Valentine’s Day is an excellent opportunity to reflect on Pope Francis’ call in his latest encyclical Laudato Si’ to act on the “culture of consumerism.”
Pope Francis repeatedly challenges followers to individual action, saying “Our efforts at education will be inadequate and ineffectual unless we strive to promote a new way of thinking about human beings, life, society and our relationship with nature. Otherwise, the paradigm of consumerism will continue to advance.” Consider what kind of impact you’re having on the world when you make plans with your loved one this Valentine’s Day. The Sierra Club offers several alternatives to bring a little green to the pink and red.
More than 180 million cards are exchanged on Valentine’s Day. Since paper is made of trees, and paper mills use immense amounts of water and emit tons of chemicals, imagine the impact it would make if all of those cards were recycled or electronic. Even recycled cards, though, end up in the landfill, where they emit methane gas as they decompose. Consider sending an e-card, making your own cards, or giving a card made of plantable seed paper; bury it and when the paper biodegrades, the seeds grow into wildflowers.
Flowers? Think organic
The commercial flower industry is destructive to both employee health and the environment. An estimated 62% of the cut flowers sold in the United States are grown in Colombia, where they are subjected to a battery of pesticides, over a third of which are listed as “extremely” or “highly” toxic by the World Health Organization. Look for organic flowers, or give a long-lasting potted plant instead.
Give Experiences, not things
Instead of giving your valentine a present that will be discarded within a month, help remedy the “throwaway culture” by planning an activity instead. Plan a hike or a picnic at your favorite nature spot, take a cooking or dancing class, get tickets to a nearby show or movie, or go out to dinner at a local restaurant.
Choose chocolates consciously
Ensure that you’re supporting the most responsible confectioners by buying organic, local, or shade-grown chocolate. And if you can, resist the convienence of that frilly heart-shaped box with all of those individual paper wrappings tucked into a plastic mold. Instead, go for a less packaged (but just as romantic) option.
Of all commercial crops, cocoa is the second highest pesticide-using crop and those who grow it are often subjected to questionable social conditions. Organic and fair-trade chocolate are two of the fastest growing segments of the candy market. Two favorites of the Office of Sustainability (and Consumer Reports) are Theo Chocolate and Dagoba Organic Authentic.
Another option is locally made Violet Sky American Craft Chocolate, available at the Purple Porch Co-op, 123 N. Hill St. in South Bend
Eat local and organic
Planning dinner out? Try a restaurant specializing in local seasonal cuisine like Corndance or Rocky River Tap and Table in Mishawaka. If you’re too late to grab a Valentine’s Day reservation, hit your local food co-op or farmer’s market and gather fresh ingredients for an intimate home-cooked meal or romantic picnic.