Monday, February 13, 2017

My Sustainable Valentine

Whether you love it, hate it, or just ignore it, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day.  This may mean you’re buying (or hopefully already bought?) a gift for that special someone, or just waiting until Wednesday for those heart-shaped chocolates to go on sale.  Valentine’s Day also offers the opportunity to take small actions of sustainability. 

For example, do you know where those ingredients in your chocolates come from?  The production of cocoa can have both negative social and environmental impacts, but some companies (even large ones) are working to improve practices.  Palm oil is another ingredient found in many Valentine’s Day treats whose production is problematic because of its social and environmental effects.  The good news is that there are sustainable alternatives, and your purchasing decisions may help promote sustainable production practices.

Palm oil plantations, like the one seen here in Bukit Lawang on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, involve clearing tropical forested land to plant oil palms. (Photo: A. Michaelis)

 

Unsure where to start?  The Rainforest Alliance has tried to make it slightly easier, by identifying products that meet their standards of environmental, social, and economic sustainability.  Or, you can look for fair-trade certified products to make sure your purchases support social and environmental sustainability.  You can also use the GoodGuide to look at the sustainability factor associated with a number of products, including candy.


Moving away from the candy aisle, have you thought about who grows those flowers you’re sending and how they’re grown?  Not only can you find fair trade chocolates if you take a few seconds to look, but you can also order fair trade flowers. You could also consider locally grown flowers purchased direct from local farmers at a farmer’s market, if one is available near you.
When shopping for flowers, look for Fair Trade certification to support sustainable practices. (Photo source)

You might be running to the store to pick up a card.  One easy way to act sustainably is to check the back and buy cards made of recycled material.  Or save a few bucks and make your own card, using your own recycled paper! 

Yes, trying to be a sustainable valentine may involve one or two extra steps, but the few minutes it takes to be a sustainable gift-giver can make a world of difference to the plants, animals, and people that are affected by your purchasing power. 
Without adequate protection, rainforest habitat similar to that seen here in the Gunung Leuser National Park in Indonesia and the animals dependent upon it (like the orangutans pictured) face threats associated with palm oil expansion.  Consumers can influence companies to use sustainably produced palm oil through their purchasing habits. (Photo: A. Michaelis)



These sustainable Valentine’s tips were brought to you by the BSOS Sustainability Task Force.  To learn more about the STF, or to get involved, contact STF advisor Adriane Michaelis (amichael@umd.edu) and check out our site: http://blog.umd.edu/stf/.