Millions of roses get handed out on Valentine's Day. But growing roses has an environmental impact worse than many other crops. Start with climate change: most roses in the U.S. and Europe are imported from warmer climes. All that flying and trucking adds thousands of metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Then there's all the water needed to, well, water the flowers. And the runoff fouled by copious quantities of pesticides needed to make the roses look perfect. There's also the wildlife and workers poisoned by all that fumigation. Add to that habitat destruction where floral plantations displace native forest and wetlands. Finally, there's the refrigeration needed to keep those blooms fresh. The electricity is often produced by burning fossil fuels, and the refrigerant gases also exacerbate climate change. A more sustainable and, possibly, more romantic approach is to go with flowers certified by outfits like VeriFlora or, even better, whatever flowers are in season locally. Of course, that's not much help for those of us in wintry climes. Maybe try writing a poem. Let’s see: Roses are red, violets are blue… —David Biello [The above text is a transcript of this podcast.] Follow Scientific American on Twitter @SciAm and @SciamBlogs. Visit ScientificAmerican.com for the latest in science, health and technology news.
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- Nature & Environment