Roses are red, but they might not be green

(ACEEE blog, 8 Feb 2019) The energy cost of roses isn’t very romantic. Of the 250 million roses Americans buy on Valentine’s Day, 90% are imported, requiring refrigeration and hundreds of cargo planes.

Even domestically grown flowers require temperature control and land transportation. Curious about the energy involved in your bouquet? Here are a few things you might not know—and a few suggestions for a more eco-friendly Valentine’s Day.

Every February, Americans shell out big bucks in the name of romance. In 2019, the National Retail Federation estimates that Americans will spend a record $20.7 billion on Valentine’s gifts, a 6% increase from last year. One-third of romantics plan to give flowers, two-thirds of which will be roses, the top choice. But most won’t come from the United States.

In recent decades, the South American flower trade has boomed. As bulk flower imports became cheap and plentiful, supermarkets and large corporations such as Walmart began to edge out local florists as America’s primary flower vendors. As a result, the domestic flower market shrunk. In 2015, the United States was the world’s largest importer of cut flowers, importing about 70% of all flowers sold in the US with the number spiking to 90% for Valentine’s roses, according to the Society of American Florists.    
Where do they come from?

Of imported US flowers, almost all come from Colombia, Ecuador, and the European Union. Terril Nell, a professor emeritus at the University of Florida who specializes in the production and postharvest care of domestic and international flower crops, explained that the varied altitude and temperatures of equatorial nations provide optimal growing conditions for different types of flowers. These flowers often do not require additional heating or cooling until they are transported. In European nations, flowers are often cultivated in temperature-controlled greenhouses.

After being cut, they are refrigerated at a maximum of 40 degrees Fahrenheit, packed into a cargo plane with more than one million other blossoms, and shipped stateside. Every day for three weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, 30 cargo planes laden with roses will travel from Colombia to Miami.

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ACEEE blog, 8 Feb 2019: Roses are red, but they might not be green