The best flowers for your Valentine—and the planet

Forget roses. They’re a cliche, anyway.


Americans will spend about $2.6 billion on flowers this Valentine’s Day. But beneath all those pretty blooms lies a dirty reality: Many of the ones we buy at local supermarkets are cultivated thousands of miles away. Transporting them generates a lot of emissions. In 2018 alone, flying Valentine’s flowers from Colombia to U.S. airports produced about 360,000 metric tons of CO2, comparable to the annual emissions of about 78,000 cars. 

What’s more, those jet-setting blooms are often picked by underpaid workers in developing countries. And, in order to maintain their pristine appearance, many flowers undergo heavy pesticide treatments, with residues sometimes reaching levels up to 50 times higher than what’s allowed on edible crops.

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So, before you shower your sweetheart with rose petals, consider alternative Valentine’s gifts that show the planet some love, too. Here are three suggestions:

Good: Local, seasonal flowers

If you’re committed to a traditional bouquet, opt for seasonal, locally grown flowers. Daffodils, for one, are in season in most of the U.S. right now. Because these blooms are grown in time with the natural rhythm of the local weather, they don’t require as much energy to cultivate as ones that need artificial light, heating, or cooling—like your classic roses. They also eliminate the need for long-distance transportation. Finding domestic beauties is often as easy as a quick trip to the farmers market. For an extra eco-friendly touch, ask your florist for less packaging and bring your own vase.

Better: Upcycled paper flowers

Unlike cut flowers, which wilt away in a matter of days, flowers made from upcycled materials around your home can last for years. You won’t need to buy any new materials: Floral crafts can be made from old newspapers, coffee filters, or even toilet paper rolls. Personalize your creations with hand-drawn designs, and your imagination and environmental consciousness are sure to impress your loved one. 

Best: Planting native wildflowers

If you’ve got a patch of land to spare, give your sweetheart a garden instead of a bouquet! Native wildflowers, which can be purchased at local garden centers, online, or through nationwide seed exchanges, are tailored to your environment, and therefore require minimal water and upkeep once they take root. Planting them not only beautifies your surroundings but also helps sock away carbon in their roots and provides habitat and food for local pollinators like bees and butterflies. For extra green love: Opt for wildflower seed coins that minimize paper seed packaging.