Valentine's Day is a retailer's dream. Driven by love, or possibly guilt, people run out to stores to load up on those traditional gifts of chocolate, wine, jewelry, flowers, and cards. How about slowing down for just a moment to consider ways to love the planet as well as your valentine.
Let's start with cards. Valentine's Day is on a Tuesday this year, so many people will be at work for most of the day. One romantic idea is to send your spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend an ecard (many of which are free!) in the middle of the day. There are lots of websites to choose from; among them are punchbowl.com and greetings.com. By using an ecard, you will save trees and reduce waste, good for everyone.
Flowers are tough this time of year. It's almost impossible to buy locally grown flowers in the winter, and fair trade flowers (those grown by international farmers who treat their workers well) can be hard to find, and expensive. If you want to pursue this route, try FTD's online "green" (as in sustainable) product line which features fair trade flowers. An even better choice might be a gift of a lovely houseplant, which will last a lot longer, and can be planted outside in the spring.
Organic wine is an excellent choice for Valentine's Day because it protects the planet and personal health. Wine from grapes grown without chemical fertilizers, insecticides, and herbicides, which can damage the soil and plant, is better for the planet and, because toxins can also end up in the wine, better for the wine drinker as well. Ivan Ruiz of The Wine List in Summit has an impressive collection, and would be delighted to help you pick out a bottle. Even better, he will be starting a three-month special on organic wines in the next couple weeks; just keep an eye on his website.
Is there anyone who can resist chocolate? Luckily, fair trade and organic chocolates are available at local confectioner shops and in the natural food aisles of many grocery stores. You can look for Rainforest Alliance-certified chocolates, which means that socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable methods were used to grow and harvest the beans. And, like wines, organic chocolates are grown without pesticides, preservatives or other chemicals.
Other store-bought gifts, like jewelry, may hold some appeal. But didn't we just do that a few weeks ago? If you haven't even paid off your bills from the December holidays, think instead of "non-stuff" ways to connect with your loved one on Valentine's Day; easing the burden of selecting and paying for the perfect gift may be a gift in and of itself. How about celebrating your love for each other with a long, slow walk in the woods? Or watch a romantic movie together in the quiet of your own home. Or pick out an interesting recipe and cook it together at home. Check out these recipes (and don't be scared off by the "vegan" label; look at the mouth-watering photos). Note: It's a good idea to discuss this with your sweetie ahead of time since expectations run high for this particular holiday.
A healthy and sustainable lifestyle incorporates periods of downtime, and Valentine's Day is a perfect time to relish a few quiet moments celebrating your loving relationships, whether with your spouse, significant other, children, or friends. Whatever you choose, relax and enjoy it.
By Beth Lovejoy, on behalf of the Summit Environmental Commission