Organic Bouquet shines green light for earth friendly flowers
Organic Bouquet (OrganicBouquet.com), the destination for earth-friendly flowers, is leading the $19 billion dollar US floral trade to a more sustainable industry as growers, retailers and consumers are beginning to see the “green light”
The company was founded in 2001 by California eco-entrepreneur Gerald Prolman, who sought to provide an alternative to flowers grown with toxic chemicals.
“Growers of ornamental plants, especially cut flowers, tend to use exceedingly high levels of hazardous pesticides,” says Margaret Reeves, senior scientist at Pesticide Action Network, San Francisco. One result, according to Reeves, is that workers in the cut-flower industry routinely are exposed to higher levels of contamination than other agricultural workers, a problem made worse because they work in enclosed environments like greenhouses.”
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, world pesticide use exceeded 500 billion pounds in 2001. Many of these chemicals are tightly restricted in the United States because of their threat to human health. Nearly 60 percent of floral workers surveyed, as documented in Environmental Health Perspectives 2002, experienced symptoms of chemical poisoning such as headaches, dizziness, hand-trembling and blurred vision, Many workers are exposed to these chemicals while working in greenhouses where over 100 different chemicals are regularly used.
Prolman believes that converting flower farms to sustainable systems will ultimately eliminate the use of millions of pounds of chemicals.
"Organic Bouquet is an excellent example of how the private sector can promote economic development within the carrying capacity of ecosystems by reducing resource degradation, pollution and waste,” said Brennan Van Dyke-Regional, Director of the United Nations Environment Programme. “It is the inspiration and leadership that people like Gerald Prolman provide that will hopefully allow humankind to meet the immense environmental challenges of the coming century."
“The biggest impediment to accelerating organic flower production lies in the commitment of retailers to proactively support growers who are going organic,” said Prolman. “Retailers need to reward growers that take these steps by preferentially buying their flowers.”
Peter Roy, former president of Whole Foods, acknowledges the opportunity for retailers. “If there is ample supply, variety and good quality, I believe that the vast majority of the fresh cut flowers in stores like Whole Foods and Wild Oats will be certified organic. It is a good point of differentiation and another chance for environmentally aware shoppers to vote for organic in the marketplace.”
Organic Bouquet recently created an online wholesale division, to make it easy for retailers, flower shops, spas, event planners, restaurants and green hotels to order the company’s full line of sustainably grown flowers.
After several years in development, an international network of growers, and a product pipeline worth more than $100 million worth of eco-blooms, Organic Bouquet finds itself now at the intersection of three powerful growth trends; online flowers (over $1billion flowers sold online in 2004), online gifting, and organic products, each of which are growing at over 20% annually.
Quality and price, usually the bane of the fledgling organic industry, have been successfully resolved, with Organic Bouquet offering prices competitive with major online floral companies including FTD, 1-800-Flowers and Proflowers, with the added bonus that all the flowers Organic Bouquet sells are ecologically grown.
Prolman credits their success with aggressive and cost-effective grass roots marketing initiative targeting consumers who passionately care about social and environmental issues. They have partnered with hundreds of LOHAS businesses and charitable organizations that include Project Hope, PETA, Care, Working Assets and Amnesty International. Through these partnerships, through which organizations use the flowers for fundraising, Organic Bouquet accesses millions of like-minded consumers.
"Both Amnesty International USA and Organic Bouquet share the goal of improving the lives of and securing justice for people throughout the world," said Dr. William F. Schulz, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA. "The life-affirming beauty of flowers is a powerful symbol of hope, just as Amnesty International's candle is a shining beacon for so many whose human rights are threatened. Through this partnership, seeds for a more peaceful and rights-respecting future will be planted."
Prolman envisions a world where are all flowers are grown in a responsible manner.
“Through sheer determination and a stubborn refusal to give in, Gerald Prolman has created the market for organic fresh cut flowers. There will be a time in the future where … the industry will owe Gerald a real debt of gratitude,” added Roy.
Annie Spiegelman is an author, Master Gardener and environmental journalist, who has a monthly horticulture column in the Bay Area’s Pacific Sun and The Marin Independent Journal, entitled “The Dirt Diva.”
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org