4 Ways to Avoid the Hidden Evils of Valentine’s Day

© r2beccaf via Flickr -- Valentine's beyond the flowers and chocolate.

How bad can chocolate, flowers and jewelry be? Showing your loved ones you care with the conventional route of gifts can have seriously negative environmental and ethical consequences from blood diamonds to child labor.

Americans will spend an estimated $17.6 billion this year on Valentine’s Day, according to the National Retail Federation, from dining out to intimate apparel. These estimates claim $1.1 billion will be spent on greeting cards alone this year. The good news: there is an abundance of sustainable alternatives.

As the second biggest gift-giving occasion next to Christmas, we'll spend an average of $126 on the holiday, according to the NRF’s survey. And while it's nice to know $4.52 will go to our pets, how many will get organic treats?

If you’re tempted to grab the Whitman’s, Hallmark and long-stem roses, a video about the “hidden evil” lurking behind our love fest by Green TV may give you pause. It addresses issues from the impact of pesticides on the environment in the conventional floral industry to child labor practices on cocoa farms. It’s compelling to choose sustainably and really show you care.

The current issue of Sierra magazine suggests a bunch of ideas for a green Valentine’s Day, including a fast and easy carbon-free path to romance: lights out -- enjoy the glow of soy or beeswax candles instead. The Sierra Club's recommendations cover conscious chocolate, organic flowers, farm-to-table dinners, recycled jewelry, and other tips for sustainable Valentine’s gifts. Blythe Copeland offers an excellent selection of Top Ten Valentine's Gifts on Treehugger, too.

Start with e-cards or make your own from found materials, instead of adding to landfill. Here are some green options for the entire day -- and beyond:

1. Chocolate

Choose from tons of fair trade, organic chocolate bars on the market or make your own chocolate candies with Organic Superfood Chocolate Kits from Navitas Naturals. All you need is an ice cube tray and a generous dose of love.

2. Flowers

Pick flowers from your own garden, a potted plant from a local farmer’s market or choose an orchid or arrangement from Organic Bouquet which helps improve the lives of farm workers, families and community by providing workers zero-interest loans, childcare, healthcare, education, environmental protection, and offsets carbon to support re-forestation projects in Guatemala.

3. Jewelry

Go for vintage jewels, recycled metals and repurposed items. There are lots of options at Great Green Goods and Uncommon Goods and many possibilities in Treehugger.

© Sierra Club -- Go wild and sponsor Sierra Club's wild places.

4. In the Bedroom

In rethinking the holiday, the Sierra Club suggests gifting a sponsorship of a wild place in your beloved's name, from Glacier National Park to the Badlands, Rockies and Everglades. They'll toss in a plush animal or rucksack. Visit one of these destinations together for a hike or a bike ride, get tickets to a concert or play, indulge in a day at an organic spa – something to share together.

Whether eating in or dining out, go local, try vegetarian, and toast each other with biodynamic wine or organic Champagne.

Heat things up with organic lingerie and play it safe with undergarments for men and cap off the night with the Original Condom, a small French company that works with Good Planet to plant 42 acres of trees for every million condoms sold, made with sustainable materials.

Then cozy up in a Coyuchi organic robe and blanket for a Happy Valentine's Day!

Tags: Ethical | Gifts | Holidays | Valentines Day