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Green Blog: Every Rose Has Its Thorn

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Jul 24, 2013    •    574 Views

By Amy Tourgee, guest blogger, Kent Place School alumna and Environmental Studies undergraduate at Princeton University

One of the most fun field trips we took abroad in Kenya was a day trip to a rose farm in Nanyuki, Kenya – on the slopes of Mt. Kenya.  Although the trip was supposed to be a relaxing day to learn about one of Kenya’s biggest industries (it also was a welcomed respite from our confusing coding assignments), I couldn’t help but think about the carbon footprint of the life of a rose.

I really didn’t know before going to the flower farm that most roses are grown in tropical areas and then flown all over the world to be sold. Roses are grown and cultivated in mass in these tropical areas because of the soil type and sunny climate. When the owner of the flower farm told us that he chilled his roses and flew them to Europe every day to be sold fresh to consumers, I was astounded. I couldn’t even imagine how much carbon dioxide was being spewed into the atmosphere from all these airplane trips. I seriously just imagined an airplane using its wings to suffocate the earth.

But when I looked into the matter later, I was even more surprised to read this article, citing a study that proves that roses grown in Kenya, but flown to another continent, require less energy than those grown locally.  It turns out that local rose farms require more energy to meet the specific growing conditions of roses e.g. heating/lighting greenhouses to artificially extend the daytime for the growth of the flowers.

We hear so much about “buying local,” – thanks, Whole Foods! – whether that means food or any other good, but the Kenyan roses are a cool reminder that every situation is different – you just gotta remember it’s all relative, and you have to weigh the costs of the two scenarios. Regardless, though, it still kind of seems like we’re using way too much energy on flowers in my opinion. But I guess every rose has its thorn…. (sorry, had to).

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