3 Romantic Gestures That Are Bad For The Earth
Whether it’s casual dating or a marriage proposal, some traditions are unsustainable for our planet.
There are some classic dating stages that lay the groundwork of a successful courtship which then develops into a relationship.
Everyone knows that flowers and chocolates define the earliest and most romantic stage of the relationship, when everything is light and perfect. Couples have a lot to share with each other, so evenings stretch out and time seems slow.
If everything goes smooth, they exchange rings and vows to spend the rest of their lives together.
However, not everyone is aware of the environmental footprint brought by romance and dating. In this article, I would like to share some ways you can swap the unsustainable practices with long-term positive effects.
Before you run over to the flower shop and pay a whole load of money (a bouquet of roses can cost somewhere between $15-$75), think about the life cycle of freshly cut plants in the modern world.
It all starts in the production greenhouse in South America. 78% of cut flowers in the US are imported from Columbia and Ecuador, where weather conditions allow for year round growth.
Since the demand is so high, (the US imports around 358 million stems of roses for Valentine’s Day alone), the plants are doused with fungicides, insecticides, and other chemicals to get them safely to the final destination.
Due to the toxicity, 20% of those chemicals are illegal in United States and Europe according to a 2007 study.
That’s especially unfortunate for the unprotected workers (mostly women, sometimes children) who are suffering everything from respiratory distress to higher rates of miscarriage to neurological impairment as a result of exposure.
There are more evils to fresh flowers than chemicals. The plants are stored in high energy-demanding chilled warehouses, transported in gas-demanding refrigerated trucks, and flown to the shops through fuel-demanding airplanes.
Once they are sold, they fade within a week, and are then thrown away, ending up at the landfill.
Consider as well, the not easily recyclable cellophane wrap and the enormous amount of methane gas produced, and we have a viciously unsustainable cycle.
What can you do instead?
If you would still like to opt in for fresh flowers, then make sure they are locally grown or USDA certified organic.
However, the best option would be a cute potted flower or heirloom seed packet that will last for a long time.
Balloons (especially helium)
Balloons, both latex and Mylar are hazards for the environment. They take a long time to decompose, and when inflated with helium often end up in waterbodies.
A group of researchers studied floating balloons in water. They concluded that when submerged, they take a lot longer to decompose and preserve their elasticity even a year in.
“Latex balloons float for just 10 hours, but can take a year or more to degrade, long enough to repeatedly wrap around or be ingested by turtles, sea birds and marine mammals. Scientists who work with stranded whales, dolphins, seals and sea turtles have found balloons, parts of balloons and balloon string in the stomachs of many of these dead animals. In 2003, volunteers collected 4,228 Mylar and latex balloons just from New Jersey beaches.”
Patricia Sullivan, Honolulu Environmental Policy Examiner 2010 (Balloons kill marine animals)
Also, helium produces a large ecological footprint on its own. There are natural reserves of helium in the Earth’s core which is extracted with natural gas.
However, helium that is mined with natural gas is impure, so it has to be separated from oxygen, nitrogen, and other gases through a series of distillation and scrubbing techniques which similar to natural gas purification takes a lot of energy and resources.
Helium is a valuable gas that is used in MRI scanners, fiber optics, and LCD screens. However, the easily accessible helium is running out due to unnecessary uses like helium balloons.
Do not contribute to the balloon war. Save the environment from pollution and extinction.
“Wars are fought over oil, diamonds, water, gold, religion, pride, food, …and balloons! Because for the past few years there has been a war of words, between the multi-million dollar balloon industry and environmentalists. Despite balloonaholics bombarding anybody who will listen with rather suspect evidence to the contrary, the facts suggest that balloons released into the environment really do pose a serious threat to wildlife — and any threat to wildlife today is a threat we could well do without, especially when it comes from something as utterly pointless as a balloon release.” Steve Polkinghorne, Wildlife Extra
What can you do instead?
Decorate with reusable, natural materials that are recyclable and compostable. Use biodegradable glitter, paper, glass jars as centerpieces, candles, and holiday string lights to set a romantic mood.
Diamonds are considered a clear sign of wealth and status in the modern world. However, it hasn’t always been this way.
In 1947, a British mining company De Beers launched an ad campaign that brought diamonds its popularity. With the help of Hollywood and celebrities, the idea that a diamond is the best engagement gift circled societies around the world.
Diamonds are crystallized pieces of pure carbon that formed over millions of years ago. Diamond extraction and exploration has evolved over centuries and became the unethical and exploitative practice it is today.
The working conditions in most areas are horrible with less than $1/day compensation in Africa and forced child labor. Poor sanitation, diseases, abuse, and terrible living conditions follow the diamond mining companies everywhere.
Diamond mining also has many detrimental impacts on the environment including soil erosion, deforestation, and ecosystem destruction, as well as leakage of harmful chemicals into the soil.
A major political effect of the diamond commodity chain, specifically at the mining level, are blood diamonds. These are diamonds that are produced in war zones to finance civil wars. It is impossible to track the origin of diamonds, but some of them are certified to be conflict free.
What can you do instead?
There are a lot of ethical diamond companies that are growing with the lab-grown diamond industry.
Eco-friendly jewelry is developed from materials that have the least possible impact on the environment. Consumers are becoming more and more aware of not only how they invest their money but where they invest it.
Brands including Do Amore, Vrai, Brilliant Earth, and Clean Origin feel the need to go further, touting minimal carbon emissions and the use of recycled gold and platinum to appeal to the millennial and Gen Z clients that care about combating climate change.
You can also consider vintage or unordinary engagement rings.
- Buy potted flowers and seed packets instead of imported, fresh, flowers.
- Opt-out of balloons of any kind, but especially helium filled.
- Shop around for eco-friendly jewelry before investing into a diamond engagement ring.
- Also, think about switching to cards made out of recycled materials and soy wax candles among other romantic knick-knacks.
Most importantly, consider the end-life of all the products that you use every day and prevent them from ending up in landfill.