Monday, February 11, 2008

Have a Heart this Valentine's Day

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, can bouquets of roses, boxes of chocolates and candlelight dinners be far behind? While these signs of the romantic season may seem harmless enough, each one can carry a heavy environmental price tag. Since concern for the environment is becoming as sexy as star spokesperson Leonard DiCaprio's smile, combining a little romance with a touch of ecological awareness can be a wonderful thing.

Let's start with roses. Commercially grown roses and other imported flowers are often sprayed with a host of chemicals that contaminate groundwater and the workers who grow them. Over one million roses are shipped into Canada every year, but unlike food, there is no regulation that requires that they be tested for pesticide residues. The alternative is organic roses, but these can be hard to find. Instead you might try opting for a gift certificate for a rose bush that can be redeemed in the spring.

Chocolate is often considered a forbidden food, and with good reason. Commercial cocoa production often involves unsustainable agricultural practices and the exploitation of local producers. Buying organic chocolate helps to protect the environment. Buying fair trade chocolate helps to protect the workers who produce it. As an added bonus, organic chocolate is often available with a higher cocoa content; making it devilishly rich and so good it's almost sinful.

Purchasing organic wines is another way to show your environmentally sensitive side. Buying organic wines supports sustainable agricultural production. Consuming organic wines is a healthier alternative, particularly for anyone with chemical sensitivities or environmental allergies. Most LCBO Stores carry an assortment of reasonably priced organic wines.

Dining by candlelight is not only romantic, it saves energy, too! Use beeswax candles rather than regular wax candles, which are made from a petroleum by-product, a non-renewable resource. In addition, unlike beeswax candles, which burn cleanly, petroleum wax candles can release toxins into the air. For safety's sake, use votives, hurricane or other glass enclosures when burning candles and don't forget to blow them out at the end of your romantic evening.

Once the table is set and the wine is poured, the next item up for consideration is the menu. The Toronto Vegetarian Association (TVA) recommends a romantic vegan dinner that is healthy, humane and very hot!

According to the TVA, "Vegetarian aphrodisiacs - from chocolate and strawberries to tomatoes and peppers - are famous for their reputed arousing qualities, but did you know that there's a scientific reason why meat-free cuisine is a recipe for romance? The cholesterol and fat in animal foods slow the flow of blood to all of a man's vital organs - not just his heart - but healthy vegetarian foods will leave lovers full of energy and vitality."

The TVA says that for veggie lovers there are many fruits and vegetables that are natural aphrodisiacs. To begin, try an appetizer salad make up with organic greens and lightly steamed asparagus, drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. For the main course, TVA suggests "oyster mushrooms sauteed with leeks and briefly sauteed cherry tomatoes served over quinoa or rice that has had a little turmeric cooked into it, and with a tiny bit of saffron mixed in." The grand finale should involve strawberries and lots of dark chocolate dipping sauce (both organic, of course.)

After dinner, if you want to give your honey something warm and lovable to cuddle up to, how about a toy Manatee? The Save the Manatee Club has an Adopt-a-Manatee Valentine's Day special. For $35 you get a photo and bio of your manatee, an adoption certificate and a plush manatee to cuddle. Leonardo diCaprio would definitely be impressed!


Save the Manatee Club was established to help the public participate in the conservation efforts to save these gentle giants from extinction.

For more food tips for veggie Valentinos, check out the Toronto Vegetarian Association.

Ten Thousand Villages has a variety of wonderful fair trade, organic edibles including various chocolates, oils, teas and coffees. Ten Thousand Villages also has a wide range of beautifully handcrafted gift items such as jewelery, personal accessories and other items perfect for Valentine’s Day giving.

For list of available organic wines, check out


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