The number one reason to give chocolates instead of roses is of course TASTE! Have you ever tasted a rose? I don’t advise it, especially with all those thorns. In all seriousness, roses, especially those flown in from Latin America for Valentines Day (or Mothers Day) are not environmentally friendly and have a whopping environmental impact.
So, how bad is the environmental impact of roses? Let’s take a look.
First, cut roses in the US during February are almost exclusively imported from Latin America by plane because they only last 10 days with refrigeration. William Armshaw wrote in The Environmental Impact of Cut Flower Imports in January 2009 that:
A bouquet of flowers has a high lifecycle carbon footprint: conservative estimates suggest that the air transportation to the United States alone creates 3.1 pounds of carbon per bouquet – and that does not include carbon released via constant refrigeration, by distribution within the US, in production, or in the manufacture of fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemical agents.
Estimates of roses sold for Valentine’s Day in the US range from 189–215 million. At a dozen per bouquet, that’s 24-28 thousand tons of CO2 emitted as a conservative estimate for the transportation of the roses for Valentine’s Day.
Next, let’s consider the environmental impacts where the roses are grown. Roses grown in Latin America are grown through the heavy use of fertilizers and numerous other chemicals to increase the yield. Many of these chemicals, such as methyl bromide, are so dangerous they have been banned from use in Europe and the US. The fertilizers and chemical use lead to water pollution through runoff. William Armshaw writes:
As with most monoculture agricultural production, large amounts of dangerous chemicals are used in growing operations, including many agents, such as methyl bromide and methyl parathion, which the United States and European Union deem to be too dangerous or too toxic for use within the US. Florverde, the primary Colombian growers’ association, claims that exporters there apply nearly 90 pounds of active ingredient per acre per year. 36% of the toxic chemicals applied by Florverde plantations in 2005 were listed as extremely or highly toxic by the World Health Organization.
So if roses are out, what do you do for that special someone?
Give those you love something edible for Valentine’s Day, like the delicious stone ground organic chocolates from Taza Chocolate. Taza Chocolates are a real treat. They are delectable and responsible. Taza Chocolates supports sustainable agriculture and direct trade by buying direct from organic certified farmers in the Caribbean and Latin America (not Africa or Indonesia). They have made it a point to keep their factory green by recycling, using CFLs, and running equipment only when actually in use. I toured the factory in Somerville, MA and can report the lights were off in the rooms that were not in use. They use recycled materials for packaging and even go as far as using pedal power to transport their products to various retailers around Boston through Metro Pedal Power.
For more details about how green the chocolate is, visit Taza Chocolate’s Sustainability page.
And did I mention how delicious this Mexican style stone ground organic chocolate is? It is the best I’ve ever had!
So don’t give roses this year, give something much tastier like organic chocolates. For other alternatives to roses your loved ones will love, check out Alicia’s Green Gift Guide.
Disclaimer: Neither Taza Chocolate nor William Armshaw had any involvement in the writing of this article.
Addendum Feb 9, 2010 – Recommended Reading:
A friend recommended the Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful by Amy Stewart as a good read on the considerable environmental and economic evils of the flower business in Ecuador and Columbia.
Another Alternative to flowers and even chocolate – Solar Panel Jewelry!
Now that Jonathan has started making his own jewelry out of pieces of solar panels, and he’s selling it online, I’d like to humbly suggest that it would make a very unique Valentines Day gift. Each piece is handcrafted and unique. You can see his selection on www.solarpaneljewelry.com. He is also willing to take requests for specific pieces as time allows, just send us an email.