When we think of Valentine’s Day, a romantic dinner with flowers, wine, a beautifully cooked meal and chocolates comes to mind as the typical Valentine’s Day date. Our actions are made with good intentions although many of us do not know the full implications of how our Valentine’s Day choices impact the environment and societies– including us!
No one wants to think about the potential pesticides sprayed on their food, the green house gas emissions from transporting flowers, or the child or slave labor used to harvest cocoa beans for chocolate. When viewing these impacts, Valentine’s Day is actually quite depressing!
Don’t despair! There are many choices available that don’t have such a huge impact on the environment and humans. It’s easy to impress your loved ones even more this year and show them the extra care you took in putting a new ‘eco-friendly twist’ on your Valentine’s Day celebrations by passing your efforts and gifts through a sustainability ‘lens’. Your mission is to look for choices that:
1. Reduce the use of petroleum and its by-products
2. Are non-toxic
3. Support the health of natural systems
4. Support fair wages and international labor standards
Here are some suggestions for you:
Romantic Dinner – whether it’s a night out or a home cooked meal, one of the best ways to incorporate sustainability into your meal planning is to find a restaurant that offers organic options or uses locally grown produce in their meals. Check out www.localharvest.org/restaurants to search for one near you. If you’d rather stay at home and exercise your culinary skills, focus on organic and/or locally grown foods. The benefit is you reduce your carbon footprint, are in support of local agriculture and agriculture initiatives that protect the planet and your long-term health. If you choose to splash out on seafood, look for fish varieties that are certified by sustainable seafood initiatives like Marine Stewardship Council. Finally, when choosing a bottle of wine, the perfect pairing for any meal is choosing a wine that is made as locally as possible to reduce the use of petroleum in its transport from the vineyard to your table.
Candle Lit Romance – Candles are perfect for setting the mood – at the dinner table, to lead up to a surprise or to relax in the bath! While the US Food and Drug Administration deem paraffin wax non-toxic, it is made from hydrocarbons (a byproduct of petroleum), a substance we need to shift away from. As well, some candles contain chemical based fragrances and wicks with lead wires – both a big no-no from a toxicity point of view. Your best alternatives are to look for candles made from 100% beeswax or vegetable based-wax, use cotton wicks and natural aromatherapy oils for fragrance.
Chocolates – Hmmm – many of us cannot get enough of this dark, sweet, white and dipped stuff, especially on holidays! The sad reality of the chocolate industry is that it has a reputation as dark as the sweet treat. Slave and child labor, unfair wages to farmers and pesticides used in the growth of cocoa beans for chocolate are issues that continue to plague the chocolate industry. Recently Purdy’s Chocolates committed to sustainable cocoa farming initiatives and companies such as Divine Chocolate USA, which is 45% owned by the farmers, are great options for your chocolate gifts from a sustainability perspective.
Flowers – The classic and much loved way to express your sentiments on so many occasions are to send flowers. Although beautiful, the ugly truth is hidden from view: almost 90% of the roses sold for Valentine's Day have a huge carbon-footprint and are pesticide intense in their cultivation. According to Justmeans.com, “In Colombia, flower-plantation workers are exposed to 127 types of pesticides and flower farms have polluted and depleted Bogota's streams and groundwater. 20% of these pesticides are illegal in Europe and America.” If you give flowers to your loved one this year, choose an organic bouquet if possible from one of these retailers: www.organicbouquet.com, www.californiaorganicflowers.com, or flowers sold at Whole Foods, Trader Joes or on www.flowerbud.com that are “Veriflora Certified Flowers”.
Typically these ‘alternative’ choices do not cost more than traditional ones and the added benefit is to know your choices are contributing to maintaining your health and the health of the environment. I couldn’t think of a better gift to receive on Valentine’s Day!
To your green family success!