heart graffitied on wallValentine’s Day is the fifth-largest consumer holiday in the United States, falling behind the winter holidays such as Christmas and Hanukkah & Mother's Day. According to two local florists, Boulder Blooms & Petals Boulder, Valentine’s day is their second busiest holiday falling behind Mother's Day. With such popularity, it’s not surprising that Americans spend billions on gifts. 

In 2021 alone Americans spent $21.8 billion dollars on Valentine’s Day gifts, down from the record-breaking amount spent in 2020, where Americans spent $27.4 billion according to the National Retail Federation. In 2021 flowers were the second most popular gift to give on Valentine’s Day with 37% of all gifts given on the holiday being flowers. With people spending millions and giving millions of flowers on Valentine’s Day. Is our love for one another and our show of affection, causing our planet to fall out of love with us? It seemingly seems that way. 

Flowers are one of the most visible and well-known Valentine's Day gifts, and in the United States, 80% of those cut flowers are imported from foreign countries. Colombia and Ecuador are the top exporters of roses and carnations. Other countries that export flowers to the United States are the Netherlands, Mexico, and Costa Rica according to U.S Customs and Border Protection, which is responsible for inspecting all flower shipments. Most shipments arrive and are inspected in Miami, Florida. Most countries increase their shipments of flowers starting in January to meet the global demand for fresh flowers for the holiday. 

According to The Washington Post, “30 cargo jets make the trip from Colombia to Miami each day, with each plane toting more than a million flowers.” The International Council on Clean Transportation estimates that these flights “Burn approximately 114 million liters of fuel, emitting approximately 360,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.” The ICCT has found that  “Flower imports from January 1 to February 14 have increased seven-fold between 2009 and 2015 and that the production of American roses has decreased 95%.” 

Once the flowers make it to America, they still need to be transported across the country to thousands of stores across the country. Cross-country transportation is done via refrigerated trucks. Refrigerated trucks use 25% more fuel than non-refrigerated trucks, and these trucks use diesel fuel, which produces more emissions than gasoline-fueled trucks. Once the flowers have arrived at the store, they are stored in temperature-controlled greenhouses or walk-in coolers and wait to be purchased and taken to their final destination.

With all of this in mind, how can you give both a lovely gift, with little impact on the planet? A few tips include:

  • Shop Local

    • A number of local Boulder florists grow their own flowers or are a part of a local collective that allows them to source flowers from different florists, or growers located within the state, which allows them to reduce the demand for long-haul transportation

  • Buy Fair Trade

    • If it’s flowers, clothing, or chocolate. Look for the fair trade symbol on the packaging. Fair trade means that workers are paid fair pay, have safer working conditions, and have rights. For consumers, fair trade products are ethically sourced and high quality.

  • Make your own gift

    • There are a number of homemade gifts you can gift someone, such as a baked good, a homemade card, a plant you grew yourself, or a homemade meal. A gift or experience that you put your own personal thought and love into, is always a winner 

  • Spend quality time with your loved ones

    • We are very busy humans, we all can take some time and slow down and spend it with the ones we love, those can be a partner, but also family and friends. Quality time is a gift that we forgot about, but taking time out to reconnect and spend quality time with those people is a gift we can all get behind.