Eco Wise

On Valentine's Day, Show the Planet Some Love

Two dozen red roses, $69.95 at Organic Bouquet.
Two dozen red roses, $69.95 at Organic Bouquet. (Organic Bouquet)
Sunday, February 3, 2008

Love it or hate it, Valentine's Day is around the corner, which means yet another consumer bonanza marked by polluting plastic knickknacks and paper products destined to languish in landfills. Whether you're happily attached or flying solo, chances are you love living on this planet -- so why not view the holiday as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with it? Here's how.

  • Opt for organic flowers (available at such places as Organic Bouquet ( and Whole Foods Market). They're a greener choice than their pesticide-packed conventional counterparts, which also have been a target of fair-labor watchdog groups. Or better yet, give a potted plant or sapling, which will provide lasting beauty and absorb carbon dioxide. "You could even attach a cheesy message explaining how the plant, and your love for one another, will continue to grow for years to come," offers Vanessa Farquharson, writer of popular eco-blog Green as a Thistle.
  • Chocolate, another V-Day mainstay, isn't always as sweet as it seems. Not only is conventionally grown cacao sprayed heavily with pesticides, but the industry often uses inhumane labor practices: A 2002 report from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture estimated that nearly 300,000 children -- more than half of them younger than 14 -- work in hazardous conditions in the West African cocoa industry, the world's largest. Try fair-trade and certified organic chocolate brands, such as Dagoba or Green & Black's, available at gourmet food markets. Many varieties support indigenous communities and their environments.
  • Choose cards made from recycled paper or elephant dung paper, which recycles a natural resource and supports craftspeople in the developing world (and is, mercifully, odor-free). You can also make your own cards with scraps of discarded paper or fabric. Or, suggests Farquharson, "instead of a card, just think of what you want to say to your loved one and say it, meaningfully. Maybe even look into their eyes. And, okay, maybe have a couple glasses of organic merlot beforehand, too."
  • Cook that special someone a meal made solely from organic, regionally grown vegetables. It will taste better, and supporting small farmers increases the warm-fuzzies factor. Plus, you'll avoid the restaurant reservation rush. (A related green gift idea for your favorite gourmand: window-box herbs.)
  • Single? Sign up to volunteer for an environmental organization. It could even lead to meeting someone special. Or host an anti-Valentine's gathering with a focus on anti-consumerist activities: a clothing swap among girlfriends or a crafting circle using household castoffs. Or throw a soiree for unattached friends, turning off the energy-hogging light bulbs in favor of non-soot-producing soy candles -- sure to put even cynics in the mood for love.

-- Eviana Hartman

© 2008 The Washington Post Company