Ah, Valentine's Day.
Love is in the air, and retailers hope you'll show how much you care with your wallet. Not counting those little classroom valentines, about 145 million greeting cards are purchased for Valentine's Day. That's a lot of trees not feeling the love on this holiday. Maybe you went the chocolate route instead -- around 58 million pounds of chocolate are bought in the days leading up to Feb. 14. From chocolate to jewelry to heart-shaped dog treats, Americans spend an average of $130 per person for Valentine's Day.
Instead of the shopping mood, let's talk about getting in a different kind of mood. You know what I'm talking about. Saving the planet. Okay, and sex. You can do both. Here are five reasons why condoms should be the new chocolate.
1. There are more than 7 billion people in the world.
That's a lot of people to love. That's also a lot of people who need food, water, land and energy. Our growing population isn't just putting pressure on the natural resources we need to survive, but it's not leaving much for other species. Chocolate can't solve this problem. Condoms, on the other hand, allow people to choose when and how many kids they want to have, and when people are empowered to make that choice, they tend to have smaller families, which is good news for moms, babies, wildlife and the planet.
2. Climate change is a serious threat to future romance.
It's bad enough that rising temperatures are wreaking havoc on weather patterns and driving lovable species like polar bears to extinction. But with almost half of the world's cocoa grown in climate-vulnerable West Africa, global warming could hit our chocolate supply hard. Wine is also in trouble. We could even lose romantic walks on the beach -- a recent report from the Center for Biological Diversity, where I work, found that sea-level rise will put 233 threatened and endangered species in 23 coastal states at risk. We can stop climate change from killing romance by slowing human population growth and getting a handle on our rampant overconsumption (I'm looking at you, aisles of pink and red packaging).
3. Chocolate is bad for wildlife.
The billions of pounds of chocolate sold each year are grown on hundreds of thousands of acres of land, much of which used to be rainforests rich in biodiversity. In addition, the farming methods, production and transportation of chocolate all contribute to climate change. Many chocolate products also contain palm oil, which is notorious for destroying the habitat of rare and endangered species like tigers and orangutans.
4. Condoms are good for you.
According to Planned Parenthood, using a condom makes sex 10,000 times safer when it comes to HIV than not using a condom. Condoms are also a highly effective -- and relatively cheap -- means of preventing pregnancy. Nearly half of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended, so condoms can put you in control of major life decisions, like if and when to start a family. While dark chocolate may have healthy antioxidants, it doesn't get credit for protecting you and the planet.
5. Condoms are more fun than chocolate.
What more can I say about that?
Valentine's Day is the perfect time to talk about love, population growth and wildlife. That's why the Center for Biological Diversity this week sent 4,000 free Endangered Species Condoms to the most romantic cities in the U.S. To help you share the love with wildlife, we've also created free #endangeredlove e-cards that you can send to your friends and free "Love Calls of the Wild" ringtones.
Chocolate will be gone in minutes, but love can last forever -- and so can the wild world that sustains us all.
Follow Stephanie Feldstein on Twitter: www.twitter.com/sfeldstein