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Valentine’s baggage

A lot of media attention is swaying Valentine’s way. I’m glad that there seems to be more awareness about the…

By Amy Hadley , in Blogs Consumerland , on February 11, 2008

A lot of media attention is swaying Valentine’s way. I’m glad that there seems to be more awareness about the exploitation that comes along with the red and pink overkill, but a lot still sits comfortably beneath the surface.

The average consumer will take in quite a few messages this month about enjoying an inexpensive February 14 or better, a “green” one.  People will see their fair share of classic advertisements as well, reminders of traditional gifts denoting traditional attitudes.

Some of the most popular Valentine’s gifts are the most difficult to purchase with a clean conscience.

Horror at the false value and gruesome origin of blood diamonds is getting closer to appropriate levels. Diamonds mined in the Canadian north seem like the perfect alternative to conflict stones, but there are questions about the impact of mines on fragile environments. The shiny symbol of love is hardly an ethical star.

Diamonds are hardly within everyone’s reach anyway.  A more affordable gift is one I formerly only questioned based on sugar content. Then Carol Off released her book “Bitter Chocolate.” It documents the harvesting of cocoa beans in poor Cote d’Ivoire villages. The children who labour for a pittance to ensure that wealthier countries get their fix don’t even know what chocolate is.

Diamonds and chocolate are tricky, but flowers are okay, right? Well, there is the matter of the environmental cost of plants that are mainly imported and sprayed with pesticides.

Besides shaking off the misguided gender roles that are rehashed each February (see my friend Lucy’s blog) there’s still a lot of unethical trade and environmental guilt linked to Valentines. That’s a lot of baggage for one holiday.

Buying a socio-cultural-econo-conscious Valentine’s gift, if that sort of thing is your bag, is about as easy as trying to train your pet dog to function as a pony (four-year old me warns you not to attempt this stunt). That’s why I think I’ll put together a handy lil’ list of rocking and relatively guilt-free Valentines gifts. I just need a little time to compile it. So be sure to check out my next blog, friends!