Friday, March 16, 2007

Flower Power

Educate me.

My local Wal-Mart sells bouquets of Colombian flowers for $3.88.

That is pretty darn cheap. What used to be an unaffordable commodity for special occasions now becomes mainstream: I can afford to have fresh flowers in my house all the time, and so I do--for less than the price of a few cups of fancy coffee at the local coffee bar.

Having just read The Wal-Mart Effect: How the World's Most Powerful Company Really Works--and How It's Transforming the American Economy, I also know that Wal-Mart is not making any kind of sacrifice in offering me this low, low price. It is able to offer this low, low price because it has driven down its own costs by demanding lower and lower prices from its suppliers.

I have seen Maria Full of Grace. And I have read reports on the abusive flower industry in Colombia and Ecuador. Apparently YouTube also has some amazing video interviews with flower workers (which I can't watch because I am still on dial-up and they just won't load coherently).

But I also know some actual Colombians. And they tell me that I should buy this Colombian export product in order to support the struggling Colombian economy. They say that in buying Colombian flowers I am supporting a Colombian industry that could be a real alternative to the narcotic crops that are so profitable in Colombia. (Wouldn't it be nice if my country's demand for imported flowers exceeded its demand for imported cocaine?)

So what to do?

Should I not buy flowers at all? Should I buy flowers only if I know they are grown in pesticide-free and humane conditions? (These would probably NOT be Colombian flowers or flowers from any developing economy.)

While I would love to buy flowers from Organic Bouquet, their prices are such that I could afford bouquets only a few times a year, for special occasions. No more weekly purchases. And their sources are probably not Colombian, since they demand sustainable, pesticide-free conditions.

Is it better to provide consistent support for a Colombian product---or occasional support for a (probably domestic) product that protects the environment and improves farm worker safety?


Ann said... much I do not know anymore. I am sure I am not the only one who tries to pay attention...but where is the real info? If I buy, am I hurting or helping, (as you delineate beautifully)? We buy organic but now beginning to doubt...too much info sometimes!!!!

sognatrice said...

These dilemmas always confuse me too, so I have no sage advice other than to do what your conscience can live with. Just wanted to say--my, what pretty flowers you have!

Bridget said...

Welcome to my world, where I fluctuate back and forth, between thinking/hoping I'm helping, and feeling like I'm only making someone's life worse.

I generally make a decision, and go with that, unless it really starts to get to me, or I find out that my information was wrong or not complete.

No help, huh?

Ms. Theologian said...

I think the best alternative is to grow your own, which will have no cost to workers and will be pesticide-free. :)

I have a similar dilemma with the flowers at Trader Joe's---so cheap, but at what real cost?

Cherrye said...

Yea, I am no help, either...sadly these issues are never really bianco or nero, are they?? If you like the flowers (and they are so happy and springy), I think you should buy them - do it for you, girl!

Femminista said...

Thanks, all.

Yes-- I Do do it for me, because ultimately I love having flowers around, especially during winter months when there are none to enjoy outside.

Growing my own indoors is a possible option--I'd need to acquire skill that I do not have... and that still doesn't help support the non-narcotic Colombian flower industry, which my Colombian friends are so enthusiatic about....

I just posted this topic because of some qualms I have about buying these flowers, in hopes that someone very passionate (and knowledgeable) would tell me what to do--which is sort of a lazy way out....

Anonymous said...

Actually, Organic Bouquet sources most of their flowers from Colombia and Ecuador. They have helped farms in those countries make the transition to organic and made it profitable to grow sustainably-grown flowers. You can read more here:

Femminista said...

Thanks, anonymous! Great information! I also suddenly clued in that when I buy flowers from (as I do occasionally at work), I could be buying from OrganicBouquet instead--and I will in future.