Chocolate or Flowers?
Is green the new red? What are the best ways to express your love and minimize your Valentine's Day carbon footprint? Tell us your favorite organic chocolate, where you found fair trade or organic flowers, or your tips on making a Valentine from recycled materials. Share your ideas with our community here - and check out the tips from our green team! What are the best ways to express your love and minimize your Valentine’s Day carbon footprint? As we take time to celebrate love and relationships, it is ironic that our gifts can leave a trail of unintended consequences for the ecosystems and planet supporting those gifts – from pesticide run-off to child labor. For both chocolate and candy, impacts occur in three dimensions: agriculture, transport, and labor. As we discussed with Christmas trees, agricultural practices can have significant impacts related to water, pesticides, fertilizers, and subsequent run-off and pollution. Around 70% of flowers sold in the US are imported, the majority from Latin and South America, but some from Africa and Europe as well. Some are sent by ship, some by plane – can you see the carbon plume that follows. In addition to the land and water required to grow the flowers, there is still significant use of pesticides and chemicals that are banned in the US. This is not a problem for your loved one, but for the workers and land up rears those unintended consequences. A 2 lb. shipment of flowers can end up emitting 3 times that measure of greenhouse gas emissions. Chocolate is made from two extracts from the seeds of the Cacao tree – originally from South America – cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Mixed in different proportions with a handful of other ingredients like sugar, flavorings, or stabilizers, these two main ingredients yield all the magical varieties we have come to love. Much of this cocoa comes from Africa, where there is a long history of slavery and still unresolved issues of unfair and child labor practices. The same agricultural concerns exist here as well. Before I tell you to buy this or that, we should try to mix things up a bit. Where did this chocolate and flowers thing come from? I am not saying to go get a "diamond that is forever," but it is strange that for this holiday, the gifts are especially disposable and consumable. Thanks to you who have shared such great suggestions. This year I will suggest to my partner that we plant some bulbs instead, spend time taking care of the garden together, and then enjoy the spring time. [I will let you know how it goes.] Now, for what you can buy. US Organic labels can apply to both food and flowers, so, whether it is chocolate or flowers, be sure to buy certified organic. This helps ensure that no pesticides, chemicals or fertilizers were used in the production of the goodies. Veriflora, at www.veriflora.org, is a trustworthy certification seal specifically for flowers and plants. Fair Trade takes sustainability to the economic and social dimensions as well – ensuring minimum wages and safe-working conditions – and there are certifications for coffee as well as our current focus. Follow these links for more information about where to buy these. http://www.transfairusa.org/content/flowers/where.php http://www.transfairusa.org/content/certification/licensees2.php#cocoa In addition to the steps above, here are some things to thing about: • Buy local • Buy seeds or potted plants – or a gift that isn’t disposable • Minimize waste and transportation for the gifts Here are some other resources that might help: Grist published a great list of Eco-Chocolates! Look for local organic shops here: http://www.localharvest.org/organic-flowers.jsp http://www.ecobusinesslinks.com/organic_flowers.htm You can find organic flowers at the following stores – after checking your local resources, of course: http://www.organicbouquet.com/ http://stores.ebay.com/beyond-bouquets Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours!! Josh S. Live Earth Green Team