May 6, 2023
It is tacky to leave a price tag on a Mother’s Day gift, but some other kinds of tags and labels are useful.
Labels printed on the back of Mother’s Day greeting cards might be convenient if you want your mother to know how her card affected the environment. The holiday falls on May 14 this year.
Such labels can provide useful environmental information. A good statement says, “Printed on recycled paper.” A better one says, “Printed on post-consumer recycled paper.” Distinguishing the type of recycled paper is important so you know it wasn’t made from mill scrap or other post-industrial sources, which likely would have been recycled anyway, regardless of consumer demand for recycled products.
The best cards specify not only post-consumer content, but the amount. The label might say, “Printed on 30% post-consumer recycled content.” The term “post-consumer” signifies paper processed through collection systems, which may have otherwise gone to a landfill. Using products made from post-consumer material increases market demand for recyclables, powering our country’s recycling system by making recycling more cost-effective.
Many cards include a statement, “Printed on responsibly sourced paper.”
“That means nothing,” said Nicole Kurian, legislative director of Californians Against Waste. “A card with that printed statement should at least include a certification from the Forest Stewardship Council,” she added, referencing an organization certifying responsible practices, such as replanting, erosion prevention and habitat preservation beyond minimum standards required by law.
A label with the term “recyclable” may have little meaning, especially if it includes the caveat “where appropriate recycling programs are available.”
In Ventura County, cards should go into curbside recycling carts only if they don’t include glitter, ribbon or other attachments. Cards with battery-powered electronic elements might be the worst environmentally. Avid recyclers will be burdened with detaching the battery to bring it to a drop-off center.
Flowers are another common Mother’s Day gift and can also have labels. California produces more than 74% of cut flowers grown in the United States, a $10.3 billion industry, according to Californiagrown.org, the eponymous website of a nonprofit cooperative marketing organization. California Grown certifies agricultural products grown in the state and authorizes growers to use a label stating, in gold letters on a blue background: “CA GROWN.” The logo is in the shape and font of standard California license plates.
A coalition of American flower farms licenses a similar certification program designating flowers grown in the United States. The organization’s logo — a red, white and blue heart with stars in the upper left corner — includes the phrase: “Certified American Grown Flowers: Take pride in your flowers.”
The provenance of flowers is important not just for patriotic pride, but also for environmental reasons. The less a product travels, generally, the lower its carbon footprint from trucking and shipping. American flowers are also grown under U.S. labor and environmental standards.
More than 500 acres of Ventura County cropland and greenhouses produce cut flowers, with an annual value over $30 million, according to the most recent Ventura County Crop Report. Buying flowers at a local farmers market is a good way to ensure your flowers are grown nearby.
“Each certified farmers market manager selects which certified producers can sell at their market,” said John Beall, the county’s deputy agricultural commissioner. “Flowers are not necessarily from Ventura County. However, our office ensures the sellers at certified farmers markets are selling only what they grow, so if the farmer drove here that morning, the flowers are probably not grown too far away.”
Flowers may also be certified organic. There are 30 acres of organic cut flowers and nursery stock in Ventura County, according to the crop report. Beall said his office also verifies third-party organic certification at certified farmers markets.
The “organic” label from California Certified Organic Farmers could be a meaningful addition to a heartfelt Mother’s Day gift of flowers.
David Goldstein, an environmental resource analyst with the Ventura County Public Works Agency, can be reached at 805-658-4312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.