We hear a lot about the carbon intensity of the food we eat, but rather less about the carbon impact of our cut flowers. However, cut flowers often have a pretty surprisingly high carbon intensity.
For instance, a recent study showed how a bouquet of Dutch lilies, Kenyan roses and gypsophila – the sort of bouquet you’d typically find in a supermarket – has a life cycle carbon impact of 31 kgCO2. That’s about the same as driving a petrol car from Bath to the outskirts of London.
Emissions are high because of a combination of fertilizer use, refrigerated air and lorry transport, and highly automated greenhouses, with a high and often inefficient heating and lighting demand.
By comparison, a locally outdoor grown bouquet of mixed garden flowers, grown and sold locally, is estimated to have life cycle carbon emissions of 1.7 kgCO2. That’s around 5% of the Dutch or Kenyan grown bouquet.
While different studies will show slightly differing results, the overall message remains the same – local and outdoor is always lower carbon.
In my past life I was a sustainable energy consultant, and I’ve spent 20 years of my life analysing the carbon impact of pretty much every aspect of how we run our energy system. It’s this that has convinced me of how we need to reorganise ourselves – and find new, creative ways of delivering products and services. Ones which are not just beautiful and useful as before, but which are also sustainable, and enable us to live within our earth’s limits.
It's time to think creatively, and start cutting out the carbon.