“Don’t send me Valentine’s Day roses.”

It wasn’t a sentence we were expecting to hear in the office. Throughout the years, those bright red petals have become synonymous with Valentine’s Day, both with couples professing their love and companies capitalising on the marketing—and with Valentine’s Day looming just around the corner, we weren’t expecting to hear them.

Curious to find out more, we spoke to the person who said those words: Saskya Liney, an Account Director and Head of Sustainability here at emc3.

It’s not that I’m using reverse psychology on my boyfriend when I say “Don’t send me Valentine’s Day roses.” I really don’t want them. It’s a classic combo: red roses and the 14th February, but we rarely stop to think about the environmental cost.

For example, did you know how far most roses travel before they reach your doorstep?

In Europe, most of the roses sold are imported from countries such as Kenya, and in the US, most roses are imported from Colombia or Ecuador.

Every day in the three weeks prior to Valentine’s Day, it’s estimated that around 30 cargo planes full of cut flowers fly from Colombia to Miami. These roses are then loaded onto refrigerated delivery trucks so that they don’t wilt, and are driven across the country.

The result is that even though flowers can be deemed as good for the environment due to their nature, there’s a huge increase in both aviation, and transportation emissions to deliver on the demand generated for occasions such as Valentine’s Day.

The sustainability of imported flowers is very complicated. Technically, yes, we could grow roses in the North of England. But realistically it would require a huge amount of effort to artificially create the conditions needed to get them to bloom in time. Including lighting, heating and greenhouses. And if they don’t bloom in time for Valentine’s Day? Well, you are stuck with a greenhouse full of red roses… at Easter. Which I don’t think is going to catch on!

Saskya Liney – Account Director and Head of Sustainability at emc3.

It was an interesting conversation and one which we hadn’t considered from that perspective. Highlighting that as lovely as the bold red of the Valentine’s Day mascot is, the transportation network and huge carbon footprint required to bring delicate blossoms across oceans, make it an incredibly unsustainable decision—especially when they often come from the other side of the planet!

Which begs the question: how can we make Valentine’s Day more sustainable?

buy local flowers

Buying flowers locally not only supports the local economy, but it diminishes the carbon emissions required to transport flowers across the world, to your front door. It also provides the opportunity to showcase different types of in-season flowers, for example, daffodils.

use fair trade chocolate

With over 58 million pounds (lbs) of chocolate purchased in the seven days leading up to February 14th, it’s fair to say that the number of sweet treats bought for Valentine’s Day is significant! Which is why buying fair trade can make such a huge difference.

Fair trade farmers make it a priority to protect the future of their farms and as a result go through extensive measures to ensure the sustainability and quality of their goods, with fair trade standards supporting this by strictly prohibiting the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), little to no pesticides or fertilisers and the proper management of energy, water and waste resources.

make something by hand

Nothing says love quite like the act of making something for someone. From the thought that goes into planning it, to the final result, it all but screams sentiment. Whether you want to make your own card or bake something delicious, going handmade this Valentine’s Day can be a great way to express how you’re feeling. 

But no matter how you choose to express your love this Valentine’s Day, one thing’s for sure: when it comes to sustainability, every movement counts—so if you need more inspiration on how to reduce or balance your emissions, head to our sustainability page to learn more.