Chelsea Burns, Content Editor
February 7, 2023
Valentine’s Day is all about love, but the most common gifts don’t show the most to the planet. Yep, we’re talking about flowers, chocolate, and jewelry. But that doesn’t have to be the case! There are some better ways to shop for the gifts of love that don’t have as big of an impact on the planet. Here are some tips on how to shop more planet-friendly this Valentine’s Day—because there’s no better way to say I love you than with a low carbon footprint.
Imported, industrially farmed flowers produce major carbon emissions because they require such particular traveling conditions (flying thousands of miles in a refrigerated aircraft and then x amount more miles in a refrigerated vehicle) in order to stay fresh. It’s not a crime to want fresh flowers in the dead of winter but shopping for more sustainable alternatives during the off-season can be tricky. Here are some options:
- Try to purchase American grown flowers. The less the flowers have to travel, the better. Ask your florist where they source their flowers from and let them know you’re asking for environmental purposes—if they know what their customer is looking for then they know what to shop for! Another resource is Slow Flowers' website, which is a directory of more than 700 growers in the US and Canada who offer local blooms.
- Look for labels. If you’re purchasing from big box stores, look for labels like Fair Trade or certifications like Veriflora and Rainforest Alliance on the wrapper. While they may not be local, this third party accreditation helps ensure your flowers were produced more ethically.
- Choose sustainable farming practices. Did you know the flower industry is one of the biggest users of pesticides worldwide?! Because they’re not an “edible” crop, they’re exempt from a lot of the usual pesticide regulations that other crops have to uphold. Another reason to shop in season and source from farmers who are clear about their farming practices or who you can ask directly.
The cocoa industry is a major driver of deforestation, loss of critical wildlife habitat, and human rights abuses around the world. The good news is that there are companies that are looking to change the industry and are making chocolate more sustainably and ethically than ever. And with Americans consuming nearly 58 million pounds of chocolate the week of Valentine’s Day, your purchasing decisions make a difference. Here’s what to look for when shopping for chocolate.
- Choose sustainably harvested. Deforestation is one of the biggest issues with growing cocoa for chocolate. It takes one cocoa tree a whole year to produce enough cocoa to create half a pound of chocolate and the older the trees, the less cocoa they produce. This prompts farmers to continue to clear rainforests in order to be able to plant new trees. Experts estimate that 70% of the country’s illegal deforestation is related to cocoa farming, according to worldwildlife.org. Organic chocolate helps ensure the farmers are using more environmentally friendly growing practices, but also look for an UTZ or Rainforest Alliance seal which ensures the brand is being watched by a third party to monitor good standards.
- Look for brands that take care of their suppliers. Poverty and child labor is another issue within the chocolate industry as most farmers earn less than a dollar a day (NPR) and can’t even afford to buy chocolate themselves. While both are ongoing issues, this is another area where certifications help. Look for Fairtrade seals that prohibit child labor and require the companies to pay fair minimum wages to the farmers. You can also check out how your favorite brand stacks up on this chocolate scorecard.
- Go plastic-free! This is one that’s easier to spot when browsing the chocolate aisles. Make a more sustainable swap by simply choosing the chocolate brands that wrap their chocolate in foil or paper rather than plastic.
The mining that’s involved to source the most common raw materials for jewelry can harm local ecosystems in part due to chemical leakage and land erosion, and they can also endanger the workers mining for the goods. Here’s how to shop better:
- Opt for vintage/antique/heirloom jewelry. The most sustainable jewelry is the jewelry that already exists! Whether that be a family heirloom or a piece from a vintage retailer, there are plenty of existing jewels to go around. Wear them as is or take them to a jeweler to have the materials repurposed into the style that you like.
- Look for brands that source recycled materials. Many jewelry brands are now trying to shift a majority of their raw materials to be repurposed or recycled goods. For example, 80% of Mejuri’s gold is from recycled sources.
- Look for third party certifications like Responsible Jewellery Council and the Kimberley Process which ensure an ethical supply chain and conflict free diamonds, respectively.
- Consider lab-grown stones. Because stones like diamonds and emeralds are naturally occurring, removing them from the earth is harmful to the environment. A more accessible alternative that’s gained more traction in recent years is lab-grown gems. While there are many sides to whether lab-grown or mined stones are more sustainable, we think it’s worth considering!