A Valentine's Day for people who love the planet

A A A

A hand-tied bouquet or an exquisite box of chocolates are traditional signifiers of affection on St Valentine's Day. But choose your gift carefully and you can brighten the prospects of the planet as well as the eyes of your lover tomorrow.

Campaigners say that people should think as much about buying the right thing in the run-up to the day as they do during the rest of the year.

A survey by Visa suggests men will spend £800m on St Valentine's Day presents this year, with the average male shelling out £44.63. As every ethical shopper knows, these present-buyers will be confronted with environmental and social dilemmas. Take a simple bunch of flowers. Have they been grown in Africa and flown thousands of miles to the UK with the consequent damage from aviation? Did their growing take water from local people? Are they Fairtrade, or have the workers who tended the stems been poorly paid?

What, then, should you buy to have a clear conscience on St Valentine's Day? Ethical shopping experts say the foundation of good buying is to get organic and local, and, if not local, Fairtrade. Organic food uses no pesticides, local goods reduce pollution from transportation, and Fairtrade guarantees producers and workers in developing countries a better return than they would otherwise receive.

Anna Mitchell, of Friends of the Earth, said: "We would say buy local food. If you are making a St Valentine's Day meal we suggestyou make it with locally grown products, organic and GM-free. You don't have to buy a jumbo Valentine's card. You can send an e-card or make your own. If you are going to buy flowers then buy local or go for Fairtrade which should be clearly marked. If you're going to a restaurant, go to one serving organic, locally sourced food."

Most roses given on St Valentine's Day come from the Netherlands rather than British gardens and some other flowers, such as carnations, may have come as far as Kenya and Chile. Chocolate can have a bitter aftertaste, given claims of child slavery in cocoa plantations in Africa - hence the advice to buy Fairtrade.

Similarly, Amnesty International urges shoppers to ensure they do not buy "blood diamonds" responsible for fuelling civil wars in Africa in the 1990s.

Nick Dearden, Amnesty's campaigns manager, said: "We are asking customers to ask a few questions in the shop: Do you have a conflict-free policy? How do you enforce that policy? How do you know your suppliers are not using conflict diamonds?'."

The credit card company's survey suggests precious stones are not necessary to win the heart of a woman or man. Women said they most wanted, in the following order: a Valentine's card that says "I love you" (47 per cent); a kiss (44 per cent); flowers (43 per cent) and a meal cooked by their partner (39 per cent).

How to have an ethical, ecological Valentine's Day

Jewellery

Diamonds should be conflict-free, thanks to the new Kimberley agreement on traceability. But Amnesty says corruption is a problem and the best way to ensure the diamond business puts its house in order is to ask questions in the shop, such as: "How do you enforce your conflict-free policy?'

Flowers

Some flowers, such as tulips, are grown in the UK. If you opt for foreign flowers, make sure the workers are well-treated and buy Fairtrade - available from the most grocery chains. A bunch of 13 Fairtrade roses from Tesco costs £7.49. Ask your florist where their flowers come from.

Cards

Buy recycled or make your own. Or do both. Paperchase sells this kit of four 100 per cent recycled cards, infused with corn flower petals, for £4. Display your creativity as well as your love.

Chocolates

With concerns about quality, pollution and labour conditions in commercial cocoa plantations, Fairtrade and organic chocolate is growing in popularity. Green and Black's sells boxes such as the ones shown here online.

Wine

Fairtrade wine helps small vineyards and their workforces in developing countries. This Colombard Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa is in the new Origin range from Threshers. Smaller online merchants sell organic wines.

Suggested Topics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Pre-Press / Mac Operator / Artworker - Digital & Litho Print

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: With year on year growth and a reputation for ...

Recruitment Genius: Project Manager - Live Virtual Training / Events

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Manager is required t...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Group has been well establishe...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Group has been well establishe...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003