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 expanding 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.
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.
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?