To illustrate, let’s take the Old Way of doing V-Day and contrast it with the Green Way.
OLD WAY: BUY A CARD
Thinking of buying a Valentine’s card? You’re not alone — The Greeting Card Association estimates that approximately one billion Valentine cards are sent worldwide each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year behind Christmas. One billion. How many trees does that represent? Not to mention the gas burned by the mail trucks. As a friend of the Earth, perhaps you ought to reconsider.
GREEN WAY: E-CARD IT
Send your beloved an e-card and send the environment a Valentine at the same time. I like Blue Mountain.com for its wide selection of humorous and “talking pet” cards. Another great e-card site is Jacquie Lawson. I’m so hooked on these e-cards with their clever, colorful animation and customizable features that I hardly send the snail mail kind anymore.
If the electronic love note doesn’t float your boat, how about recycling some old Valentine cards into a custom-made eco-collage? (See — those old cards you’ve been saving came in handy after all! Aren’t you glad now you didn’t have that ex-boyfriend/girlfriend bonfire? Anyway, bonfires are polluting.)
OLD WAY: STORE-BOUGHT BLOOMS
Bestowing a bouquet? Sorry to discourage you, but flowers from florists are trucked from far away and are grown with pesticides. A 1997 report by the Environmental Working Group stated that commercially grown roses contain one thousand times the cancer-causing pesticides that food products do. (Now there’s a gift that keeps on giving.) Besides, cut flowers die in a few days. I don’t know about you, but that always makes me sad. You don’t want your Valentine to be sad, do you?
GREEN WAY: OXYGEN FACTORY
Instead, wouldn’t it be romantic to plant a tree together? If you don’t have a yard, plant one in a friend’s yard – or contact a local Green organization (in L.A., there’s TreePeople). Or contact the Arbor Day Foundation for help planting one somewhere else. They can tell you what kind of tree to plant — hopefully one that’s native to your region — and where to plant it. Then, every time you see that tree fruit or flower, it’ll remind you of your beloved and that special day. Even if the relationship ends, the tree will still be there. That’s what I call “sustainable romance.”
If a tree’s not your cup of fair trade tea, how about a flowering organically grown rosebush or other ready-to-plant shrub? Look for a local organic nursery such as Louie’s in CA’s Inland Empire.
You could also make your own flowers. What’s that? You can’t simply point at the ground and command flowers to leap into life? Should you be lacking godlike powers, fear not – you can still create beautiful bouquets. Here’s a tutorial on making flowers from recycled tissue paper. Or check out our own Dow Yung-Kou’s how-to on making flower-like ornaments out of used wrapping and tissue paper.
Who but the most disciplined dieter can resist the iconic heart-shaped box of chocolates, either as giver or receiver? The good news is, you don’t have to.
GREEN WAY: ORGANIC, FAIR-TRADE CHOCOLATES
There are more people making earth-friendly, ethical goodies than ever before. Buy your sweetheart a box of sweeties from companies like Sweet Earth Chocolates or Dagoba Organic Chocolate online. Or find a good organic chocolatier in your town.
OLD WAY: NEW JEWELS
Wanna buy your beloved some bling-bling? If you’re reading this, then you probably would ask some questions: “These aren’t conflict or ‘blood diamonds,’ are they? Were these gemstones fair-traded?” The wrong answers – or lack of ANY answers – may make you toss and turn in your bed at night. And who needs a grumpy, sleep-deprived Valentine?
GREEN WAY: VINTAGE GEMS
Why not buy an antique piece? It’s already here, and you don’t have to worry about its provenance. Besides, it’s often better looking and better made than the modern stuff – and cheaper, too. You can find lots of wonderful vintage fine and costume jewelry on eBay or at local estate sales, flea markets and pawn shops.
OLD WAY: DINNER OUT
Made reservations yet? Good luck to you. V-Day is the busiest night of the year, and a lot of restaurants are booked solid weeks, even months in advance. Besides, who needs the hassle of driving to a crowded restaurant to pay jacked-up prices? Or of trying in vain to find parking? Or of paying a penalty for a canceled reservation? That’s right – lots of restaurants insist on credit-card deposits for February 14 reservations. They do this because some people hedge their bets by making multiple Valentine’s night reservations. They keep one and pull a no-show at the others, leaving those restaurants in the lurch.
GREEN WAY: DINNER IN
Instead of all that insanity, plan a romantic dinner IN. Cook locally produced, organically grown foods. Set a romantic table with smoke-free soy or beeswax candles such as those from Sturbridge Candles. No noise, no nuisance, no nosy waiters. And then, later…well, we’ll leave that part up to you and your Valentine.
I hope these ideas trigger some even better ones of your own. Whatever you do this Valentine’s Day, do it with Mother Earth in mind. It’s more romantic that way.