How to be an ethical consumer?

Are you a MeadowSweetie?

The first thing to think about when trying to be an ethical or more sustainable consumer is to reduce what you buy in the first place - not something that most businesses are shouting about!  

The second thing is to reuse items you already own or buy products that you can then reuse again. I think this might be why some people go down the artificial flower route although having a bunch of plastic or silk flowers in the house gathering dust forever doesn't personally make my heart sing.

For perishables like flowers, some of our customers enjoy turning their flowers into paintings, pressing them or drying them to create new arrangements. But if that's not for you, fear not, fresh flowers can be 'reused' as compost! When choosing a flower subscription, it is worth considering whether the packaging and vases are single use or reusable.

The third thing is that whatever you have bought or used should also be something that can be recycled. To achieve this, it is important to find out what the products we buy are made of so that we know they can ultimately be recycled and not end up in landfill. We should also try to minimise buying products that use raw materials that are extracted in a detrimental way or are from non-renewable non-plentiful resources. 

The best sustainable approach is when it is a 'closed loop' system whereby the materials for a product can be turned back into raw materials to be used again leaving nothing to be thrown away - because there is no 'away'!

Wider sustainability issues cover social as well as environmental matters and so other things to consider are the working conditions, pay and health and safety records for the people involved in the production of the products we buy. This is particularly relevant for employees in large-scale flower farms in countries where welfare and safety records have not always been exemplary. We should also consider any negative social impacts related to the distribution, consumption and disposal of these products and, indeed, the many positive social impacts that working with flowers and creating purposeful and enjoyable jobs with fair living wages can bring.

When it comes to MeadowSweet, the flowers we use are of course a natural product that will biodegrade into compost which can then be used to improve the soil. We compost all our green waste here and it would be wonderful if all of our customers can home compost their old flowers or put them into a green waste bin for collection.

We use British flowers because that way we know we can eliminate the air miles that are typically associated with the cut flower trade. Our locally grown flowers are grown outdoors, they provide food for pollinating insects and they are typically grown without chemicals or artificial fertilisers and from peat-free soils. British flowers sourced from larger growers are often grown under glass but most of these nurseries, if not all of them, use renewable energy systems to heat their glasshouses to significantly reduce their environmental impact.

In the UK nearly 90% of the cut flowers sold are imported from countries such as The Netherlands, Ecuador, Colombia, Kenya and Ethiopia. A bunch of imported flowers from Holland including lilies, roses and gypsophila has been found to have a comparable carbon footprint to a flight from London to Birmingham! From the same study, a bunch of British grown flowers was found to produce 90% lower carbon emissions than a comparable bunch of Dutch or Kenyan grown flowers.

Our branded MeadowSweet boxes are made in the UK with >80% recycled unbleached cardboard and we collect for reuse from regular Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch customers. Our UK mailing boxes are also >80% recycled unbleached content. Our glass posy jars are made in the UK with >40% recycled content. Currently our bouquet glass jars are imported and made from new glass.

For local customers we collect jars and packaging for reuse. For UK subscription customers, a jar is sent with the first order and then jars can be reused for the next arrangement. They can be easily cleaned by popping them into a (nice and full!) dishwasher, ribbon and all. Mailing boxes can go in the recycling bin. Unwanted glass jars can go in the recycling bin too.

We use the Royal Mail Tracked24 service for our UK deliveries which have on average a carbon emission of 193g/CO2 per delivery. Local deliveries are currently in our diesel vehicle and I try not to get lost too often! An electric van is on the wish-list.

Flowers make us happy. Recipients of flowers have an immediate uplift of happiness upon receiving flowers. Flowers also have a longer-term positive effect on the recipient's mood, including reduced feelings of depression, anxiety and a higher sense of enjoyment and life satisfaction. Having flowers in the home have even been shown to improve the frequency and quality of social interactions with family and friends and to improve short-term memory.

There are many reasons to choose and enjoy having flowers in the home. If you feel that you would enjoy a flower subscription or that it might improve the wellbeing of a loved-one (i.e. make them happy!), then being an ethical, responsible consumer is choosing a flower subscription service that tries to consider and minimise the negative impacts of the business whilst bringing the positives of having fresh, seasonal (and ideally, British) flowers to your door.

If you think you might be a MeadowSweetie, why not try us out with a single posy order, delivered on Fridays to Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch and to Mainland UK.