Valentine’s Day does more than make single people feel like losers and happy couples ooze smugness. Simple gifts, from greeting cards to chocolates, can have a big impact on the environment as well as other human beings. Shop smarter this year with this quick fact sheet:
Think twice about choo choo choosing a Valentine’s Day card
One piece of A4 copy paper uses the equivalent of a soft drink can of water to produce. Assuming that most of the one billion Valentine’s Day cards sent each year also take this amount of water to produce (this figure is likely to be higher when paper thickness is taken into account), Valentine’s Day cards alone cost the earth the equivalent of 12 Olympic sized swimming pools of water.
How about skipping the card and just telling the girl (or lucky guy) how you feel? Nothing says “I love you” like, uh… saying “I love you”.
Say it with native flowers
Five years ago imports of cut flowers and foliage were valued at $14.0 million, according to a Government paper. This is a fraction of Australia’s $300 million + cut flower industry, but between 2006 and 2008, imports were still being sourced from places as far flung as Kenya, the Netherlands and Singapore.
A 2007 study by Cranfield University in England found that raising 12,000 Kenyan roses resulted in 6,000 kilograms of CO2 emissions before they’d even been shipped to Australia.
The situation in Australia isn’t as dire as in other parts of the world (the US imports nearly 80 percent of its cut flowers – read Blooms Away: The Real Price of Cut Flowers to learn more). We have a large and stable cut flower industry. Help it, and the planet by choosing native, local flora instead of red roses, or check with your florist where their flowers are sourced from before you buy.
Not so sweet
Figures from the Australian Conservation Foundation reveal that spending just $30 on chocolate uses 940 litres of water, creates 16kg of greenhouse gases and disturbs 26 square metres of land. That, and many chocolate companies underpay workers in poorer countries. If you’ve got to have chocolate, choose something Fair Trade and preferably local (most cacao beans are sourced overseas, so this can be tricky. If you know of a chocolate producer with a small carbon footprint, let us know)
If you like it, don’t put a ring on it.
If you’ve seen Blood Diamonds, you’ll know that millions have been killed in diamond-fueled conflict (Amnesty International backs this up). Conflict diamonds, which are used to fund war and mined and produced under non-ethical conditions generate $7.5 billion annually. That rock you’re buying from Prouds? Unlikely to be conflict free.
If you think you can just buy a certified conflict-free diamond ring and alleviate your guilt, think again. A single gold ring leaves behind more than 20 tonnes of mine waste, according to education and advocacy group No Dirty Gold.
Mining precious metals also requires large amounts of water (The average gold mine uses enough water to provide the basic water needs for a population equivalent to that of a large U.S. city for a year), releases toxic chemicals and strips the surrounding environments.
Instead, the ACF recommends environmentally friendly gifts such as massages, gym memberships (be tactful and appropriate, please!) and event tickets.
What are your thoughts?