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"Be Mine, Valentine – I Gave to Charity"

Valentine's Day has long been a boon for confectioners and greeting-card makers. (Consumers are expected to spend a whopping $448 million on candy alone during the week of Valentine's Day, according to The Nielsen Company.) Now another group is trying to horn in on the Valentine's Day spending frenzy: Charities – and the retailers that say they give to them.

The pitch: Even if the recession has you cutting back dramatically on spending, you can get a little extra by buying your Valentine's Day gift from us because we'll donate to a charitable cause. All of a sudden, forking over $40 for a box of fancy chocolates or a teddy bear doesn't seem so frivolous if some of the purchase price goes toward building a well in an African village or saving the rainforest. Right?

"Adding a charitable component to shopping is permeating the marketplace. Especially in this economy, it's a good way for charities to generate a new revenue stream," says Sandra Miniutti, spokeswoman for CharityNavigator, a nonprofit organization that evaluates charities.

Buy a bouquet of sustainably-grown flowers through, for example, and 5% of the purchase price will go to a nonprofit like the Nature Conservancy or World Neighbors. Just don't bank on writing that purchase off as a charitable tax deduction – the merchant gets that honor.

Before you start shopping, a few words of caution. Avoid vague claims, like merchants saying they'll donate "a portion" of the purchase price to a certain charity. Instead, they should be specific so you know that your money will get to the intended destination, says Miniutti.

Also, ask questions. "Smart shoppers should ask the merchant: How do I know my money goes to charity? Can I follow up with you or the charity to see how much was donated?" advises Lucy Bernholz, president of Blueprint Research & Design, a consulting firm specializing in philanthropic foundations.

And don't forget to consider whether your sweetheart is as fond of supporting, say, a family workshop in Peru as you are. "Make sure you're donating to a charity that's in line with the recipient's values," says Miniutti. Otherwise, your good intentions may go unappreciated. (For more help with maximizing your charitable contributions in challenging economic times, read our story).

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Sustainable Flowers Make The Perfect Gift For All Occasions

Organic Bouquet is the largest online provider of eco-friendly and organic floral gifts. All of our flowers are grown in a manner that is not only environmentally friendly but also provides outstanding resources for farm workers and artisans. Organic Bouquet partners with select flower farms in California, Ecuador and Colombia. All of our flower farms follow stringent growing practices which are monitored by multiple certification agencies and associations. When you purchase flowers from Organic Bouquet, you are helping to improve the life of a flower farm worker, their family and the local floral community.

Our eco-friendly flower arrangements include roses, calla lilies, tulips, gerbera daisies, hyacinths, sunflowers, alstromeria lilies and blue iris. In addition to a complete line of flower arrangements, we offer gift baskets, fruit baskets, nut baskets, gourmet chocolates, gourmet cookies, plants and  wreaths. All of these products are certified eco-friendly and/or provide for environmental benefits through our participation in Carbon Offset programs.

Whatever the occasion, our flowers make the perfect gift- birthday celebration flowers, anniversary flowers, holiday flowers, or floral arrangements simply to say thank you. Sending flowers from Organic Bouquet says that you care not only about the person receiving the flowers, but also about the environment. All of our gift items are shipped nationwide to all 50 states. So whether you need to send flowers to Florida, New York, California, or Colorado, we can guarantee overnight delivery to ensure they arrive fresh and ready to put a smile on someone’s face.

Whether you are purchasing online, or through one of our customer service specialists, you can be assured you are ordering the freshest quality of flowers and environmentally friendly gifts.