Fancy an organic bouquet next week? Valentine’s Day is sneaking up on us, which means sales of chocolates, silk boxers, those cute little Necco Valentine’s Day candy hearts and of course, flowers will spike. Americans, in fact, will spend $1.5 billion on approximately 200 million flowers next week–and many of those flowers, especially roses, will be flown in from Colombia and Ecuador.
So of course flowers certified fair trade, local or organic will be a part of next week’s V-Day frenzy, and everyone wants a piece of the floral pie. To that end, former Sports Illustrated bikini model Kathy Ireland, with her checkered past that includes brushes with sweatshops and vapid arguments with PETA, is the spokesperson for one company touting its sustainability credentials, Organic Bouquet.
The flowers are certainly pretty enough. Many of them are “EcoBlooms” with Veriflora Certification and are supposedly sourced from fair trade-certified farms. The labeling, however, is a bit outdated: one bunch of roses, for example, boasts a stamp of approval from TransFair USA, which could raise eyebrows considering that organization’s name had changed to Fair Trade USA over two years ago. Other products include certifications from the Rainforest Alliance and USDA (organic assumedly). And five percent of the sales collected from these flowers and other gifts on Organic Bouquet finds its way to one of Kathy Ireland’s favorite charities. Details on how these flowers can help “artisans” abroad, however, are lacking–along with the environmental and social benefits such a flower purchase would provide.
What could give some consumers pause, however, is Organic Bouquet’s spokeswoman. True, Kathy Ireland has had her struggles, such as her admission to Larry King that she gained a pound a year for 25 years. Then there are other controversies. During the late 1990s, the news broke out that Ireland’s clothing line at Kmart had been produced in Brooklyn sweatshops. The same nightmare haunted Kathy Lee Gifford, too–only that while Gifford showed up at a media event and became a vocal activist, Ireland skipped out on a press conference when the raids at the sweatshops manufacturing her product line were announced. And just last year, PETA and other animal rights groups picked a fight with Ireland after she endorsed a line of fur coats at Macy’s. In her response to PETA et al., Ireland said she would consider ending any involvement with the fur industry if activists would join the pro-life crusade. Granted, Ireland had a right to her beliefs, but her counter to the animal rights crowd borders on an ad hominem argument. Plus it made for an ugly Twitter spit-spat.
The upshot is more of us want to purchase a good or service that can provide a social or environmental benefit–and a day like Valentine’s Day can be a opportunity to send such a message. Just take a look who is promoting such an idea, and ensure the company offers transparency about how they are “doing good.”
Leon Kaye, based in Fresno, California, is a sustainability consultant and the editor of GreenGoPost.com. He also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business; his work has also appeared on Sustainable Brands, Inhabitat and Earth911. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter or Instagram (greengopost). He will explore children’s health issues in India February 16-27 with the International Reporting Project.
[Image credit: Wikipedia]