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Zem Joaquin Headshot

This Valentine's Day, Green is the New Red

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Some say love is blind, but unfortunately that rings true in more ways than one. Valentine's Day, national Hallmark holiday or not, is supposed to be a day of love, sharing time with the one you care about (or dropping a secret admirer note for the one you're pining over).

Whether it's love or just blind consumerism, our infatuation with cupid's calendar day has us blindly trampling over the environment, contributing to rising levels of CO2 and increasing pesticide usage. Let me guide you through four of the most common gifts of the day, the environmental concerns surrounding their production and consumption, and some of the better, greener alternatives so you can love your honey without harming your mother (Earth).

Since we were children, we have been programmed to think that Valentine's Day is a day for, well, giving valentines. As the second largest card-sending holiday (just behind Christmas), it's still a surprise to learn that globally, a billion valentines are sent each year. If we were to lay them all out, end-to-end, they would stretch around the world 5 times! This means that your decision to purchase a card made from FSC certified paper, or from recycled content truly adds up. Even better would be to send an e-card or make your own card from paper and waste materials that you have at home. For my daughter's class we used gorgeous old wallpaper scraps that we decorated with remnant heart fabric and old calendars -- I am not a crafty person, but it was actually fun.

The next most prevalent Valentine's Day item is red roses. The top holiday for fresh flower purchases (with red roses clearly being the most popular), Feb 14th ushers in more than a beautiful bouquet into your home -- accepting the floral arrangement also means you're inviting a variety of toxic chemicals into your living space. If all the roses purchased for Valentine's Day in the U.S. were organically grown, it would prevent the use of 22,700 pounds of pesticides (The Green Book). These nasty compounds absorb into the soil and end up in the groundwater, affecting ecosystems all over. Going into your yard for seasonal foliage or purchasing from a local organic farm is smartest, but for the traditional stuff turning to a distributor like Organic Bouquet or California Organic Flowers is the next best thing.

Flowers and a card in one hand, the ubiquitous heart-shaped box of chocolates is often tucked under the other arm. With over 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolates sold each year, it's vital that we use our purchasing dollars to vote for organic production. Second only to conventional cotton in its use of pesticides, conventional cocoa is a major contributor to the destruction of bio-diversity and toxic groundwater (Pesticide Awareness Network). Check out my top 7 Best Organic Chocolate Gifts at ecofabulous.com for a list of the best alternative bonbons.

In case you are thinking about something a little more permanent for her to display your love all year long, make sure to choose from a jeweler that uses recycled metals. While the issue of conflict-free diamonds has been raised in most circles, most people are completely unaware of the environmental degradation caused by gold mining. In the U.S. alone, the weight of the waste produced by mines is almost nine times the weight of the garbage produced by all America's cities and towns combined. No woman wants to run the risk of wearing something that has contributed to cyanide poisoning and overburden disposal -- and the shocking truth is that the production of just one 18-karat gold ring contributes to tons of harmful mine waste, contaminating water with mercury and arsenic (NoDirtyGold.org). My favorite resources for environmentally conscious jewelry are Brilliant Earth and Jennifer Dawes.

Luckily there is still a lot to celebrate! Check out our Valentine's Day Guide on ecofabulous.com for a comprehensive list of gift-giving ideas in every price category.

And for more inspirational products, sign up for my weekly list of top picks in the world of sexy sustainability!

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