As I sat down to write an article addressing the environmental impact of Valentine’s Day, I first decided to scan the internet for some insight on current reactions surrounding celebrating this day. I am surprised at just how many people are against, and not for environmental considerations, the idea of Valentine’s Day. But I feel in the current days of our fast paced lives we take many things for granted and it is important to acknowledge this holiday, using it as a gentle reminder to express to those around you how much you care for and love them. For this day that was first associated with romanticism during the middle-ages, the worldwide tradition of expressions of love have flourished and evolved into environment damaging gift giving practices; presenting pesticide sprayed flowers, offering more than 36 million boxes of chocolates, and sending about one billion Valentine’s Day paper greeting cards. My focus then is to encourage everyone to choose ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day gift giving that reduces the heavy negative impact this holiday has on our environment. The following suggestions only address three of the many offerings of love and affection made on this day:
Cards: Skip the new $4.00 wood pulp paper card with the generic message that gets tossed in the trash the next day! Opt instead for writing your own declarations of love on recycled paper or up-cycled cards (old messages cut off of course then card fronts can be re-used). If you are poetically challenged you can buy cards made from recycled paper or sustainable fiber paper such as hemp. Paper production ranks among the most resource-intensive and highly polluting of all manufacturing. The process uses a huge amount of water, energy, chemicals, and forest resources, and releases a large amount of toxic chemicals into surrounding water and air. Use of recycled paper pulp significantly reduces the amount of energy, chemicals, and resources in production and also keeps paper out of landfills where, when decomposing, it produces methane a greenhouse gas. Additionally, sustainable resources like hemp used in paper production help to preserve our forests.
Chocolates: Really, what would Valentine’s Day be without some chocolate! Chocolate is a favorite worldwide. If giving a Valentine’s Day gift of sweets- make it Fair Trade Chocolate. The growing of cocoa used to make chocolate is a very difficult task undertaken by about 6 million small family farms providing 90% of the world’s supply. For all their hard work in tropical environments, protecting this fragile crop from sun, wind, disease, and pests, these cocoa farmers live in a poverty income level getting very little from a global market that is very profitable. When we consider the impact on the environment we must think of the natural as well as the people affected. Fair Trade provides sustainability through payment of fair market prices and added premiums to invest in projects so cocoa farmers are better able to provide for themselves and their communities.
Flowers: Mention Valentine’s Day gifts and I’m sure the first image that comes to mind is a bouquet of red roses. Don’t cut the flowers! Give a recycled paper plant-able card whose message can be relayed and then planted to provide ongoing enjoyment as a beautiful flower spot in the recipient’s garden. Or present a beautiful recycled trinket box filled with seeded paper to replant and then the box can be reused to hold special items. It is estimated almost 2.1 billion dollars will be spent on flowers this Valentine’s Day. I wonder if this number would decrease if people realized the harsh effects of the cut flower industry. A large number of flowers coming into the USA are from less economically developed countries. Using a large amount of pesticides to grow, the methods are detrimental to the health of workers and also to the environment surrounding the flower plantations. The energy required by air-conditioned trucks to transport the cut blooms is enormous with significant carbon emissions. If a cut flower gift is a must, it is better to look for shops that offer organic and sustainable flowers that are grown locally.
Keeping the focus on the health of the environment and the well-being of mankind, many eco-friendly gift ideas for celebrating Valentine’s Day will come to mind. Please share your earth friendly ideas on our Blog, Facebook, or Twitter pages.
Lynn Lavanga is owner of Stylish Organics, an e-commerce boutique combining fashionable styling with eco-friendly thinking. Stylish Organics offers a refreshing collection of earth savvy products selected for their organic, eco-friendly, natural, or sustainable properties. Their one-stop-shopping venue and their collection of products for every member of your family make it easy to live a green lifestyle.
Selected from manufacturers employing green practices, organic clothing; natural skin care; eco-friendly jewelry; recycled paper and plant-able paper cards; sustainable furniture; eco home decor; organic pet treats; and a selection of eco-friendly gifts, are among the products offered by Stylish Organics. Many of the products found at http://www.stylishorganics.com are fair trade or made in the USA.
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