Valentine’s Day is supposed to be a day of love, but we don’t tend to show much love to our planet on February 14th. Between the flowers, chocolate, jewelry, and cards, the 124 million people in the United States who celebrate Valentine’s Day are generating a lot of paper and packaging waste. Plus, creating many of these products can be harmful to the environment and the people making them as well. By altering the way you do a few traditions this year, you can show a lot more love towards the environment in your Valentine’s Day celebrations
Create Your Own Cards
On Valentine’s Day in the U.S., people swap an average of 180 million greeting cards. Switch the paper cards you send for digital cards instead. If you need physical cards for celebrations in the classroom, make your own paper cards with your kids. Not only are these more unique and sustainable than store-bought cards, but they make for a fun activity to do with your family. Plus, paper can be recycled as long as you don’t add glitter, foil, or plastic to the card.
Pick Fair Trade Flowers
For centuries people have used flowers, especially roses, as a way to express their love for one another. However, the floriculture industry has some negative implications for both the
environment and the workers producing them. On average, Americans purchase 198 million stems of roses on Valentine’s Day. Many of these flower exports come from the Netherlands, Columbia, Kenya, Ecuador, and Ethiopia. Since flowers are not edible crops, the industry has very loose regulations. This includes the use of pesticides such as methyl bromide, which is banned for use in the US. This chemical is toxic to the workers farming these flowers, and is also five times more destructive to the environment than carbon dioxide.
The floriculture industry in South American countries also often has negative effects on the farmers. On rose farms that are not Fair Trade certified, workers often work seven days a week, are not paid fair wages, and are exposed to harmful chemicals and pesticides. If you’re purchasing roses this year, make sure that they are coming from Fair Trade certified farms. Most natural foods stores carry Fair Trade Certified Flowers. You can also eliminate the carbon footprint of importing flowers by purchasing from a local organic flower stand in your community instead. Try this resource for finding a local sustainable flower farmer in your neighborhood.
Buy Better Chocolate
On average, Americans will consume 58 million pounds of chocolate this Valentine’s Day. The cocoa beans used to produce most of this chocolate are grown in West Africa, where most
people can’t afford chocolate themselves. To plant new cocoa trees, many farmers clear tropical forests, which has amounted to widespread deforestation. In the Ivory Coast, experts estimate that cocoa farming is responsible for 70% of the country’s deforestation
. Cocoa tree farms in West Africa also often use child labor in growing, harvesting, and transporting cocoa beans.
If you’re purchasing chocolate for Valentine’s Day this year, make sure it is Fair Trade Certified. You can find Fair Trade Certified chocolate at your local natural foods store, or by searching the Fair Trade products database. It’s also important to look for the Fair Trade certification logo on the packaging. By purchasing Fair Trade chocolate you’re supporting farmers, their communities, better practices for our environment, and fair labor.
Give a Gift In Your Valentine’s Honor
Rather than buying gifts this year, consider giving a donation in your loved one’s name instead. For example, the non-profit Power of Love Foundation runs projects in Zambia and India targeted towards helping women and children infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Their vision is a world where the AIDS epidemic is in continuous retreat, and people living with HIV have access to loving care and treatment in an environment free of stigma and discrimination.
With a little research and knowledge, you can make sure your Valentine’s Day gift giving is more ethical and easier on the environment.