Love the Earth this Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is an event filled with cards, sweets, flowers and gifts. Like many holidays, its celebration can create unintentional environmental side effects, such as the consumption of natural resources and the generation of solid waste. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

When showing their affection for each other each Feb. 14, Americans tend to go all out:

  • 198 million roses: The number produced for Valentine’s Day in 2010, according to the Society of American Florists.
  • 141 million Valentine’s Day cards: The number exchanged each year (not including packaged kids’ valentines for classroom exchanges), according to Hallmark. This makes Valentine’s Day the second-largest holiday for giving greeting cards.
  • $14.1 billion: The amount Americans were expected to spend on traditional Valentine’s Day merchandise in 2010, according to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation.

“It is possible to have a special, perhaps even more creative and memorable than usual, Valentine’s Day celebration while still being environmentally responsible,” said Kendra Abkowitz of the Vanderbilt University Sustainability and Environmental Management Office.

Abkowitz offers the following suggestions to make your Valentine’s Day not only red and pink, but also green:

  • Send an e-valentine in lieu of a paper valentine. If you do send a paper valentine, be certain to send one that is printed on paper containing recycled-content.
  • Don’t just throw your paper valentines in the trash; recycle them instead.
  • Give organic or locally grown flowers, a potted plant, a tree seedling or a perennial plant instead of the traditional bouquet of flowers.
  • Give organic or fair-trade chocolates. Organic chocolates are produced in an eco-friendly manner without the use of pesticides, and fair-trade chocolates ensure that cacao farmers work in healthy, sustainable and safe environments while receiving a fair wage for their products.
  • Make a donation to an environmental organization on behalf of your valentine.
  • Plan a trip to a wildlife reserve, nature center, park or natural area. Your business will help support the running of such establishments.
  • Arrange dinner at a local restaurant that specializes in organic or locally grown food, or make your own romantic meal with locally grown ingredients. Eating locally reduces the number of miles that your food travels to you and supports local establishments. Cooking your own meal also saves gas and money while avoiding greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Commit to going green at work and home. Turn lights off when leaving the room, shut down your computer at the end of the day, create a dedicated home recycling area, wash only full loads of dishes and laundry, adjust your thermostat when leaving your house or office for extended periods of time, unplug appliances not in use and print using both sides of paper when possible.

Your candy hearts might read “Be Mine,” but when you make the best choices for the Earth on Feb. 14, you’ll know they really mean “Be Green.”

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