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Wouldn't it be nice to have a sustainably grown flower garden to enjoy year-round? It's just not possible in many parts of the country. So, is the next best thing a vase of gorgeous flowers? Not exactly. While receiving an unexpected bouquet can certainly brighten your day, fresh-cut flowers are a bit of an eco-nightmare. Most of the flowers sold in U.S. markets are grown overseas in developing countries where they're produced in huge, poorly vented greenhouses. To reach us, they're shipped thousands of miles, belching fossil fuels along the way.
Workers are exposed to terrible poisons because ungodly amounts of pesticides and herbicides are sprayed onto flowers, says Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association. Learning about the origins of conventional bouquets is more than enough to kill the romance surrounding them. Luckily, sustainable flower options are sprouting up nationwide.
If you buy conventional flowers, wear gloves when arranging them to protect against pesticide residues, and place the flowers in a well-ventilated area.
Buy organic flowers. Look for the USDA Certified Organic label; if you can't find them in your neighborhood order some from a national source, such as Organic Bouquet, .organicbouquet.com, or Diamond Organics, diamondorganics.com.
Ask local shopkeepers where their flowers came from, and tell them that you'd be happier to buy if they could provide local and/or organic sources.
Much of the cocoa that is produced around the world is grown using unsustainable farming practices. That sweet little treat could be contributing to deforestation, toxic pollution and exploitative labor practices. By choosing organic, fair trade or sustainably-grown chocolate, you can enjoy quality chocolate sweets that won't leave a bitter taste in your mouth. But read the label carefully to make sure you're getting the best chocolate for you and the environment.
Traditionally, farmers planted native cocoa plants underneath the shade of canopy trees, preserving the forest and using less pesticides. But many farmers have cut down forests to grow new hybrid cocoa varieties more intensively, using more pesticides and fungicides to keep pests at bay.
Choose chocolate that is better for the environment, look for organic or fair trade certified chocolate. "All natural" does not mean that the cocoa is organic or grown without pesticides. There are a number of certification programs, check the label before buying and choose chocolate that is certified by one of these programs:
USDA Organic: Cocoa with a USDA Organic label is produced without antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, irradiation or bioengineering. Organic cocoa farmers must adhere to soil and water conservation methods.
Fair Trade: Cocoa crops with this certification meet strict economic, social and environmental criteria both in their production and trade. That includes fair pricing, humane labor conditions, environmental sustainability and other regulations. Read more about Fair Trade Certified.
Rainforest Alliance Certified: This chocolate has met strict guidelines to protect the environment, wildlife, workers and local communities. Certification offers cocoa growers guidance on efficient production practices that will preserve resources and do not negatively impact local communities or the environment, including reduced pesticide use. More on the Rainforest Alliance.
Choose a better chocolate for the environment. Look for USDA Organic, Fair Trade or Rainforest Alliance Certified products.
Organic chocolate can be a sweet way to introduce friends, coworkers and family to organic food and sustainable farming. Give organic chocolate on special occasions.
Learn which conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables contain the most pesticide residues and choose organic when it matters the most. Learn more
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