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Show love for the Earth this Valentine’s Day

by Feb. 4, 2011, 11:28 AM

Heart shaped Earth graphicVanderbilt University expert suggests environmentally friendly Valentine’s Day celebration alternatives

Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, is a day 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. For example:

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.

Here are some of Abkowitz’s suggestions:

  • Send an e-Valentine in lieu of a paper Valentine. Hallmark and 123 Greetings are some of the many websites offering an electronic Valentine service. If sending a paper Valentine, be certain to send one that is printed on paper containing recycled-content.  Don’t forget to recycle Valentines you have received that you aren’t keeping!
  • Give organic or locally grown flowers, a potted plant, a tree seedling or a perennial plant instead of the traditional bouquet of flowers.  Trees well suited for the southeastern United States include oaks, maples, redbuds, crape myrtles, dogwoods, and tulip poplars.  Perennials suitable for the southeastern United States include roses, chrysanthemums, peonies and hostas.
  • 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.  Several organizations you might consider include the TN Wildlife Federation, Nature Conservancy of TN, Land Trust for TN, TN Parks & Greenways, World Wildlife Fund, Harpeth River Watershed Association, Clean Air Partnership of Middle TN and Arbor Day Foundation.
  • Plan a trip to a wildlife reserve, park or natural area. Your business will help support the running of such establishments.  Several destinations you might consider include TN State Parks, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in TN, TN Natural Areas Program, TN Sustainable Tourism and U.S. National Parks in TN.
  • 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 will also save gas and money while avoiding greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Commit to going green at work and home.  Several easy ideas include turning lights off when leaving the room, shutting down your computer at the end of the day, creating a dedicated home recycling area, washing only full loads of dishes and laundry, moderating your thermostat when leaving your house or office for extended periods of time, unplugging appliances not in use and printing or using both sides of paper when possible.

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