There’s nothing quite as romantic and rewarding as a Valentine’s Day that affirms your affections while helping make the world a better place. Whether you’re planning in advance, waiting till the last minute or spending the day solo, there’s many ways you can make this holiday more conscientious of the earth. Let us count the ways.
Flowers: Many flowers are shipped from other countries that have less stringent labor and pesticide laws. Go for local or online certified organic flowers instead. The Camino Real Marketplace has a farmer’s market every Sunday from 10am to 2pm (in front of the theatre) where you can buy local flowers. Wandering the mini-market can also make a cute mini-date, or at least a great supplement to a movie and Gina’s pizza. You can also get local flowers from the flower stand in front of the UCEN. Skip on live plants unless you’re sure the recipient will want to properly water and care for it.
Cards: At as much as $5 a pop, these flaps of processed paper with a pretty picture and cute saying will just get thrown out anyway, burning a neat hole in the environment and your wallet. Instead, take the time to write love notes on your extra recycled notebook paper before class and bundle them together for a gift. It’s more personal, romantic and thoughtful. Of course, recycled cards work nicely as well.
Chocolate: Those huge heart-shaped boxes of chocolate morsels smack conscientious couples with a quadruple whammy. In most cases, cacao is farmed by child slaves, the packaging takes up a lot of dumpster space, and the buyer gets price-gouged for mediocre quality “chocolate”. Since Valentines is not the day to skimp, go for the higher quality fair trade stuff. UCSB’s convenience stores sell one brand of chocolate bar, “Endangered Species” but you can find more varieties online. You could also ditch the bite-sized morsels and opt for making fair-trade chocolate cookies, cake, fudge or drinks together.
Candles: Most candles are petroleum-based (paraffin), meaning that you’re basically burning freshly scented petrol in your house. Paraffin candles release soot and potential carcinogens, making them one of the leading causes of poor indoor air quality (along with pets and not vacuuming). By going with soy or beeswax candles you’ll help the environment and your asthma; although no candle is soot-free (you are burning stuff, after all). Be sure to check the label for percents, as the law allows candles to be up to 75% paraffin and still be labeled “soy” or 49% paraffin and still be labeled beeswax.
Gifts: Go for something useful and decorative, like a nice travel coffee mug. The bookstore sells loads of ’em, and your love will think of you every time they fill up at Nicoletti’s. If you buy jewelry, avoid diamonds and pearls. Due to foreign inflation practices illegal in the US, these are usually out of our financial budget anyway, but I thought I’d mention it. Abused Africans mine for diamonds, prompting the term “blood diamond”. Cubic zirconium is a great alternative with no flaws. Pearls similarly exploit locals and should be avoided. If you’re unsure of a gift, why not simply ask? You may find out that a simple DVD, iTunes giftcard or hour-long massage will get you further than a dud present that’s taking up landfill space the next week.
Dinner: Skip the steak and burgers. Beef is one of the most inefficient forms of meat. Beef and lamb energy-input to protein-output has a ratio near 50:1 as opposed to pork’s 17:1 and (boiler) chicken’s paltry 4:1. If you’re an omnivore like me, I recommend getting a grain dinner with meat as an enhancement: like a tasty dish of pasta and sausage. Italian restaurants are usually romantic, so it’s a win-win.
Going for a seafood dinner? Check ahead of time on a seafood watch list and make a mental list of what to avoid. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a handy West Coast pocket guide and a larger searchable online database. You can impress your date and your waiter by asking if the restaurant’s lobster is from (good!) Maine, Australia, Baja California or (avoid!) the Caribbean or Brazil.
Dates: The sky’s the limit. You could go for a beach walk, a lovely bike ride, volunteer together, work out together, get some fair-trade coffee together, hike around the lagoon or just spend some time cuddling together. Discuss date ideas as you’ll probably find stuff to do together that suits you both as a pair.
Sex: If you’re not allergic to latex, be sure to use those instead of polyurethane condoms. Manufacturing polyurethane is more stressful on the earth and it takes forever to breakdown. While lambskins are the most eco-friendly, they doesn’t protect against STD’s so I don’t recommend them. Go with water-based lubricants, organic massage oil or natural edible body oil. Girls who don’t want to get pregnant might want to switch to lower-dosed hormonal methods. Estrogen in birth control is urinated from the body and into the environment wreaking havoc on the masculinity of poor male fish making them unable to fertilize eggs. You can choose options such as Depo shot, mini-pill Copper-T IUD or simply rely on condoms.