Roses, the symbol of love, are often the gift of choice on Valentine's Day. They look beautiful, they smell beautiful, and they are the calorie-free preference to chocolates. But for all their beauty, the truth is that some roses actually, most roses have dangers that extend far beyond their thorns.
Have you ever wondered how roses can be easily found in every Main Street florist shop across the country in the dead of winter, that is? The reason for this is that many roses are produced in foreign greenhouses in Europe and South America. In fact, about 650 million roses each year come into the U.S. directly from greenhouses in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador.
The practices in these greenhouses are unsustainable and unhealthy. Greenhouses tend to use lots of pesticides, and the greenhouse workers are required to frequently handle the pesticide-treated plants. In fact, roses are often grown with over 30 different pesticides, including some that are in the same chemical class as the nerve gas sarin. And the ventilation in these greenhouses which, remember, are designed to hold in the hot air can be described as poor, at best. These conditions make for a very unhealthy workplace one that is primarily filled with women of reproductive age.
So, what are the risks? Well, lets review some facts:
The majority of greenhouse workers routinely complain of headaches, blurred vision and other pesticide-associated symptoms, according to a study by the International Labor Organization.
Ecuadorian children born to "greenhouse mothers" have a higher than normal risk of neurobehavioral abnormalities associated with prebirth pesticide exposure. (Sources: Harvard School of Public Health, Institutes in Denmark and Ecuador, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
According to a just-published study by a team of Danish scientists, baby boys born to mothers employed by Danish greenhouses with confirmed pesticide exposures were three times more likely to have reproductive birth defects.
All of these risks seem like an unfair trade-off for a paycheck. And they seem unworthy of being associated with a gift to your Valentine.
But the good news is they don't have to be. While NRDC continues to push for stricter regulation of these toxic pesticides, you as the holiday shopper can put the true romance back in the holiday and give a gift that wont poison your sweetheart or anyone else. Check out the Natural Resources Defense Councils list of ways to have a happy and healthy Valentines Day ...
Five Ways to Sweeten Your Sweetie (Naturally) This Valentine's Day
Buy organic or local flowers.
Flowers from your local greenhouse or farm are fresher and more environmentally friendly than those shipped, flown and trucked into the U.S. from the far ends of Ecuador.
Organic flowers, on the other hand, are easy to find online, at farmers' markets (when not snowed in) and often at boutique flower shops in large cities. Why buy jet-lagged flowers at the cost of the environment or the health of workers when you can get fresher cleaner ones down the street?
The way to most hearts is through the stomach.
Make your lover a home-cooked meal with local or organic produce from your neighborhood grocery store, or if you can't boil water, take him or her out to a restaurant that focuses on local, seasonal, sustainable or vegetarian foods.
Drink wine. Not too much. Mostly Californian.
Choose a USA-grown wine that's either biodynamic or organic. They don't cost much more particularly in the era of discount wine markets they don't travel as far grape to table, and as an added bonus, organic wines are made without added sulfites, which makes them more friendly to people with asthma and those who are allergic to the common vino additive.
Get an organic couples massage or spa treatment.
Valentine's Day is on Thursday so if you're not leaving town, detox, purify and pamper at your local spa. Many big city spas already have organic or all-natural options for their treatments so take them up on them!
Staycate or vacate (with style).
If you are taking a long weekend, either settle down to a low carbon staycation (nice warm bath, organic dark chocolate, local wax candles, followed by a homemade dinner for two following the guidelines in suggestion No. 2) or take the train to a nearby town to take part in low-impact activities like hiking, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.
Jennifer Sass is a senior scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council. She contributes to the NRDC's Switchboard blog.
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