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Valentines Can Now Show Their Love Sustainably with Locally Grown ‘Slow Flowers’

US nationwide floral directory Slow Flowers is encouraging its customers to show their love in a more thoughtful way this Valentine’s day by sourcing local American-grown bouquets.

The US cut flower retail market is flourishing, with sales topping US$7-8 billion annually. However, apparently only 2 percent of the 224 million roses sold in 2012 were American-grown. The US flower market has been dominated for decades by 1-800 teleflorists who import their bouquets from overseas. In an attempt to change this trend and support local farmers, Slow Flowers now has a directory of roughly 500 florists committed to sourcing their flowers from the US for Valentine’s Day this year.

During Valentine’s week, 80,000-120,000 boxes of flowers transit through Miami’s international airport every day; imports from Ecuador comprise the majority, with the US taking only two percent of the share, after Canada. Slowflowers.com has a range of florists on board to try to improve the freshness of its bouquets (rather than importing produce with a shelf-life of only a few days) by sourcing locally grown flowers. Rather than capitalizing on the 1-800 tele-orders that they traditionally receive every February, these florists are turning instead to domestic flowers and foliage to design their pieces.

The demand is there from American consumers for home-grown flowers if given the choice, says Debra Prinzing, founder of Slowflowers.com and consumer spokesperson for the Congressional Cut Flower Caucus: "Fifty-eight percent of consumers would rather purchase domestic flowers if given the choice. Valentine's sees millions of roses arrive via Jumbo Jet with a shelf life of just days," she says. "Even if 'American-grown' is not a concern, buying fresher flowers should be."

Many of Slow Flowers’ florists have built their business model on sourcing locally and sustainably grown flowers and plants. Christina Stembel, owner of San Francisco's Farmgirl Flowers, built her business using only California-grown flowers. "The entire process of ordering from the big guys feels like you just got conned," says Stembel. "We're pledging flowers that are fresh, local, beautifully designed, and thoughtfully delivered."

The California Cut Flower Commission launched its Origin Matters campaign with the hope that romantics may make a more sustainable choice when showing their love this Valentine’s Day by buying from florists committed to sourcing domestic flowers.

"We are ready to prove Slowflowers.com bouquets and arrangements are far better than imported alternatives," says Prinzing. "It's time to show your love with local flowers."

Another popular Valentine’s Day gift choice – jewelry – can come at a hefty environmental and social cost, but it also gives conscientious buyers the chance to push producers for more responsible sourcing. In the run up to Valentine’s Day last year, over 100 of the world’s leading jewelers and retailers (including Tiffany & Co. and Target) committed to more responsible metals sourcing by signing up to Earthworks’ No Dirty Gold (NDG) campaign.

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