When you find that flowers flown in from Africa have a smaller energy footprint than flowers grown locally in hothouses, you can use your purchase decision to achieve two goals: reduce carbon emissions and support developing countries.
Or can you?
Hilary Benn, UK minister for International Development, thinks so (via treehugger).
Benn is asking British consumers to buy flowers flown in from Kenya, rather than European hothouse flowers.
Benn points to recent research showing that flowers flown from Africa can use less energy overall than those produced in Europe because they're not grown in heated greenhouses.
"Climate change is hugely important to the future of developed and developing countries but if we boycott goods flown from Africa we deny the poor the chance to grow; their chance to educate their children and stay healthy."
So, this Valentine's day, you can do something for social justice and climate action by switching to African flowers.
Or should you?
Turns out, the social equity dimension of Kenyan flowers doesn't look that great, as the industry laps up profits at an exorbitant human price.
Working conditions have become so outrageous that several recent stories in the African press have described the flower fields that are poisoning Kenya’s water and maiming its workers, some of whom are being burned by pesticides.
This website calls them "Flowers of Evil".
So, sure, there's much more involved here than energy footprints.
And, chances are, this dynamic line of inquiry will show up more often in your purchase decisions.
Will you buy Bangladeshi rice and support farmers there, or California rice which uses huge amounts of water and energy to grow?
Will you be putting South American farmers out of business when you shop local?
Are the 70,000 Kenyan flower workers being helped by this or hurt?
Bottom line: When footprinting your flowers flowers, consider all the interconnected costs and benefits to ensure you are doing the heart thang