I grew up in a house filled with flowers and greenery: there were dozens and dozens of plants around the place and as far as I can remember, fresh flowers of some description around the house each week. For a while, my mum worked in a florists and my dad has always been a keen gardener so the flowers either came from the garden (in season) or via my mum’s job. Plants and flowers felt like home.
Needless to say, I’ve always tried to replicate this in my post-home living situations. When I moved out into my first student house, I took a bunch of daffodils from the garden to christen my new vase in my new room and I’ve always tried (wherever possible) to have green-facing windows (to the trees in the cemetery in the flat in Liverpool to the trees in the park now). Living here, I’ve always tried to fill the house with plants and I get sad everyone time one dies after failing to survive the cave-like conditions we face (hurrah for being north-facing). We’ve still managed to keep a few though: some leafy green ones in the kitchen, along with a rubber plant and some cactus-wannabes; some actual cactuses in the living room; and some orchids and Trevor, a yukka type plant that Katherine gave me for my birthday this year in the bathroom.
Until recently, we used to have cut flowers quite a lot too. Buying them for myself, I tended towards the cut-price-in-the-market-at-4pm-on-Saturday fare whereas John liked buying me bunches of big white lillies which looked beautiful (sometimes for a fortnight or so) before dropping their pollen everywhere. I liked them: they brightened up the place, made it feel less like the scruffy cat-filled dump it usually is and in the case of lillies, gave off a pleasant smell (which is always helpful in a scruffy cat-filled dump).
Then I saw the film “Maria Full of Grace“. It’s a very good film about how people get involved in drug trafficking and the consequences of it and I would highly recommend it (although the end is a bit unrealistic in some ways). Anyway, at the start of the film, before all the drug trafficking starts, Maria (along with most of the people in her community) works at a flower plantation and packing factory and it just drove home to me what goes into getting me a bunch of flowers in November.
I hadn’t been blind to it before but after seeing the first 20 minutes or whatever it is at the start of that film, I realised I couldn’t be part of that industry anymore. To grow the flowers, vast tracks of land has to be given over to polytunnels, which require heating (when the weather doesn’t provide), huge amount of water (to prompt quick growth) and chemicals (to keep the bugs down and to increase the shelf life of the plants – and they need it, since they’ll be shipped hundreds of miles for their final “display”). This stops the land being used for supporting the local community (in any way bar financial – and the finance isn’t great) and greatly reduces and pollutes the water table. The chemicals, in both the water and in the air for workers, can cause health problems which are execerbated by shocking working conditions. And then there is the cost (to the environment) of the transport to get them to us before they start to die. I thought about it for a while and decided that my house smelling nice for 10 days wasn’t worth it.
I have nothing against plants – as long as I know where they’ve started their life (if it wasn’t with me) – and I certainly wouldn’t have a problem with flowers if someone had grown them in their garden and wanted to share the joy, but no more cellophane wrapped bouquets for me now.
I know it’s not a lot and I know my life is far from guilt free in terms of my consumption but I’m trying, I’m trying…
(These links give more details about what’s happening and about specific campaigns – I don’t know how up to date they are though)