Hello and welcome to the Rainforest Alliance blog! My name is Anna Clark and I am delighted to be writing this blog on behalf of the Rainforest Alliance. I will be reporting on all green news, especially that which relates to our four divisions: agriculture, forestry, tourism and climate change. I invite everyone to engage with me on all topics discussed! I will do my best to respond to all comments and queries you may have regarding my articles.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Rainforest Alliance, our organization works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behavior. The Rainforest Alliance uses the power of markets to arrest the major drivers of deforestation and environmental destruction: timber extraction, agricultural expansion, cattle ranching and tourism. We work to ensure millions of acres of working forests, farms, ranchlands and hotel properties are managed according to rigorous sustainability standards. And by linking those businesses to conscientious consumers, who identify their goods and services through the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal and verification mark, we demonstrate that sustainable practices can help businesses thrive in the modern economy.
To kick-start the Rainforest Alliance blog, I thought I would spring into the spirit of spring, and talk about one of my favorite things: flowers!
With the end of winter in sight, there is no better way to get over your winter blues than by brightening up your life with a beautiful bunch of flowers. But when selecting a bouquet, who gives a thought as to how those flowers were grown, and at what cost to the environment and farming communities?
Chances are that those flowers originated in a Latin American nation. Since the mid 1980s, growers in that region have been increasing their production of roses, carnations and other blooming species to meet the growing demand in the United States and Europe. Ninety percent of the cut flowers and ferns imported to the United States come from Latin America — those roses you bought for your Valentine were probably raised in a hothouse in Colombia, Ecuador or another rainforest country.
The rapid growth of the floriculture industry has contributed to job creation in Latin America. But this cultivation has often come at the expense of healthy ecosystems — and the well-being of workers and surrounding communities.
Flower and fern growers tend to use liberal doses of agrochemicals, and because flowers are not food, governments do not impose restrictions on pesticide use. With only weak government controls, pesticide and fertilizer use on flower farms can threaten the health of workers and neighbors as well as local drinking-water supplies. In many cases, the governments of importing countries require extensive pesticide usage to ensure flowers are free of pests.
In an effort to improve conditions on flower farms, the Rainforest Alliance and its partners in the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), a consortium of leading conservation groups in Latin America, embarked on a four-year-long process of research, experimentation and field trials. The result: a new set of stringent standards for responsible flower and fern farm management.
The standards protect ecosystems and wildlife habitats, conserve water and soil, promote decent and safe working conditions, and ensure that the farms are good neighbors to rural communities and wildlands. And by following the standards, a growing number of leading flower and fern companies have earned Rainforest Alliance certification.
With this new information in mind, I hope the next time you stop to buy a bunch of flowers you will look for the Rainforest Alliance green frog seal — your assurance the flowers were grown in a way that respects both the environment and farm workers alike. You can find certified blooms at Whole Foods Market, Costco, Sam’s Club, and online at FTD.com.
Farm photo: Rainforest Alliance
Flower photo: J Henry Fair