“As a documentarian, I want to show people the good that is overwhelmingly present in our world. Often times, the public media will bombard the public with nothing but negativity and horror. I want my stories to inspire hope and goodness in people. There is still a lot of good in this world, we just have to open our eyes to it!”
John Updike once said, “we are most alive when we’re in love.” Whether it is friends, family, a significant other, or simply yourself, expressing the love we feel for one another in our own unique ways is part of who we are. Although we express love in our everyday lives, there is one particular time of year where expressing the love we feel for those in our lives is priority to anything else: Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day is known to many as the most loving day of the year. However, although this day makes people all around the world feel warm and fuzzy, this holiday does quite the opposite for the beautiful world we live in. Around the world on February 14th, humans create more carbon emissions than driving around the world a whopping 3,993 times. This is made up of:
- 36 million heart-shaped boxes
- 180 million greeting cards
- 198 million roses
- 58 million pounds of chocolate
. . . and so much more. Pretty crazy for a single day, isn’t it?
Be an Earth-Friendly Consumer
So, what can we do to be more sustainable and reduce our carbon footprint as a society on this beautiful day? It is so much easier than you think! Because sustainability has become so much more of a necessity than ever before, a plethora of companies have built themselves on the concept of creating items that not only make a positive impact on the world around us, but also positively impact people who need it most — view a list of these amazing companies here!
Farmgirl Flowers Big Love Burlap Wrapped Bouquet: these flowers are hand picked from ethical local and international farms, and wrapped up in upcycled biodegradable coffee bags! A bit more on the expensive side, but a beautiful and sustainable way to get a large bouquet for someone you love.
Theo Chocolate: an organic, fair trade chocolate brand that makes a very minimal environmental impact! This brand works with cocoa farmers in the Congo to make jobs for those who need it.
Branded Collective Jewelry: this brand provides job training and employment to survivors of human trafficking in Nashville, Tennessee with a mission to inspire each survivor to “rediscover the dreams she has lost and be motivated to go forth and pursue them.” The jewelry is locally and ethically sourced, and works hand-in-hand with a non-profit in Nashville.
Kind Karma Company: this brand provides employment to at-risk and homeless youth in Toronto, Canada. All jewelry is ethically created and crafted custom by each employee, giving them an opportunity to use the process as a form of healing.
Lazarus Artisan Goods: this brand works directly with and in communities in Honduras and Haiti to “ignite generational change with employment and vocational training” through Mission Lazarus, a nonprofit focusing on individual, economic, and family development throughout the countries it is involved in. 100% of the profits made go directly to Mission Lazarus.
ABLE Brand: initially developed in Ethiopia with scarves, this brand employs and empowers women living in developing countries to create economic growth and reduce poverty. All jewelry is made in-house in Nashville, while all leather goods, clothing, and shoes are made by partners in Ethiopia, Mexico, Brazil, and India. All employees are paid a fair wage and provided with a safe working environment.
Light Shine Candles: this brand works directly with Global Outreach Development, an organization with a commitment to serving immigrants and refugees in the United States, teaching English and Spanish, and working directly with a nonprofit in El Salvador. All candles come in eco-friendly mason jars (reusable!), made in small batches, and with all natural and sustainable ingredients.
Singing Rooster Coffee: this brand is a certified nonprofit that partners with small producers in Haiti. 100% of the proceeds are returned back to the small Haitian farming communities to allow these families to live better lives! The brand is also completely fair trade and sustainable.
Ten Thousand Villages: this brand is committed to ethical and sustainable practices. Ten Thousand Villages creates opportunities for artisans in developing countries to earn a sustainable income and live a life of higher quality. They also donate part of their profits to Two Wings, an organization that helps survivors of human trafficking throughout the United States.
Interested in taking sustainability even further? Awesome! Valentine’s Day is all about showing love, and what is more loving than a gift crafted by your own hands? There are so many creative ways to make heartfelt gifts from things you already have in your home and in ways that create little to no waste. These gifts can be anything from baking heart-shaped chocolate chip cookies and gifting them in a reusable container to visiting a local florist to pick out your own bouquet wrapped in paper (or yarn from home to tie the flowers together in a sustainably sourced bow) rather than purchasing flowers from a grocery store wrapped in excess plastic and other waste. Curious about other ways to be creative and sustainable on Valentine’s Day? See below for just a few of the many fun ideas on ways to reduce your footprint as you share the love:
- Buy your chocolate in bulk! Plenty of stores carry bulk items these days as a way to buy your favorite products waste-free. Grab a reusable container like a mason jar and fill it up with the chocolate of your choice! You can even decorate the jar or add a cute note using recycled paper with a cheesy quote like “I love you a chocoLOT!”
