Valentine's Day: Four socially responsible ways to celebrate

I love love.

When it comes to Valentine’s Day, though, I’d rather skip the whole ordeal and enjoy a date night with my husband on any other night in February. The only thing more dreadful than prix fixe Valentine’s meals are the restaurants packed with people slogging through multi-course dinners on forced dates.

Almost as bad: Gaudy bouquets with baby’s breath. And a close runner-up: Hallmark’s tacky version of hearts.

“Succumbing in haste to the pressure to be romantic and generous because one holiday dictates we should act this way hardly honors a true and enduring relationship,” writes Iris Krasnow on the Huffington Post. The “Secret Lives of Wives” author continues: “You want to demonstrate deep and abiding love? Celebrate each other in small and meaningful ways each day, with gestures that have nothing to do with cash.”

I couldn’t agree more.

And yet, I’ll still celebrate Valentine’s Day. It’s not because I don’t want to disappoint my husband. (Like he’s sitting there dying to buy me overpriced flowers that’ll make him sneeze.) I’ll celebrate because I don’t want to disappoint the economy.

Yeah, Valentine’s Day is a commercial holiday designed to get us to spend money. And I’m happy we have these silly little holidays to get us out and shopping every so often. It also gives us an opportunity to use our purchasing power is a socially responsible way.

So this Valentine's Day, why not buy...

Flowers that don’t hurt the environment

Local florists could sure use our business. Before you splurge, however, learn about the real price of flowers. “The environmental impact of flowers is more than just the fertilizers, pesticides and energy used to grow them -- it is also all the flying, shipping and trucking,” reports the Scientific American.

If that’s turned you off from buying (or receiving) a bouquet, why not consider a locally sourced potted plant that will keep on giving. Last year, my husband gave me a lemon tree, and now every time I pick a lemon, I smile as I remember how we both presented each other with the same exact Valentine’s Day card.

Chocolates that won’t make you sick

If you don’t believe in slave labor, don’t buy chocolate unless you’re certain that it’s fair-trade.

In a November item about a new brand of Hanukkah gelt, Times editorial board member Karin Klein sobered up chocoholics with this horrifying stat: “According to an article in the online Jewish magazine Tablet  (and reported over the years elsewhere), 80% of the world’s cacao comes from West African operations where children are commonly used as slave labor.”

Here are five fair-trade chocolates to try. And lucky you: Hugh Jackman is launching a fair-trade chocolate brand just in time for the holiday, with 100% of the profits reportedly going to charity.

Jewelry that doesn’t violate human rights  

It’s impossible to tell whether a diamond is 100% conflict-free, writes Take Part’s Amy DuFault, due in part to what Global Witness says is an “impaired traceability along the entire diamond pipeline.” So, if you want to guarantee that your Valentine’s Day jewelry wasn’t mined in a war zone, DuFault suggests going synthetic.

She argues: “Something to consider this Valentine’s Day is the purchase of a synthetic diamond that is 100 percent conflict-free and made in a laboratory. Moissanite, cubic zirconia, and pure carbon ‘diamonds’  are hard to distinguish to most people and help making the choice to support peace (and of course love) on February 14th a whole lot easier.”

Cards you can’t accidentally delete

“Some good and noble and wonderful things are dying out in our modern world, and real mail is one of them,” my colleague Paul Whitefield wrote Wednesday after learning that the Postal Service wants to cancel its Saturday service.  “Sure, you can email,” he said. “But you can’t hold an email in your hand.”

Ditto Valentine’s Day stationery, whether you send a card through the mail or deliver it in person. It’s just better to open up a handwritten card that you can then tack up on your bulletin board and save in a keepsake box.

True, it may not be as good for the environment, but it is good for the economy -- and it’s an easy way to support the arts. And seriously, these cards are works of art.


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Follow Alexandra Le Tellier on Twitter @alexletellier

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