative

Few things are paired more frequently than Mother’s Day and flowers. In fact, in 2019 alone, U.S. adults are expected to spend $2.6 billion on flowers, according to the National Retail Federation. The high number makes sense, as a sweet-smelling, beautiful bouquet is a nice — and easy if you're short on time — way to show your mom or the mother figure in your life how much you love and appreciate her. The only problem: cut flowers are actually not so nice for Mother Earth, and there are far more sustainable Mother's Day gifts you can give instead.

As pretty as they may be, cut flowers tend to come with a host of environmental concerns, starting with how they're farmed. “Soil health, air quality, water usage, climate change resilience and adaptation: There are numerous environmental elements that come into play with [flower] farming,” Kevin Warner, sustainable agriculture manager with SCS Global Services, tells Mic.

And then there are the chemicals that go on the flowers. “Just like with food production, pesticides are prevalent in flower farming,” explains Warner. There’s also a high environmental cost that comes with transporting flowers (80 percent of cut flowers in the U.S. are imported, according to Slow Flowers Journal), according to HuffPost, from the energy used on refrigerated trucks to the fuel used on cargo planes. That's not even all the damage; a week or two after you gift that beautiful bouquet, it most likely heads to the landfill, unless it gets composted.

Beyond the environmental issues, Warner notes that there are also concerns about the treatment of farm workers in the floral industry. “Issues of forced labor and child labor continue to come up in agriculture," says Warner. "Flowers are beautiful, but they can come with serious baggage when produced under questionable conditions.”

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So what are you supposed to do on Mother’s Day instead? If you really, really want to get your mom flowers, there are some sustainable options, but you have to be vigilant when choosing a bouquet. “Look for flowers which have been audited under a sustainability focused third party certification scheme,” advises Warner. “For example, our Veriflora Sustainably Grown standard looks at sustainability at the operational level. We ensure fair treatment of farm workers, protection of the environment, and long-term resilience of the farming operation.” Florverde Sustainable Flowers is another independent environmental standard to look for, and the company provides a list of conscious growers on its website.

Debra Prinzing, founder and creative director of the Slow Flowers Movement, also urges consumers to buy local, or as local as possible. “The most community-minded, ‘slow’ thing you can do is grow your own flowers, and increasingly, more florists are doing so," she tells Mic. "The next step is to source from a farm [or] grower in your immediate vicinity — say, in your 50- or 100-mile radius. Then, perhaps the greater region.”

Local growers who have taken the “Slow Flowers Pledge” to be transparent about what they grow are listed on the Slow Flowers website, and can be searched by category and location. Prinzing notes that sites like Farmgirl Flowers can also connect you to sustainable florists in your area, and The Bouqs, which sells cut-to-order bouquets from sustainable farms, is another good option if you're set on buying flowers.

Of course, even sustainably-grown flowers will eventually fade and get tossed, so you might want to consider instead getting a potted plant from a local farm (as long as your mom is up for keeping and tending to it). Or, you can skip the plant idea altogether and go with one of the following sustainable gift options. Even if these last-minute presents can’t get to Mom in time for Sunday’s celebrations, she (and the earth) is bound to appreciate the gesture anyway — and hey, there's always the ‘ol print-out-a-picture-of-your-gift-that’s-on-its-way card to give her in the meantime, right?

Refillable personal care products from Humankind


Humankind is a company focused on putting an end to single-use plastics among personal care products — and it's doing so by offering clean, green shampoo bars; mouthwash tablets; and solid deodorants. Each product is formulated using only clean ingredients (like baking soda and eucalyptus oils) that haven’t been linked to any harmful effects, and the (supremely sleek and stylish) containers the mouthwash and deodorant come in are refillable and guaranteed for life. Set your mom up with a subscription so she gets a steady stream of these essentials, or gift her a one-time set and let her reorder refills on an a la carte basis.

Eco-friendly basics from TomboyX


TomboyX’s bread and butter are gender neutral undergarments, and the company — which champions body diversity, LGBTQ and women’s rights, and social justice — sells a range of casual, quirky clothes perfect for an equally quirky mom. Even better: the company's values extend to the environment as well, as its products are made with a variety of sustainably harvested, non-toxic fabrics. Its manufacturing processes is just as thoughtful, as instead of synthetic chemicals, TomboyX uses crab and shrimp shells for the moisture-wicking finish on activewear.

A comforting weighted blanket from Bearaby


Weighted blankets — which, according to Bustle, have a host of wellness benefits, like minimizing anxiety and improving focus — aren’t tough to come by these days. But Bearaby’s Tree Napper stands out not only for its chic, wide-looped weave, but also for its sustainability. The recently-launched blanket is made with eco-friendly TENCEL Lyocell that’s sourced from raw wood pulp from Eucalyptus trees and produced in a process that uses 10 times less water than traditional fabrics, according to the company's website. In fact, all of Bearaby’s products — including the organic cotton Classic Napperare made with responsibly sourced materials, and the packaging is plastic-free.

Refreshing rosé from Champagne Bollinger

Champagne Bollinger

Responsible farming isn’t just important in flowers; it’s also necessary in viticulture, or wine growing. If your mom loves a refreshing summer sparkling rosé, you can gift her one from Champagne Bollinger, which was the first champagne house to earn the “Sustainable Viticulture in Champagne” certification after complying with a set of 125 environmental requirements. That’s a definitive wine win, so let your mom sip guilt-free on Bollinger’s non-vintage Brut Rosé or its 2007 La Grande Année Rosé.

Why get flowers when you can give the mom in your life one of these substantially more eco-friendly gifts?