Safer stems

Every year, Americans spend nearly $20 billion on fresh flowers, and with Valentines Day upon us that number is sure to skyrocket.

To satisify our insasable lust for fresh blooms, nearly 70 percent are imported from places like Latin America, according to the Society of American Florists.

While this can represent an economic boon for some countries, overuse of pesticides and lack of protections for female workers can cause serious health effects for those women's children. A 2006 Harvard study discovered neurological impairment in children of female workers in Ecuador's flower industry, due to pesticide exposure during pregnancy.

Before settling for just another conventional bouquet, try choosing a healthy, eco-concious option. Many organic and fair trade flowers are just as beautiful and safe for workers, too. While shopping, look for these greener clues:

Fair Trade Certified - This label means flowers have come from a sustainable farm, that provides fair wages and safe working conditions.

USDA Organic Certified - No synthetic pesticides or fertilizers were used on these flowers.

Veraflora - This third-party determinded the flowers and workers are protected during production.

Rainforest Alliance Certified - The green frog lets shoppers know the farm follows the Sustainable Agriculture Network standards, which limit the use of pesticides and provides services like education and healthcare to its workers.

There are many green flower farms and florists across Seattle. Here's a few options:

Terra Bella Flowers - The experts at this Veraflora-certified, Greenwood shop specialize in organic garden-style designs, using a unique assortment of sustainable and locally grown flowers. They also offer private floral design lessons.

Jello Mold Farm - Based in the Skagit Valley, the farm offers more than 150 varieties of flowers grown on seven acres. Blooms are slod across Seattle (or specific locations, check the farm's website).

Marigold and Mint - Located in Capitol Hill's Melrose Market, the floral femme fatals of this shop grow their stock, offer a wide variety of options and can design a bang-up display for any occasion.