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Earth-friendly Valentine Day tips

Tuesday, February 12th 2008 12:05:57pm

Media Release attn: Lifestyle and Environment editors

Sierra Club of Canada - Ontario Chapter and Valentines Day Media Release

Earth-friendly Valentine Day tips

•  Bake cookies or other goodies for your valentine and package them in reusable and/or recyclable containers as gifts.
•  Buy cards that use recyclable paper, send e-mail cards, or make your own.
•  Buy organic flowers or live bushes, shrubs, or trees that can be planted in the spring
•  Give green gifts such as blue-sky power, or make a donation to an environmental organization.

Your Heart Loves Dark Chocolate

As Valentines Day approaches, many people’s thoughts turn to images of heart-shaped boxes of chocolates. Well, researchers have discovered, somewhat serendipitously, that hearts and chocolate go very well together.

Dark chocolate has recently become popular as its health benefits have been publicized. And now, scientists at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine have found that a few squares of dark chocolate a day can reduce the risk of a heart attack by almost 50 percent in some people. Apparently, substances in cocoa beans have a biochemical effect similar to aspirin in reducing blood platelet clumping, which can be fatal if it leads to a clot that blocks a blood vessel. In other words, it functions in the same way as aspirin in preventing heart attacks.

The discovery came after volunteers for a trial on the effects of aspirin were disqualified for eating chocolate, despite being warned that this would interfere with results from the study. Despite being barred from participating in the drug study, the chocolate-eaters’ blood was examined and compared with others who hadn’t indulged in order to determine what effect cocoa has on platelets. The full results of the study were presented to the American Heart Association in November.

In spite of these health claims, there’s no getting around the fact that chocolate is a high fat food. A 40-gram (1.4 ounce) serving of dark chocolate contains about 200 calories and 13 grams of fat, more than half of which are saturated. Cocoa powder, which is low fat, is a healthier way to get a chocolate fix and a dose of those flavonoid antioxidants...but only if it’s not processed. And unprocessed cocoa can be quite bitter. Nevertheless, you can give a gift of dark chocolate without guilt – especially if it is Fair Trade.

Flowers Go Green

Giving a gift of cut flowers may not be the wonderful expression of love that you intend it to be. That’s because whenever you or a loved one touches the flowers or inhales the scent of your conventional bouquet, you are probably touching or inhaling poisonous chemicals. The floral industry is one of the heaviest users of hazardous agricultural and processing pesticides. In addition, the majority of flowers sold in North America are imported from countries like Ecuador and Columbia, where labor practices are sometimes questionable. Studies by the International Labor Organization and Ecuador’s Catholic University have found that many farm and post-harvest workers complain of pesticide-poisoning symptoms. Women, who represent 70 percent of all rose workers, experience significantly elevated rates of miscarriages and birth defects.

But things are improving. This year, if you plan to give cut flowers for Valentine’s Day – or, in fact, to buy them as a gift or for yourself at anytime during the year – you can now make a responsible, healthy choice. Flowers and ornamental plants certified with the Veriflora label are different. The certification program requires growers to use pesticide-free, sustainable agriculture methods and includes fair treatment of workers (health benefits, safe labor practices, fair wages, the right to organize, etc.,) water conservation, habitat protection, waste management and a commitment to energy efficiency and responsible packaging.

Two of the largest North American wholesalers of cut flowers are VeriFlora certified – Sierra Flower Trading of Canada and Delaware Valley Floral Group in the US. As well, one of the largest online suppliers of organic and sustainable flowers, Organic Bouquet, has requested that all of its suppliers seek VeriFlora certification as a condition of business. Certified growers include the Sun Valley Group, the largest cut flower grower in the United States. Twenty flower farms in Ecuador, Colombia and the U.S. are VeriFlora certified, with 40 in the pipeline.

Media Contact:

Dan McDermott, Sierra Club of Canada -Ontario Chapter Director, 416-960-6075

The Sierra Club ( is a grassroots volunteer-driven organization, with most of our key work accomplished by member-volunteers. Our Mission is to protect and restore the health of the natural environment, including human communities in Ontario by empowering the membership and citizenry through education, advocacy, action and outdoor adventures.