Earth Friendly: Add a little green to your Valentine's Day celebration
By Meridith Byrd
Love is in the air. Stores are filled with an array of Valentine's Day goodies: teddy bears, chocolates, cards, balloons and flowers. Everywhere you turn, there are hearts, doves, cupids and splashes of red. For centuries, Valentine's Day has been observed by couples as a day to celebrate their love with tokens of affection. Mass-produced paper valentines first became popular in England in the early 1800s, and a tradition was born.
So, what's a green-minded person to do when confronted with a holiday traditionally celebrated with paper cards, roses and candy?
If your beloved has a green thumb, give him or her a locally-grown plant that can be transplanted into a pot or a flower bed and enjoyed for years to come. Many of the cut flowers found at floral shops have been imported, often from poorer tropical countries where there is little in the way of pesticide regulation. A 1997 study conducted by the Environmental Working Group concluded that foreign-grown roses can contain 50 times more pesticide residue on their petals than what is allowed on imported food. In the years following the study, pesticide use has decreased somewhat, but these flowers still carry a heavy pesticide load and the farming methods are extremely hard on the environment.
BUY ORGANIC, LOCAL AND FAIR-TRADE TREATS
Wine and chocolate, what more could you ask for? Think organic, local and fair trade. Look for organic chocolates at the grocery store. Some brands, such as Newman's Own and Endangered Species Chocolates, sport the Rainforest Alliance Certified seal, which signifies that the cocoa was "grown on farms that meet comprehensive standards for sustainable farming, protecting soil, waterways and wildlife habitat as well as the rights and welfare of workers, their families and communities."
Wikipedia defines fair trade as "an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries make better trading conditions and promote sustainability." The fair trade philosophy promotes paying a higher price to producers and encourages higher social and environmental standards. Chocolate, cocoa and flowers are some of the major goods produced by fair trade growers.
If your Valentine is the sentimental type who enjoys receiving cards, look for a card that is made of 100 percent recycled paper. Better yet, skip the card altogether and tell your love what is in your heart. Think outside the wrapped gift box and find a creative way to wrap your Valentine's gifts in containers that can be reused. Assemble a beautiful arrangement of Texas wine and organic, fair-trade candy, and anything else you can think of in a pretty wicker basket that can later be used for storage.
Meridith Byrd is a marine biologist and invites readers to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.