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Environmental Costs of Valentines Day

Valentine’s Day has come around again. And as every year, this year too we’ll see exchange of gifts that vary from expensive jewelry to thoughtful cards, to dedicated song requests. A more modest token of love – flowers – have also become a global industry. The Netherlands, United States and Japan account for nearly half of the world’s flower trade. Since the 1990s, production has shifted towards countries where climatic conditions can provide year round production with low labour costs, with Colombia, Kenya, Ecuador and Ethiopia the world’s greatest producers. Whilst controls do exist, there are huge implications for the environmental impact of the industry.

Chemical pollution is an issue. The cut-flower industry is a short-cycle production process that requires the extensive use of agrochemicals, which have a negative effect on the air, soil and water supply. Flowers are not edible crops and are exempt from regulations on pesticide residues, although they carry significantly more pesticides than allowed on foods.Water use is also an issue. Increasingly, virtual water is being exported through international trade from some of the most water-stressed countries. In Ethiopia, where serious environmental concerns have been raised, the total area of land covered with flowers has increased from less than 100 hectares in the late 1990s to more than 1200 hectares in 2008 (over 990 hectares or 82 per cent is for rose cultivation).

As another Valentine’s Day brings a surge in demand for cut-flowers, it is important to stop and ask whether the water, chemicals, land, air-miles and carbon footprint used for floriculture wouldn’t be better used elsewhere. This Valentine’s Day it may be worth considering the value of this culturally constructed symbol of love.

Here are some alternate ways in which you can make this day special.

- Show some love to people who need it the most

Spend some time taking Valentine’s Day treats, food, love and donations to places where people don’t feel love often enough. Homeless shelters, children’s homes and animal shelters are a great place to start.

- Purchase a unique gift

You can research local artisans in your hometown and make purchases from them giving the underserved population a boost in their livelihood.

You can even choose from a range of eco friendly products right here.

- Find an amazing view

Get creative and find a spot in your hometown with a great view, where you can hike up with friends and family. Enjoy the experience of love and togetherness.

- Create some art

The Internet is filled with tutorials of handmade cards and items. Find something that expresses your love and get into action.

- Visit a botanical garden

Skip the cut flowers and their eco-miles. Visit some living flowers instead.

If you’d like to share your thoughts on how you’ve celebrated this day in the most unique way, do write to us. We look forward to hearing from you.

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