Buddhist Action Month 2016

Reverencing the Buddha we offer flowers…

On Thu, 23 June, 2016 - 14:32
Momtaz's picture

But at what price?  (written by Maitridevi)

For every retreat here at Taraloka we buy between 2 & 4 bunches of flowers, usually cellophane wrapped from our local supermarket - an annual spend of about £250. We live busy lives in a rural setting, without easy access to farmers markets selling local flowers on the days we need them.

In the UK about 85% of cut flowers in this £ 2.2bn industry are imported from abroad. Of the top ten best-selling cut flowers, few can be home-grown all year round. The world’s largest flower-growing nations are currently the Netherlands, Colombia, Kenya and Israel, all of which are large exporters to the UK. Others such as India, South Africa, Ecuador and Malaysia are fast catching up. (1)

For flowers to reach the customer within a few days once cut, means that the industry has a growing reliance on air freighting. The UK’s largest flower importer (World Flowers) flies 600 tonnes of cut flowers – 250 tonnes from Kenya alone – each week. Throughout their journey the flowers must be kept in a climate-controlled atmosphere of just a few degrees above freezing, so the pollution footprint of a bunch of flowers can be enormous. Even if the country of origin is closer e.g. from Holland, the label may only indicate the location of the wholesalers. In addition more heating (and so more carbon) is required to actually grow the flowers in Holland than in Kenya or Columbia.

But it’s not just carbon emissions that are at stake. Whilst the international flower industry provides income for millions of people (80,000 in Columbia alone) (2), there have long been concerns about poor worker conditions: long hours, low pay, pesticide exposure, and water-source pollution.

It seems – from reading articles - that the only real solution is to buy locally grown flowers, or to grow our own.

Suchitta and I have therefore been exploring creating a ‘picking patch’ which would be able to supply home-grown flowers. At the moment we are awash with roses and sweet-peas, but it’s hard to maintain a constant supply throughout the seasons. However I believe in incremental targets. Even if we managed to reduce our consumption of cut-flowers by 30-50% that would be a start, & we could build from there. It is more work for Suchitta and our volunteer gardeners, but it also contributes more beauty and ‘soul’ to our shrines. It’s a better way to reverence what we love.

(1), Is it OK …to buy cut flowers?, Hickman, L, The Guardian, 02/06 

(2), Tread lightly: Stop buying farmed flowers (guardian article)

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sahajatara's picture

Wonderful ! I cant seem to share this to the FB Triratna climate group though , can someone else have a go ? xxx Sahajatara

khemajoti's picture

It would be great to see a ‘pickers patch’ at Taraloka again (wasn’t there one years ago when Ratnavandana lived there?)  And maybe we don’t always have to have flowers but could offer other beautiful things such as grasses, branches etc.  I think the Throssel Hole community don’t offer cut flowers at all but have living plants on their shrines.

Here in Bristol, Cath and Annie bring lovely offerings from their allotments and gardens each week and we have some really interesting displays.

I hope all of our centres will think about this issue and be more creative than buying a cellophane wrapped bunch from the supermarket.

bodhipaksini's picture

Sadhu! I wish you a flourishing flower picking patch. Have long struggled with conscience about buying cut flowers  - and feel very inspired by your initiative - and also by your mention of incremental targets - as it’s often so easy to slip into overwhelm by not being able to redress the balance and end up not trying. So thank you on all those counts! 

Jinamati's picture


Kalyanavaca's picture

I think this is a great initiative, and yes, we did have a pickers’ patch at Taraloka when I lived there.  It was situated near where the present-day boiler is. I don’t think we managed year-long flowers but it certainly helped. And I also think that plants growing in pots would work really well - I don’t really understand why we need to offer cut flowers.