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Valentine’s Day is almost here and if you’re one of the 70% of people in the U.S. who expresses your feelings with chocolate and flowers, we need to talk. That heart-shaped box of chocolates and dozen roses are the end products of supply chains that are anything but loving to farmers, their workers, and the planet.

Cheap chocolate has cruel consequences: Low cocoa prices are pushing cocoa farmers in West Africa to desperate measures. For example, in Côte d’Ivoire, cocoa farmers earn just $0.50 per day. That’s in a region where poverty is defined as $2 per day and “dire poverty” is $1.25 per day. Desperate to earn any income possible, even children are pressed into hard work and forced labor is also common. In Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire alone, an estimated 2.1 million children work dangerous jobs and hours that interferes with their schooling—and that number is going up not down, according to recent studies.

Cheap chocolate drives deforestation: Low prices force farmers to do anything, including expand into surrounding forests, to make ends meet. Meanwhile, big chocolate companies have turned a blind eye to the deforestation that ensues, for example, Côte d’Ivoire has lost 85% of its forest in the past two decades.  That has huge consequences for our climate as well as the people and animals that live there.

Cut flowers have a thorny supply chain: Nearly 80% of the cut flowers sold in the U.S. are imported, mostly from giant operations in Colombia and Ecuador. Nearly two-thirds of those workers are women, suffering long hours, repetitive injuries, exposure to hazardous chemicals, and often sexual harassment and discrimination too—hardly the ingredients for a gift of love!

Small blooms, big impact: Those long-stemmed roses have a colossal global impact. Grown in indoor greenhouses, irrigated, refrigerated and flown around the globe, that bouquet has a massive carbon footprint. On top of that, these intense monocrops require lots of chemicals to keep them growing, about 20% of which are so toxic that they are banned in the U.S. and Europe.

But your Valentine’s Day gifts don’t have to exploit people and the planet! Look for fairly traded organic and local treats to express your feelings and spread the goodness a little further afield.

Here are a few suggestions:

Choose fair trade, organic chocolate. Our guide to the companies leading the way in supporting small-scale farmers is here. Bars, truffles, and other treats—there’s no need to sacrifice taste.

Look for brands committed to doing the right thing in all their supply chains. While the big companies struggle to slow deforestation and end the worse forms of abuse, companies like Alter Eco and Equal Exchange are partnering with producers on reforestation and agroforestry projects, going beyond the minimums to build a better world.

Pick something greener than a bouquet of roses. Choose locally grown flowers if they are available near you in February. Living plants will be a long-lasting reminder, whether they stay in the house or get the garden started. Fair trade flowers are also available, yet while they are better for people, their environmental footprint is still enormous.

Think beyond the basics: Cancel fresh flowers and bring home the sweet smells of fair trade, organic body products from companies like Alaffia and Dr. Bronner whose natural products are supporting communities around the globe.

Choose hand-made: Fair trade artisans around the globe are blending traditional designs with new looks to create selections that should suit anyone on your list. Companies like Matr Boomie and Aid Through Trade have a long history of partnering with craftspeople to create beautiful pieces—no blood diamonds involved.

Get personal: Nothing says you care like finding a fair trade version of your special someone’s favorite treat. From tea to olives to greeting cards—there are plenty of options to choose from. Get inspired here.

How are you showing you care this Valentine’s Day?

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37 Responses

02/08/2018

I’m going to send some greeting cards.

02/08/2018

How to find local grown flowers?

02/08/2018
02/08/2018

I am seriously against child labor & low wages for adult workers, with no regulations to prevent abuse.

02/08/2018

I am against child labor, unregulated safety work rulesYour Comments

02/08/2018

Please stop using children to harvest cocoa beans. They deserve a good education instead!

02/08/2018

NO CHILD LABOR!!

02/08/2018

Child exploitation on Cocoa fields are inhumane, unfair for children, and degrading. Children are supposed to attend school too!

02/08/2018

Thank you for your work.

02/08/2018

Corporations will always exploit workers; always have and always will. Money is their god and maximum profit is their holy grail. The fair and humane treatment of workers is of no importance to corporations.

02/08/2018

NO CHILD LABOR!!

02/08/2018

Stop the immoral child labor practice which only entrails them in a lifetime of abuse and poverty. Educate them instead so they can help lift their culture and people up.

02/08/2018

Your CommentsKnow where your flowers and chocolates come from.

02/08/2018

Your Know where your flowers and chocolates come from.

02/08/2018

Know where your flowers and chocolates come from.

02/08/2018

Profit at the cost of other humans and the planet is more like robbery, would you treat your own family this way? I bet not, so take responsibility for you actions and stop using child labor.

02/08/2018

It saddens my heart there are so many people in charge of corporations (and the politicians that allow it) that put such emphasis on profit over humanity. I do my best to research what I buy to ensure fair trade, eco friendly, no animal cruelty or child labor/slavery. However, I’m leaving this comment on my iPhone, so I’m not perfect.

END CHILD LABOR AND ABUSE. KEEP OUR CHILDREN SAFE, WELL FED, AND NURTURED.

02/08/2018

Your Comments
past time to consider all beings and the planet we share..

02/08/2018

Exploitation of children for cocoa fields is inhumane. I will not support any companies that is involved in this.

02/08/2018

Child Labor has to end here. Nothing more nothing less.

02/08/2018

they are monsters exploited child

02/08/2018

Your Comments
Children are little people not slaves for abusive money grubbers that lack morals

02/08/2018

No child labor kids should be in school

02/08/2018

We only buy your chocolate! Thank you.

02/08/2018

please protect rather than exploit children

02/08/2018

Thank you for the work you are doing.

02/08/2018

No to child and slave labor! Please institute fair wages and fair trade practices!

02/08/2018

Child labor is not a labor of love!

02/08/2018

Children should never have to suffer for the greed of those with too much money or power.

02/08/2018

I gave up chocolate years ago for health reasons. But now, I’m even more glad I gave it up. Mr. Mullen is right – corporations don’t care about people. What they care about is money, and if you refuse to buy what they’re selling, they may start paying more attention. Some may claim to change, but watch ’em. They could be greenwashing or whitewashing their operations.

02/08/2018

End child labour once and for all

02/08/2018

When humans start to care where the products they are buying are coming from, who aids in production, harvesting, packaging, transporting these items; not to mention the harm in may cause our mother Earth. When loving and caring trump greed and money, then we can truly stop all this pain and destruction. ONE LOVE, SAVE THE CHILDREN.

02/08/2018

I have a deep disdain towards big corporations,
for they are the enemy to this planet and all life on it!!

02/08/2018

Your Comments Thank you for bringing attention to this important matter.

02/09/2018

people are people are people

02/10/2018

Valentines day gifts should not exploit people or the planet.

Choose fair trade instead

02/11/2018

I will only buy chocolate commited to ending child labor and protecting rain forest!

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