Chocolate SSC: The Good Valentine
by Aysha Hussain
National Geographic Green Guide
This Valentine's Day show that special someone how fortunate you feel with the help of cupid's arrow. Rather than buy your loved one conventional chocolates from plantations that still use child labor or a pesticide-laden bouquet of flowers, aim for gifts that favor the earth. There's no better way to say "I love you."
The sweet aroma of fresh cut flowers might be masking darker circumstances. Flower growers often endure poor working conditions, suffering from serious pesticide-related health problems such as impaired vision, asthma and even miscarriage, and many times, their children suffer too. In countries like Columbia and Ecuador, from where the U.S. imports 70 percent of its flowers, the children of female workers have suffered from prenatal pesticide exposures that led to low birth weights and smaller head circumferences (see "Rose, Art Thou Sick?").
As with any agricultural product, try buying locally grown flowers before heading to the store; see www.localharvest.org for growers in your area. Where local options don't exist, choose organically grown flowers, those certified by Scientific Certification System's (SCS) VeriFlora label or Transfair Fair-Trade certified bouquets.
Along with requiring organic farming practices, VeriFlora stresses ecosystem protection, energy and packaging minimization, and fair labor and community development practices. Small farmer organizations certified by Transfair's Fair Trade follow environvironmentally friendly practices and sell directly to international buyers, helping to sustain their local economies.
If conventional cut flowers are a last resort, be aware than chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate pesticide associated with long-term neurological damage, headaches, blurred vision and loss of consciousness, is commonly used on flowers. Therefore, always wash your hands after handling them.
Fair-Trade flowers: 1-800-flowers.com sweetheart roses ($39.99/36 stems; 1800flowers.com)
Veriflora-certified Flowers: Organic Bouque classic red roses ($49.95/dozen; www.organicbouquet.com, 877-899-2468); The Sun Valley Group (www.thesunvalleygroup.com, 800-747-0396) and Nevado Ecuador (www.nevadoecuador.com).
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