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The flower industry has a thorny environmental problem — and plastic is part of itSEDI News

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This week:

  • Thorns are an environmental problem in the flower industry And plastic is only part of it
  • Heat utilization of server farms
  • Explorers are diving deep into the Arctic in search of kelp forests

The flower industry has a thorny environmental problem — and plastic is part of it

Girl holds flowers.
(Daniel Leal/AFP/Getty Images)

Over the past few weeks, mourners have paid tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth Hundreds of thousands of bouquets In royal residences and gardens across the UK

As some found Buckingham Palace, Balmoral, Sandringham and Windsor Castle awash in a sea of ​​floral tributes, others saw something else: plastic.

In central London’s Green Park last Monday – one of many places where people left flowers – workers bundled plastic wrappers and cellophane bags left over from bouquets left in the Queen’s honour. In pictures posted in Daily MailVolunteers were seen cutting wrappers from bouquets, and a large flat-bed truck was loaded with dozens of plastic garbage bags.

Becky Fazby, a sustainable florist and owner of Prairie Girl Flowers in Calgary, said she had two thoughts when she saw the royal tribute. First, the bulk of those flowers were imported. Second, she was struck by the “sheer amount of plastic wrapping”.

“The amount of single-use plastic waste is really staggering,” said Fizby, who is also working on her master’s degree in sustainability at Harvard University.

When thinking about harmful environmental practices, it may not seem natural to consider the flower industry—which, after all, celebrates the beautiful flowers that are grown. of this earth.

“We think of them as gestures of kindness or sympathy or affection,” said Feasby. “But the reality of the global flower industry is that most of our flowers are grown in the Global South and transported around the world in refrigerated cargo jets and trucks, wrapped in plastic and arranged in toxic floral foam.”

Depending on where the flowers come from, industrial farming and pesticides, fertilizers or Water-starved greenhouses said Kai Chan, a professor at the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia and the Canada Research Chair in Rewilding and Social-Ecological Transformation.

“When people come to learn about how harmful the industrial cultivation of flowers is, it doesn’t seem like such a good gift,” Chan said.

Importing exotic or out-of-season blooms — and quickly — to keep them fresh also has a carbon footprint. Canada imported $137.8 million worth of cut flowers and buds for ornamental purposes in 2020, mostly from Colombia, Ecuador, the US and the Netherlands, according to Agriculture Canada. Statistical Overview of the Canadian Ornamental Industry.

Then there’s the packaging, which often includes green floral foam in which the flowers are arranged, and which has been shown to contribute to that. Microplastic pollution of the world. Finally, wrap it all in a plastic or cellophane sleeve.

of Vancouver Montecristo The magazine reports that conventional floristry produces 100,000 tons of plastic waste every year.

Only nine percent of plastic waste worldwide is actually recycled, with the bulk ending up in landfills. 2022 OECD Report. But the type of wrapping used to package the flowers is also light and flimsy, Chan noted, and thus likely to end up in a nearby river, lake or ocean.

If you love fresh flowers—as a gift, as a tribute, or for yourself—there are plenty of ways to make environmentally friendly choices. Support for increasing sustainability in the floral industry is increasing thanks to organizations such as Sustainable Floristry Network And Slow flowersFiesby noted.

You can support farmers of locally grown, seasonal flowers, many of whom use regenerative and organic growing methods. Look for florists who sell their bouquets in reusable paper or reusable glass vases.

This may mean buying your blooms at a local farmers market or directly from a sustainable florist, and it may mean spending a little more money than you would at the grocery store checkout line, Chan said.

“It might still look good, and it would make more sense. And arguably, that’s the point.”

As for the flowers that are decorated Queen’s coffin During her funeral on Monday, they were local and meaningful: Cut from the gardens of Buckingham Palace and Clarence House, they included myrtle grown from a sprig saved from the monarch’s 1947 wedding bouquet.

Natalie Stechison

Reader feedback

Amid the ongoing challenges of reducing one’s carbon footprint, Marilyn Jones This was to say:

“It’s time to go back to the clothesline—at least for sheets and towels. Many people have never known the fresh smell of sun- or wind-dried linen.”

What old issues on earth? It’s right here.

CBC News recently launched a dedicated climate page, which can be found here.

