It’s true that flowers and candy top the list of traditional Valentine’s Day gifts. I’ve also heard it said that nothing makes quite as big of an impact as a beautiful piece of jewelry.
We’ve all seen countless advertisements on television, especially this time of year. Ads encouraging us to say “I love you” with flowers. Shiny baubles adorn beautiful, smiling models on the television and in magazines, showing us how happy we can make someone special with just the right piece of perfect jewelry.
Have you ever stopped for a moment to consider where the flowers and jewelry you are buying coming from? Have you considered what impact their growth, manufacturing, and transport have on the environment?
Cut flowers for example, a Valentine’s Day staple, have a very heavy carbon footprint. February is not rose season in the large majority of the United States. Because of this, more than 80 percent of the roses and similar cut flowers typically given for Valentine’s Day, will be grown and transported from warmer climates, mostly regions of South America. It is estimated that it will take about 9,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions to get those flowers from their location of growth to the vase on your table.
Not to mention the amount of pesticide residue allowed on imported roses is as much as 50 times greater than locally grown or domestic roses.
Still, cut flowers is big business. Just last year, Americans spent about $1.7 billion on Valentine's Day flowers. That seems like a tremendous amount of money. The perfect posies are not without their merit though. In a study published in Evolutionary Psychology, the authors found that receiving flowers had a positive effect on emotions, moods and social behaviors in both women and men both immediately and long-term.
So, what’s an environmentally conscious flower lover to do? There are a few options. Try buying local, seasonal flowers instead of flowers that have been imported. Yes, there are flowers grown here in the winter. You can visit Local Harvest to find farmers markets and other sources of sustainably grown flowers in your area.
You could also opt for a flowering indoor plant instead. Or you could choose something a little less conventional, like a Bonsai or a terrarium, like this one from Uncommon Goods.
Not all that glitters is gold?
Perhaps you and your sweetie aren’t into gifts of the flowering variety. Perhaps sparkly jewels are more your scene.
Many will say that it’s true that a great piece of jewelery can look wonderful, and make us feel good about ourselves while wearing it. Some may even say that each piece is like a little work of art. But not all jewelry is created equally.
Let’s take the mining of gold for example. The gold that it takes to produce those beautiful rings and necklaces people love to give their sweethearts, has a huge negative environmental impact.
First of all it takes several large pieces of machinery burning fossil fuels and bringing down thousands of trees. Then it takes the usage of millions of gallons of water in digging for the ore. Then nearly 200,000 tons of poisonous and toxic chemicals are used in the extraction process. Seems like an awful lot of stress for one shiny gold ring.
But there is hope for the jewelry lovers out there as well. Many companies are creating “eco-friendly” jewelry. Generally speaking, most eco-friendly jewelery comes from using post-consumer recycled materials such as silver and gold and using them to create something new. This prevents further deterioration of the environment for the purpose of mining for these materials to make new products.
There is also a growing number of merchants who are providing fair trade jewelry. Fair trade jewelry supports ethical business practices throughout the jewelry supply chain around the world. These jewelry options help to regenerate local economies of the places where they are made. They also seek to provide safe working conditions, and support environmental sustainability.
A simple Google search for “eco-friendly jewelry” or “fair trade jewelry” will turn up hundreds of options for the consumer, including many local artisans providing one of a kind, handmade jewelry creations with minimal environmental impact.
Lastly, you can always go the non-conventional gift route. You can have a star named after your sweetie. You could have a tree planted in their honor. Heck, you can even give a the gift of a goat or cow to a family in an impoverished community or country.
After all, flowers die. Jewelry can be lost or broken. The gift of livestock however, well, that’s the gift that keeps on giving.