What’s in a rose?
Since it is Valentine’s Day, I was searching for studies that had tried to estimate the impact of flower growing in terms of GHG emissions. There are a few studies in this vein, but rather than dwell on the numbers too much there is an interesting angle on the often discussed ‘locally sourced goods’ debate, which is brought up in this study from Cranfield University.
It may seem intuitive that the closer something can be sourced to home (in this case ‘home’ being the place that some good will be used) would result in a lower GHG emissions than from sourced further away. This is certainly true for some things - for example the effort required to extract inert materials such as aggregates is unlikely to vary by much, and therefore the transport element of its impact is likely to be of more importance. It is also an argument that is made for many foodstuffs.
In the Cranfield paper, two cases of rose-growing are referenced which represent the two main exporters of roses (to the UK at least) - one in the Netherlands and one in Kenya. Despite the fact that flowers from Kenya are flown in rather than shipped, the impact from growing them is much less per rose since they do not require unnatural heating and lighting and the average yield per hectare is greater. The comparatively large energy demands on growing in the Netherlands more than outweigh and travel emissions incurred.
This does somewhat conflict with looking at the label on a bunch of roses with the automatic thought that Kenya seems to be an awfully long way away to be growing roses.
In my last post, I discussed how nations such as the UK have been ‘off-shoring’ a lot of emissions since national targets do not include imported goods. However it is clear that in some cases, good carbon management is about doing the right thing in the right way at the right time. In the case of roses, it is clear from this study at least that unless your European roses are grown in a renewable energy environment, it is better to grow them in Kenya which uses more natural resources. Perhaps we should be promoting such efficiencies within a national or international GHG reduction strategy.
While buying locally is probably a decent indicator for lower impact for many things that we buy, as things become more complex it is not possible for any consumer to make an informed decision between two items. How does one begin to examine the impact of a European car against a Japanese car? For the average consumer, this kind of knowledge is not well spread, and with Tesco’s worthy campaign of carbon labelling coming to an end it looks like it will be even more difficult in the future.