LUSH Flowers: Make your ethics as beautiful as your bouquet
The UK is one of the world’s largest consumers of red roses on Valentine’s Day, despite the fact that they cannot sustainably grow on British soil in February. This means that to satisfy the nation’s obsession with romance, red roses are imported from countries including Columbia and Kenya for this Hallmark holiday. Not only does that create a considerable carbon footprint but to prolong the flowers’ life they are sprayed with chemicals and pesticides and frozen for transit.
This was just one of the many facts we learnt when we visited independent and family-run West End Flower Farm in Hampshire which is one of the suppliers to cosmetics brand Lush’s first florist based in their Liverpool store. The focus of the florist is to sell locally and ethically sourced flowers, showcasing what is in natural season in the UK, with supplies coming from three flower farms and a couple of plant suppliers across England.
The beauty of West End Flower Farm is that it is independent and family-run. Bella and Will run the farm which has been in the family for generations, having previously been a livestock and arable farm before becoming a hops farm and now a 100% flower farm. A change in farm use that we are totally behind! The couple single-handedly run the farm - and adjoining cafe and B&B, doing all the growing and maintenance. It’s clearly incredibly hard work but it is particularly reassuring that you know that the flowers are sourced free of modern day slavery or poor employment practices and abuse which is all too common within global flower farming industry including shocking instances in the UK.
Another ethical consideration when choosing flowers is pesticides. Growers in Columbia are known to use 12 types of chemicals and there are reports of Ethiopian growers using 120 pesticides on the WHO negative list. Even where flowers are grown in the UK growers will usually just have one specific flower or crop. Instead of pesticides West End use ‘good bugs’ i.e. letting nature take its course where certain insects will be brought in to eat problem insects on certain crops. Their approach to fertilizer is also natural - cold brew seaweed is pumped into the flower beds which helps the plants grow. Who knew?!
80% of flowers sold in the UK are imported from countries in Africa and South America that have more suitable climates to grow all year round. Even importing from more local neighbours like the Netherlands has sustainability implications as the flowers are grown in greenhouses which emit considerable levels of CO2. This is why you can get your hands on any flower imaginable year round.
Looking around the quaint farm we saw an abundance of absolutely stunning dahlias in a range of colours, including some as big as your head as well as sunflowers towering above us, showing the beauty of more naturally grown flowers. We visited the rose gardens which bloom beautifully - in the right season. We even had a go at making our own bouquets under the expert guidance of Lush florist Jo.
Come winter there won’t be any fresh flowers in the Lush florist in Liverpool. It sounds silly but this was quite a penny drop moment on the trip. Of course, flowers don’t grow in the UK over winter. So the focus instead will be on wreaths, plants and hopefully some experiments the florist team are doing with drying out leftover flowers will work.
In June, Lush opened a florist in Tokyo where the flowers and plants available reflect what grows local to the city. Later this year, two more stores will open in Paris and Munich with both connecting with local suppliers and focusing on ethical partnerships. In Paris, some of the flowers will be sourced from Reseau Cocagne who provide training and skills development to people facing barriers to employment.
The most ethically way to buy flowers is to buy local and not buy too frequently. If you can’t make it to Liverpool or Tokyo any time soon you can find other ethical florists via the Flowers from the Farm website which shows local farms as well as their environmental credentials. Or alternatively start to grow your own, join a community garden, decorate your home with native plants or go foraging.