St Valentine’s Day, sustainability, confusion.

I love this nation’s obsession with sustainability. It’s a great aspiration – the newest of the status symbols – one for the clever people.

I jump on the bandwagon too from time to time. I can’t help a nagging smugness about reducing my carbon footprint by cycling into work, owning ‘only’ one family car, etc., but I know, in my heart of hearts, that I’m just as bad as anyone else.

However, I didn’t really want to talk about me (let’s just assume that I’m a fairly responsible person who could do better, could do worse). I was really enamoured by the story of MP Hilary Benn, who (honourably) challenged the product-miles mantra and suggested that we (in the UK) should buy our loved ones’ Valentine’s Day roses from Africa. The minister told a sustainable food conference that emissions produced by growing flowers in Kenya and flying them to the UK can be less than a fifth of those grown in heated and lighted greenhouses in Holland.

This is ground breaking stuff. Sort of. The nice middle class sustainable people (no offence, I’m including me) were all getting settled into the routine that local is good. Then this type of thinking comes along…. Grrrrrrr….

So – we’ve adjusted our thinking – and come round to the notion that we should woo our loved ones with the lower carbon roses from Africa. That’s the right thing to do.

BUT – hang on – as this article in the BBC site illustrates, sustainability is about three (usually conflicting) areas – economic, social and environmental. We’re so often drawn into the environmental (particularly by the mainstream media), that we tend to give a lot less thought to the other two.
Venn the boat comes in I. this case, this means thinking about the implications (by European Federation of Professional Florist Associations general secretary Toine Zwitserlood) that child labour is a big thing in the African floral industry (we’re on to the social bit of the Venn diagram now). This thought sends us liberal do-gooders scurrying into our holes. Where the hell do we get our flowers from now???

Luckily, I just gave Katie a card this year. Probably not even recycled. Am I good or bad?

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