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February 01, 2010

Happy “Green” Valentine’s Day

Though not the traditional colour for Valentine, this year “green” is the only way to love

L. Sara Bysterveld

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Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day comes every year, and with it comes an avalanche of candy, gifts, flowers and cards complete with wrapping, packaging, pesticides and, of course, garbage.

If you celebrate the holiday, why not send the Earth a love note in the form of less waste and eco-friendlier goodies?

Cards add up to a ton of waste, but they also offer an easy way to cut just that. One option is to skip cards all together and express your love in the form of a shared cup of tea, a phone call or even a heartfelt e-mail.

E-cards are a more festive option for revelers more attached to greeting card sentiments. Hallmark is offering a new mobile greeting, where you can send your e-cards through smart phones. You can find more information on this new and innovative and ultimately green way of expressing your love at

When a lasting memento is called for, consider reusing cards from Valentine’s Days past (cut the front half from the back — senders normally leave that side blank); crafting homemade Valentines from bits of paper that would otherwise be recycled; or buying an eco-friendly card made from 100 per cent post-consumer recycled paper or laced with seeds ready to be planted in the spring.

Cut flowers contribute to the waste and destruction of the environment equally though the effects are easier to hide and ignore. Sprayed thoroughly with pesticides, trucked for thousands of miles and wrapped in cellophane and paper, the blooms we bestow upon our valentine leave a path of destruction in their wake.

Organic flowers are hard to find but customers in Edmonton have the option of ordering locally grown and unsprayed Alstroemeria lilies, gerbera daisies and irises from eco-conscious florist Cactus Flower House.

Cactus Flower House owner Kerry Sylvester suggests an arrangement of locally grown lilies mixed with Alstroemerias (Holland lilies) as her top earth-friendly pick for Valentine’s Day or anytime. The flowers are greenhouse grown in Alberta.

“They’re great and last a long time, even the lilies,” Sylvester says. She recommends staying away from roses if green is your goal, since the buds are grown starting in January, often frozen to preserve them and shipped from, most likely, South America. “If you’re going to spend one hundred dollars, you can get twice the bouquet for the same price with lilies, Alstroemeria or Gerbera daisies.”

For people not lucky enough to be within Cactus Flower House’s range, try asking the florist where the flowers came from and whether they were sprayed. If nothing else, they may take note of your concern and consider organic or locally grown flowers in the future.

Back home in the bedroom, romantic fun doesn’t need to hurt Mother Nature, nor yourself. Unfortunately toys of the adult nature are often constructed of toxic plastics that most of us would want nowhere near our most sensitive parts if we knew just what was in them. Sue Naylen, owner of A Little More Interesting in Calgary, has one simple tip for determining the toxicity of a toy: smell it. That awful smell that most toys emit? A sure sign that it is not good for you or the earth.

Silicone is a better option, though Naylen warns that a product must only contain one per cent silicone to be labelled as silicone, according to Canadian regulations. She advises shoppers look for “medical grade silicone” or “100 per cent silicone” labeling to be safe. Silicone is ideal because it is non-porous, soft to the touch, odourless, hypo-allergenic, long-lasting and the only common toy material that can be disinfected by boiling. A full run-down of toy materials and lots of other educational material can be found at

Naylen’s number one tip for a sustainable Valentine’s Day might surprise some. “It’s as easy as touch,” she says, suggesting holding hands and outdoor strolls. “Toys are fun and exciting, but there’s nothing like good, old-fashioned touch.” 

Top Picks for An Eco-Friendly Valentine’s Day:

Green get-away - some of the greenest hotels in Canada are right here in Alberta. Aurum Lodge at
Abraham Lake is an eco-destination, while the Banff Park Lodge and the whole Fairmont chain are luxurious green options.

Green chocolate – 75 per cent of chocolate consumed by North Americans comes from the Ivory Coast, where child slavery is the backbone of the industry. As an ethical alternative, try 100 per cent slave-free Endangered Species bars or organic chocolates from Bernard Callebaut.

Green rubdown - check the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database
( to be sure your
massage oil doesn’t contain carcinogens or other dangerous chemicals, or use a hypoallergenic oil
such as apricot kernel.

Green blooms - find out more about Cactus Flower House at

Green gems - to avoid the social and environmental impacts of mining all together, opt for antique or vintage jewels for your beau.

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