Ethical flowers: Buying consciously for your Valentine

A Toronto-based florist says that besides fair-trade coffee, chocolate and many other items, there are also fair-trade flowers available for 'ethical' gift-giving.

Toronto florist says simply asking business owners can get the ball rolling

Flowers have traditionally been a big gift for moms. (CBC)

Less than 24 hours before Valentine's Day, a Toronto-based florist says that besides fair-trade coffee, chocolate and many other items, there are also fair-trade flowers available for people interested in ethical gift-giving.

Joseph Delarge, who owns and operates Eco-Stems on King Street West in Toronto, says that locally grown flowers are always the first choice. This stems from the concern over fair wages and chemical usage when prepping flowers.

Most of the flowers sold in Canada come from outside Canada, from such regions as South America, California and Florida, while a few spots in B.C. and Ontario grow flowers, he said. 

[It] plants a little bug in the florist's mind to then research these things and be a bit more informed about it.- Joseph Delarge, florist

Delarge said there are typically worker concerns and water concerns in flower-producing regions outside of Canada, including the use of pesticides banned here at home. 

"Women working on the flower farms are not treated properly, fired when they get pregnant, exposed to these chemicals, not allowed unionize. There's a whole host of issues," Delarge said. 

Delarge recommends shopping consciously by first checking the labels. Flowers that come in to florists are labeled as either fair trade, Canadian gown, organic or with no label at all, Delarge said.

Eco-stems suggest ranunculus as a substitute for roses this Valentine's Day. (ecostems/Instagrams)

"Often it's about going into your local florist and asking for these things, asking for fair trade or organic."

Doing so will accomplish a few things.

Florists will often have fair trade or ethical flowers in their store, but they don't know the story behind them. Asking about such flowers "plants a little bug in the florist's mind to then research these things and be a bit more informed about it," he said. 

It also lets them know they can use the fair trade or organic labels as a benefit to them their business, he said, so they can offer that to their clients who ask about it.

Delarge also noted some of the larger grocery story chains are getting better about labelling their flowers.

He was on CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning on Friday to talk about ethical flowers.