Thursday, February 7, 2013

Love is in the air

Ahhh Valentine's Day ... that romantic celebration where we pamper our loved ones with special treats. As with most of our celebrations, Valentine's Day is often filled with less than Eco-friendly items ... huge boxes of candy with a lot of excess packaging, cards which end up in the trash bin, non-organic flowers and even jewelry containing materials which are mined from the earth. In truth, it doesn't seem very loving to exchange gifts which hurt our environment. So let's examine some common Valentine's Day gifts.


Almost everyone likes chocolate. And ... good news ... chocolate is actually heart healthy. But before you go running off to the store for that heart-shaped box of confections, understand that not all chocolate is created equal. Raw cocoa is filled with antioxidants, bioflavonoids, and magnesium ... all good for us. Unfortunately, milk chocolate doesn't share those benefits because adding in dairy products prevents our body from absorbing the "good stuff". And white chocolate isn't really chocolate at all ... it's a mixture of cocoa butter, sugar and vanilla extract. Both milk chocolate and white chocolate often contain hydrogenated oils (bad, bad stuff). Look for dark chocolates with a high percentage of chocolate liquor ... this number is like a badge of honor to manufacturers who produce quality chocolate so if you don't see it on the label, it probably isn't good quality. Be sure to choose certified organic varieties so that your treats don't come with pesticide residue. To ensure that the environment and cocoa farmers are being protected, choose Fair Trade chocolate. One word of caution ... even quality, earth-friendly chocolate contains fat. It's heart-healthy fat similar to fats found in avocados and olives ... but it's still fat. So let moderation be your guide!


Giving a bouquet of flowers is sure to bring a smile to your loved one's face. That is, until your loved one thinks about the cost. No, I'm not talking about the amount of money spent (although that might be an issue as well) ... I'm talking about the environmental cost. Did you know that 85 percent of fresh cut flowers are imported primarily from South America? In 2008 I wrote an article about why fresh flowers are a problem (you can read that post HERE) ... and it seems that things have only gotten worse since then. So, if you must give flowers, choose organic varieties which are locally grown. Consider giving plants or trees instead but ... be sure to ask about where they were grown and how because they can also come from far distances and/or contain pesticides. Here's a clever idea ... choose a dozen packets of flower seeds, attach them to bamboo skewers and tie them together with a ribbon to create a unique, earth-friendly bouquet.


On the most romantic of all days, many couples get engaged. Others express their love with fine jewelry. Diamonds and gold top the list of gems and precious metals used in our most cherished pieces. But what if each piece came with a disclaimer stating that things like mercury, cyanide, and dynamite were used to mine these precious materials? What if, as in the case with "Blood Diamonds", slaves were forced to unearth the gems? Yes, the truth is that the mining process has traditionally been one which destroys the landscape by displacing tons of earth (which typically isn't "put back"), uses toxic chemicals to extract materials and has been associated with slavery. These beautiful pieces don't look so brilliant when we know the facts. When choosing jewelry, look for pieces with recycled gems and metals. If buying new, find out if the materials were mined in an ethical and sustainable method. Consider fair trade items or think outside the box and choose alternate "gems" such as sea glass. Be sure that your "bling" truly represents love and respect.

All The Rest

Cards, parties, going out for dinner ... these are all typical ways that we celebrate Valentine's Day. Here's a question ... how many greeting cards do you actually save? Most people don't save them and that equals a lot of waste. Send egreetings instead ... there are some lovely versions available. If you must send an actual card, make sure it's printed on recycled paper using Eco-friendly ink. Parties are a great way to show your friends that you care ... but they typically include a lot of waste. Reusable plates and utensils, Eco-friendly decorations and plant-based foods will ensure that your party is both fun and kind to the planet. Perhaps your celebration includes a lovely meal at a fine restaurant. Choose a local establishment which employes Eco-friendly, sustainable practices. Do they include local foods on their menu ... are their "take away" containers made of earth-friendly materials ... do they use energy-efficient lighting ... is cooking oil recycled ... do they compost their food scraps? Planning your celebration wisely will ensure that everyone enjoys the event without worry.

Valentine's Day is an advertiser's dream ... they know that we all want to express our feelings to loved ones. So they seduce us with beautiful colors and frills ... and tell us that their products are the best way to say "I love you". But if we purchase items which are full of waste or which include materials that hurt our environment, we're really saying that we don't care. This Valentine's Day, give the gift that respects both the earth and the recipient ... a gift that truly says "I Care".

Now it's your turn ... how do you plan to celebrate Valentine's Day?

Image courtesy of Phaitoon /