If Valentine's Day is an important celebration for you and
the one you love, you can show a bit of extra love for the
environment and its citizens by carefully considering what you buy and how you
At Valentine's Day, many people’s thoughts
turn to images of heart-shaped boxes of chocolates. Fortunately, hearts
and chocolate go very well together...especially if it's high
quality dark chocolate. Scientists at the
John Hopkins University School of Medicine have found that a few
squares of dark chocolate a day can reduce the risk of a heart
attack by almost fifty percent in some people. Apparently, substances
in cocoa beans have a biochemical effect similar to aspirin in
reducing blood platelet clumping, which can be fatal if it leads to
a clot that blocks a blood vessel. In other words, it functions in
the same way as aspirin in preventing heart attacks.
Good quality, dark chocolate is a heart-healthy gift, but be careful
who produced it.
However healthy dark chocolate might be, it's not necessarily
good for those who produce it. Many cocoa plantations around the world use child
labor. The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA,) based in West Africa, reports that
more than 284,000 children are working without protection in hazardous conditions on cocoa farms, which are heavily sprayed with pesticides and insecticides.
Save the Children Canada reports that 15,000 children between the ages of nine
and twelve have been sold into forced labor on cocoa farms on the Ivory Coast, West
Africa, in the last few years. However, you can give a gift of chocolate without guilt
by purchasing Fair Trade products.
Wine is another staple of a loving celebration. So be sure that the wine you
buy to toast your Valentine is made from organically grown grapes. Most organic wines
also contain no added sulfites as preservatives, so your red wine toast won't
cause her to have a headache! Organic wines from local growers are the most
environmentally-friendly choice because they have not been shipped long
You'll want to turn the lights down low while you're celebrating with that
Fair Trade dark chocolate and organic wine. And that's always a great way to
save energy! But be sure that the candles you choose are made from beeswax or
soy instead of paraffin. They are made from natural materials, will last longer
and you won't be dirtying the air with soot. Unscented is better for your true
love's health, since most commercial scents contain harmful chemicals.
Flowers are the other favorite gift for Valentine's Day. Unfortunately,
giving a gift of cut flowers may not be the wonderful expression of love that
you intend it to be. That’s because whenever you or a loved one touches or
inhales the scent of your conventional bouquet, you are likely touching or
inhaling poisonous chemicals.
The floral industry is one of the heaviest users of hazardous agricultural
and processing pesticides. In addition, the majority of flowers sold in North
America are imported from countries like Ecuador and Columbia, where labor
practices are sometimes questionable. Studies by the International Labor Organization and Ecuador’s Catholic
University have found that many farm and post-harvest workers complain of
pesticide-poisoning symptoms. Women, who represent 70 percent of all rose
workers, experience significantly elevated rates of miscarriages and birth
Locally grown, certified flower bouquets will say "I love you" without
subjecting your Valentine or the growers with pesticides.
So be sure you look for flowers and ornamental plants certified with the
Veriflora label. This certification program requires growers to use
pesticide-free, sustainable agriculture methods and includes fair treatment of
workers (health benefits, safe labor practices, fair wages, the right to
organize, etc.), water conservation, habitat protection, waste management and a
commitment to energy efficiency and responsible packaging. Bouquets with this
certification are increasingly available both in stores and online. Better
still, give flowers grown locally – again, increasingly
available. You might not be able to find local roses in February, so try to keep
an open mind as you choose.
An alternative to cut flowers is to buy your sweetheart some rose bushes. For
the price of a dozen roses, you will be able to give a gift certificate worth a
few bushes, which will yield many dozens of cut flowers over the years. You
could bundle the gift certificate with tickets for a spring garden show. Or,
better still, take your loved one to a Seedy Saturday event.
Jewelry is another traditional Valentine's Day gift that's fraught with eco
problems. Half of all newly mined gold comes from indigenous lands. And, by some
estimates, the production of one simple gold ring results in twenty tons of mine
waste. The world's trade in diamonds is a cartelized, multi-billion dollar
industry, which damages human rights and has environmental and legal
Fortunately, there is no need to purchase new jewelry, because there are many
opportunities to choose pre-owned jewelry from a vintage shop or even a pawn
shop. Another option is to buy recycled jewelry, such as jewelry made from
post-consumer gold or, if your Valentine is particularly special, give
a family heirloom piece. Local artisans are also a great source of
We've been conditioned to think that spraying ourselves with perfume (and
thus giving it as a gift) is sexy. In fact, nothing could be farther from the
truth. The scents in perfumed products are made from petroleum products and many toxic chemicals.
Certain fragrances and their chemical constituents can trigger an allergic, rather than an aphrodisiac,
response. Fragrance is increasingly cited as a trigger in health conditions such as
asthma, allergies and migraine headaches. So rather than a gift of perfume,
consider a gift certificate for a session at an organic spa, or a yoga class
Ever since we have been in kindergarten, Valentine's cards have been an
important part of the celebration. However, a more planet-friendly choice is to
dispense with paper cards altogether in favor of some of the above options. Or
send an e-card. If that doesn't seem romantic enough, there are many attractive
cards made on recycled or tree-free paper, many made by local craftspeople. Or recycle some old cards and make
your own one-of-a-kind keepsake.