Also, check out our radio show and podcast. Hunting for heat under our feet: this week What on earthWe bring you a feature report from the top of a volcano in BC and explain why a Calgary company is trying to unlock the geothermal energy within. What on earth Now airs Sundays at 11 am ET, 11:30 am in Newfoundland and Labrador. Subscribe to your favorite podcast app or listen to it on demand Listen to CBC.


The Big Picture: Capturing heat from computers

Much of modern life relies on computer servers — from our social media posts to our banking transactions to the documents we share at work. Our increasing reliance on cloud computing has led to the rise of large-scale server farms—incl One in China that is more than 1 million square feet in size. More (and bigger) server farms mean more electricity generated, and that proposition often means more carbon emissions.

Some engineers are looking for ways to use this processing power for something beyond data storage and retrieval. In fact, all those whirring computers give off immense heat, which in turn can be used for energy. In 2017, The BBC did a story At data centers in Stockholm, Sweden, used to heat homes. They do this through direct liquid cooling (DLC), which removes heat from the server through a system of water pipes. a Same system Used in Helsinki.

Last year, there were reports Those cryptocurrency mining operations — often seen as environmentally insensitive, given that they require vast amounts of processing power — could provide a novel form of heating for buildings in North Vancouver.

Banks of computer servers.
(Dean Mohtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Hot and bothered: Exciting ideas from around the web


Explorers are diving deep into the Arctic in search of kelp forests

Divers on a boat.
(Pierre Poirier/Canadian Museum of Nature)

Divers are wrapping up an expedition in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, after a week of studying seaweed biodiversity.

This is an area that has rarely been studied.

For the past few weeks, researchers have been working to track and understand how climate change is affecting seaweed along the coastal waters of Canada’s western Arctic. They also hope to map and study the ecology of arctic kelp forests in the area.

“There’s kind of the idea that there really aren’t any kelp forests around here and not that much seaweed. And so we’re looking to see if that’s true,” said Amanda Savoie, a research scientist at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa and the Centre. Director of For Arctic Knowledge and Exploration, who is leading the project.

Ocean temperature plays a big role in where seaweed grows around the world, Savoie said. As waters warm, the distribution of seaweed species changes, and the Arctic and Antarctic are expected to be most negatively affected.

“We know that the species composition will change and when the water gets too warm arctic kelps will have nowhere else to go. But other kelps will move up from the south,” Savoie said.

“We’re really trying to figure out what’s going on right now, so that if things change in the future, we’ll have a baseline to look back on for the field.”

Joining him as part of the research program is a team of scientists associated with the Arcticnet-funded project Arctic kelp, with Level University and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. So far, the ArcticKelp Project has studied and mapped kelp forests in the eastern Arctic, and this partnership will extend the knowledge to the western Arctic.

Savoie visited Cambridge Bay this spring to meet with community members and a local hunters and trappers organization, where she learned that some in the community are interested in seaweed as a food source. Local knowledge is crucial in finding dive sites, she said.

“We have a local guide who takes us scuba diving on his boat and without him, this study would not be possible. He is very important to our work,” she said.

“I think people are interested in knowing what we find in the marine environment around Cambridge Bay – if there is potential for kelp harvesting in the area.”

Because the tides are shallow there, researchers need to scuba dive to reach the sea weed.

John Lyall Jr., their guide in Cambridge Bay, regularly takes tourists and divers out on the water. He said it creates an exchange of knowledge – he helps them, and in return he sometimes finds new places to dive or learns more about the land.

“It’s really cool,” he said. “I’m glad they’re including us regulars [as] Guides.”

An estimated 175 species of seaweed are known in the Canadian Arctic. The most recent taxonomic survey dates back more than four decades. Arctic specimens collected from RKS Lee’s research in the 1960s and 70s number in the hundreds and are curated at the National Herbarium of Canada in Gatineau, Que.

Savoie and his colleagues hope to add to that collection and collect and identify seaweed species with DNA data.

“I will sequence the objects I collect in the museum to essentially compare their DNA with other seaweed collections from the Arctic and the Atlantic and Pacific.”

Savoie said there is evidence of kelp in the area, “which is really exciting,” but scientists have yet to observe an actual kelp forest. These habitats resemble tropical rainforests – hotspots for biodiversity, hosting other seaweeds and providing food and shelter for fish and invertebrates.

The multi-year program started in August and ended this week. Savoie said he hopes to return next year.

“With this baseline, we’ll be able to compare and see changes. We don’t know what the Arctic will look like in 20 or 30 years … I think it could be quite different from what we’re seeing now.”

Chantal Dubuque

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