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Mother's Day flowers: You really shouldn't have

May 09, 2012|By Alexandra Le Tellier
  • Roses, imported from Ecuador for Mother's Day, sit to be inspected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists for pests and diseases in Los Angeles.
Roses, imported from Ecuador for Mother's Day, sit to be inspected… (David McNew / Getty Images )

Mother’s Day flowers may seem like a nice enough gift, albeit predictable, but is a bouquet the most thoughtful way to honor your mom or, for that matter, mother nature? The folks at Freakanomics Radio broached this topic on Marketplace, asking: “We live in a day and age where people are obsessed with ‘food miles’ and the carbon footprint of everything they consume. So where is the outrage over these globe-trotting Mother’s Day flowers?” 

The majority of the flowers sold in the U.S. are imported from around the globe, specifically South America. And while our floral indulgences are being grown in greenhouses with chemicals that harm workers’ health and the environment before they are flown and then driven to our local floral outlets, the flower industry is raking in billions.

When framed through that lens, Mother’s Day flowers no longer seem as appealing a gift. Especially when you consider that the flowers die after a few days anyway.

There are alternatives for the eco-minded among us, such as locally produced and field-grown flowers. And, there’s the option of plastic flowers -- though even Susanne Freidberg, the Dartmouth College professor of geography who advocated for this on the Freakanomics segment, says, “I would never give plastic flowers to my mom.” (For the record, neither would I.)

But you can do better, for your mom, for mother nature and for motherhood. The Strong Families initiative, which is dedicated to supporting the “rights, recognition and resources” needed for families to thrive, would like to remind us that “Mother's Day was originally founded as an antiwar rallying cry. A day to celebrate mothers is much more than a day for flowers and pancakes.”

To that end, the New York Times’ Opinion columnist Nicholas Kristof suggests we celebrate Mothers' Day instead of Mother's Day. Flowers are fleeting, he writes.  “[C]ommemorate motherhood by saving the lives of mothers halfway around the world -- such as in this impoverished nook of Somaliland in the horn of Africa. […] If there’s ever a time when the needless deaths of women in childbirth -- one every 90 seconds or so somewhere in the world, according to the United Nations -- should be on our radar screen, it’s at Mother’s Day. And we know how to save those lives.”

Too late to book a volunteer vacation? You can always donate money via the Mothers' Day Movement. “When we learned that $14 billion is spent annually in the United States on Mother's Day celebrations on things such as flowers, cards and meals, we were astonished,” the founders of the movement write on  their website. “Given the number of women and children suffering globally, and here at home, we believe it is time to rethink our giving priorities each Mother's Day.”


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Follow Alexandra Le Tellier on Twitter @alexletellier. Follow Opinion L.A. on Twitter and Facebook.

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