All the world loves a lover. As we approach Valentine’s Day, many of us are looking for that perfect symbol of our perfect love – a gift for our beloved.

But for the environmentally aware Juliet or Romeo, never was there a story of more woe. The tons and tons of greeting cards, cut-flower arrangements, and heart-shaped chocolate boxes delivered on February 14th add up to a huge carbon footprint that makes Valentine’s Day lose some of its luster. Wherefore art there not a greener way to celebrate our love? This year, point Cupid’s arrow in a more eco-friendly direction.

E-Carte Blanche

According to the Greeting Card Association, 145 million Valentine’s Day cards are sold in the U.S. (not including classroom Valentines). That’s a whole lotta love. It’s also a lot of trees, paper processing, and postal truck miles.

Instead, consider sending an e-card to your valentine this year. It’s an environmentally friendly option that allows you to express your feelings creatively, with customizable options often available. And many funny and touching e-cards are available on the web for free!

You Don’t Bring Me Flowers – No, Really, Don’t!

A 2009 article in The Scientific American reported that each Valentine’s Day about 100 million cut roses are delivered, accounting for about 9,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions “from field to florist.” More recent studies show the demand for Valentine’s Day roses almost doubling in recent years, and most cut roses come from South America, transported in refrigerated containers, making them a thorny proposition to those concerned about climate change.

Add to that reports of unhealthy working conditions, and workers’ exposure to potentially harmful fertilizers and pesticides that may be less regulated overseas, and these long-stemmed offerings become a much less romantic proposition. Violets may be blue, but roses are not so green!

As an alternative, celebrate sustainably with potted flowers that actually pull CO2 and toxins from the air. Look for organically or sustainably grown flowers in your local area to ensure the smallest possible footprint. You can even plant them in your garden, so your beloved will enjoy your living gift long after Valentine’s Day has gone.

Sustainable Sweets for my Sweet

As much as it pains me to say this, chocolate is a luxury good that carries a high environmental price tag. The large size of the multi-billion dollar global chocolate industry means that there is potential for some de-forestation and potential oppressive labor practices. Further, there are greenhouse gas emissions associated with the worldwide sourcing and transportation of cocoa and other ingredients that go into that heart-shaped box. 35 million boxes are purchased each year for Valentine’s Day, so choosing a box for your sweetheart is a pretty high-stakes game.

Look for chocolates that contain cocoa certified by international organizations that help establish and monitor fair and sustainable farming and trade practices. Fairtrade International, UTZ Certified, and Rainforest Alliance are a few examples of certifying bodies that have a solid track record.

So treat your Valentine to the gift of sustainability this year. It’s always the thought that counts, and with a little thought and planning we can all strive to warm hearts instead of the atmosphere on Valentine’s Day.

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