This Valentine's Day, I'm hoping for a bunch of daffs. Not as classy as roses maybe. Certainly not as expensive. But home-grown, seasonal and a blast of cheery colour to brighten up my day.
Why such a Grinch? Well, for starters, any bunch of roses to be found in Ireland in February has probably travelled halfway across the world from Kenya or Equador or Colombia where a single rose requires about three gallons of water to grow. In rain-drenched Ireland that might not seem a problem, but it's a different matter in Colombia, where ground water levels have plunged as a result of wells drilled to feed their thirsty flower industry.
There are labour issues and health risks too for low paid flower workers in these countries who are exposed to a cocktail of pesticides. And then there is the carbon footprint of refrigeration and transport to the bloom hub of Holland where roughly 12bn flowers a year are processed before some of them make the final hop to Ireland.
Bouquets are big business. In 2018, according to Bord Bia, the total cut flower market was worth €69m, an increase of 23pc since 2016, of which we imported €42m.
We're big spenders when it comes to Hallmark occasions so small changes in how we buy could add up to a lot of consumer power.
So how do you make a more sustainable choice? "Question where the flowers were grown," says flower farmer Taylor Nelsen, who grows chemical-free blooms to sell in the English Market in Cork. "Realise flowers are a crop and every flower has a season, like food - if you're buying a rose in winter, it's probably not grown in Europe. A lot of supermarkets do local tulips and daffodils in spring, think about that as an alternative."
Think then of choosing flowers as you would your weekly food shop - buy local, in season and as sustainably produced as you can.
That's not as difficult as it might once have been. Ireland has seen an increase in flower farmers who are embracing pesticide-free and pollinator-friendly methods. And the plus is that there isn't a cliched bunch of red roses among them. Take a look, for example, at Burren Flower Farm (theburrenflowerfarm.ie) where Sarah Wells creates fantastical bouquets of lichen, berries, dried fern and foraged foliage or Hanako Floral Studio's romantic arrangements that look like something from a painting by a Dutch Master.
But it is still a challenge in February. Ruth Monahan of Appassionata Flowers is expecting about 3,000 roses to arrive to her shops this week. "People always think of one big bouquet for Valentine's Day, no matter how much we try and push more interesting flowers - the 12 red roses, it's always the best-seller."
Men, she says - and they make up 80pc of her Valentine's Day customers - tend to think the bigger, the better. (There's also brisk business on February 15 and 16 for what Monahan calls the 'sorry' market - or those who missed the day.)
"Men think that women want white roses or red roses for Valentine's but more often than not they would be happy with a more wild or unique bunch," adds Nelsen. You could, for example, give a voucher for a sustainably grown Irish bouquet, from one of the growers on flowerfarmersofireland.ie.
Monahan suggests choosing gifts that have an after-life - such as a potted plant or pretty bowl of spring bulbs such as narcissi, fritillaria, crocus, hellebores or hyacinth. Once they have bloomed and gone you can store them to use for next year.
Other ideas are to extend the life of a bouquet by breaking it up into smaller arrangements when the soft blooms fade and potting them up in jars, or to bulk up with Irish-grown foliage or bare branches or even to hang a bunch upside-down to dry so it can keep for months. "Reuse and recycle," says Monahan.
Monahan hails from Sligo and has noticed biodiversity and pollinators drop off a cliff edge over the last decade. As a result she is very aware of the carbon footprint of the flower industry and has made her supply chain more sustainable, from sourcing biodegradable cellophane and packaging, to wherever possible avoiding foam or 'oasis', which breaks down into microplastics and has to be disposed of in landfill.
There are others like her. At The Garden Flower Shop in Powerscourt Townhouse, for example, most of their foliage is home-grown, and in summer they supply some of their own flowers from their allotments.
"But," says Monahan, "the industry as a whole has been quite slow to change."
And this is when we can give it a nudge.