- Bake! Often times, you already have the resources you need on hand. Put them in a reusable container and it makes a perfect and tasty gift.
- Instead of purchasing flowers, get a plant or herb instead! These last a lot longer and often have a use to them (besides looking pretty, of course). They are much more sustainable and oftentimes have a lot less waste.
- Cook a meal at home instead of eating out! This way, you can purchase your items much more sustainably and use what you already have at home. Cooking will also use much less water than a restaurant would.
- Instead of purchasing a card, make your own! They don’t need to be anything fancy, and these are usually more cherished than a store-bought card.
- Skip the gifts all around and share an experience instead! Research shows that experiences make us much happier than possessions, and are usually more memorable.
- Do something for the environment. Plant a tree instead of buying flowers, pick up trash, or plant a garden. Not only is it a fun date, but it will make you feel good as well.
- Create a playlist! Throw together a bunch of songs that reminds you of the person you are gifting it to and put a fun spin on it. Everyone loves new music, and it is 100% sustainable.
- Make a gift out of things you already own! Things like t-shirt quilts are completely sustainable and have a lot of meaning behind them, too.
- Adopt an animal from the World Wildlife Fund! Not only is it super awesome, but it gives a better life to an animal as well.
- Give your gift in something reusable like a cloth bag or reusable grocery bag. Not only can it be cute, but it is sustainable as well.
Valentine’s Day is one of the most beautiful days of the year. Let’s make sure we do our part to keep the world we live in beautiful on this day, too.
What’s your go-to for sustainable Valentine’s Day gifting?
Contributed by Becca Lund
Edu-Terra Global Intern
As we face many climate challenges, is it ethical to venture abroad if it’s not in a vessel powered by renewable energy?’ We would answer, ‘absolutely!’
A successful Ambassador completes a community service project of his or her choosing during the year. Read on to hear about some of the projects that our stellar Ambassadors are engaged in.
Names: Anna and Andrei Radulescu
Grades: 10 and 11 (respectively)
Hometown: Glastonbury, CT
Transformational Experience: Galápagos: Preserving Nature’s Wonders™ 2019
Making An Impact: Revived their school’s Environmental Club
Passion: Recycling, outdoors, wildlife
Andrei and Anna Radulescu, siblings from Glastonbury, Connecticut, returned from their summer in the Galápagos islands with a strong sense of purpose. After spending two weeks in the remote islands off the coast of mainland Ecuador working on projects like invasive species removal and creating sustainable habitat for the unique and threatened creatures that inhabit the islands.
“I always knew I had a passion for environmental conservation, but my GLA trip inspired me to take more initiative and gave me more motivation to act. I fell in love with the islands and I couldn’t imagine not doing everything in my power to preserve its beauty….My GLA trip to the Galapagos intensified my love of the environment, and sparked my motivation to fight for what I love,” Anna says.
As for Andrei, his experience in the Galapagos ignited a new sense of urgency. “As soon as my trip ended I knew that I would look forward to helping lead the green clubs at school. Prior to going on my trip the environment was not an aspect of life I had given much thought to. After seeing the rural and few communities of people that live on the exotic islands, I realized my position as a next generation kid who would one day contribute to society in some small way. I became determined to value the health of my planet as it would be something I would pass down to my children and those after them,” he says.
While Anna had previously been involved in her school’s Environmental Club, the group was small and not particularly active; with only four members, initiatives were slow in coming together. In the fall, Andrei also joined and the two led the group’s efforts to expand and make real change. “At the start of this school year, we worked harder to make our club known. We made a poster and set up at booth about Environmental Club at freshman orientation. We also decided we would not only plan events that entail service work, but also fun trips in nature, such as hiking, so that members could enjoy the environment we are working to protect,” Anna says.
As it grew, the club has become more structured, complete with elected positions. Anna was elected Vice President and takes her role seriously. Their main objective for the coming year: Reinstate the school’s recycling program, which in recent years has been ineffective due to a lack of education about what types of materials are actually recyclable. Currently, all of the school’s waste ends up in the landfill. They are aiming to launch a recycling education campaign that will hopefully allow their school to resume its participation in recycling programs.
Other projects in the works include a fundraiser for Earth Alliance, a non-profit that works to address urgent threats to the planet’s life support systems; they are partnering with their school’s Art Club to create stickers to sell.
What does the future hold for the Radulescus? They are both looking at pursing careers in the medical field. Andrei has been completing work with antimicrobial peptides at the University of Connecticut; while he’s not 100% sure what his future holds, he says that being active in solving community issues is key for him regardless of where his path takes him. This summer, both siblings will be participating on the Fiji: Marine Conservation Expedition™ program, where they will continue to work with threatened island ecosystems and communities affected by climate change.