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Girls like flowers and chocolate

Anna Gorman | Sunday, February 5, 2012

Gentlemen, in case you haven’t picked up on the not-so-subtle hints your girlfriends have been leaving you, Valentine’s Day is a week from tomorrow. This much anticipated, yet simultaneously dreaded, holiday seems to stress everyone out.

There is always pressure about what to give and how much to spend, as well as confusion about whether or not she’s lying when she says she doesn’t really care about Valentine’s Day.

Well, if I were you, I would assume she does actually care, and to avoid drama next Tuesday, let me remind you — girls like flowers and chocolate. Yes, the gift may seem a bit generic, maybe a little lacking in creativity, but the flowers and chocolate combination is almost always a safe bet.

So why am I, your guru on sustainability, so concerned with the issue? Valentine’s Day puts a huge stress on our environment. Luckily, there are many sustainable alternatives.

With regard to flowers, if you haven’t noticed, the winter weather here in South Bend is not ideal for their growth. This means the beautiful flowers you will be sending next Tuesday need to be shipped from tropical climates.

Long and refrigerated shipping means energy wasted in transportation.

Beyond just tropical climates, Holland has a huge flower market. But unfortunately, growing 12,000 roses there emits 77,150 pounds of CO2. Part of the problem is the use of climate-controlled greenhouses necessary for their production.

Energy use aside, there are also many environmental impacts resulting from the fertilizers and pesticides used to make these flowers look so beautiful.

Don’t be too distressed, though; there are organic, sustainable and fair-trade brands available at mega-retailers and florists across the U.S. For example, the Colombian brand “Floriverde” has set guidelines as to methods of drip irrigation (uses minimal H20), organic fertilization, integrated pest control resulting in almost 50 percent less pesticide use and sensible waste disposal methods.

They offer social programs and benefits to their workers as well. While the standards vary between companies here and abroad, most companies strive for basic sustainable and environmental principles.

The prices are a little bit higher for these sustainability-focused brands, but flower prices are already pretty astronomical, so a few more dollars shouldn’t be a big deal, especially for a special someone. If you’re really into green, you could buy local to cut down on transportation costs and buy something in season, but I know that’s asking a lot.

Now on to chocolates. I know you’ve heard my tangent on fair-trade chocolates before, so I’ll keep this part short. Growing cocoa for chocolate is usually tied with things like wars in Africa, the loss of rain forests, toxic pesticides and meager wages to child workers.

Buying organic and fair-trade chocolate is an easy way to help stop some of these injustices against both the environment and society. Plus, I swear it makes the chocolate a bit more delicious.

To sum things up, look for organic or sustainable flower brands such as Floriverde or Veriflora, at places like Walmart, Sam’s Club, national food stores, 1-800-Flowers, etc.

In terms of chocolate, there are dozens of fair-trade and organic brands out there, just check online. Many stores are starting to incorporate fair-trade certified brands in their selections as well.

Next time you’re at the store, keep an eye out for names like Sweet Earth Organic Chocolates, Madécasse Chocolate, Equal Exchange Chocolate, Taza Chocolates and Newman’s Own.

Oh, and by the way, I like tulips. Just in case you were wondering …

Email your predicaments to

The GreenMan at

askthegreenman@gmail.com and let him answer you with a sustainable twist. The GreenMan will be here every other week to provide you with insights you never knew you were missing out on until now.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.