You survived the holidays. But are you ready for the next big consumer-oriented holiday: Valentine’s Day?
I am a romantic at heart (I painted the heart painting above), but the tradition of celebrating love with chocolate, roses, and jewelry leaves a wake of environmental destruction that is not so romantic. Greenhouse gases, unfair labor practices, and waste are left in the wake of shipping roses from Ecuador, sourcing chocolate overseas, and mining for minerals. According to TerraPass, Americans spend about $2 billion on flowers for Valentine’s Day and purchase over 35 million heart shaped boxes of chocolate (75% of them sourced from Africa).
Over 80% of cut flowers are imported, creating a carbon footprint of over 20 million pounds of CO2. According to The Guardian, “The majority of those flowers will come from Colombia and Ecuador, two of the world’s leading producers. But these countries, and their flower industries specifically, have troubled records of abusing workers or hiring children, and your well-intentioned roses might go toward supporting some of these practices.”
Show the planet some love this Valentine’s Day and consider these five ideas for a greener day of love.
1. Make Your Own Card
Americans are expected to spend $1 billion on cards for Valentine’s Day, according to the Greeting Card Association. Be a rebel and make your own card. This idea came from my boyfriend, a third grade teacher, who has his students make cards for each other—no store bought cards allowed. Each is personalized by completing the statement, “I like (or admire) you because…” Get out some old cards, images from magazines, colored paper, glue, crayons/markers, and scissors, and make a card the old-fashioned way.
Nature makes us happier, healthier, and more creative, so this Valentine’s Day make time to get outside and take a walk on the wild side. Living in the Bay Area, it is easy to get outdoors and reconnect with nature and a date, or yourself. According to a study from Stanford access to natural areas is “vital for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world.” Here are some of the best hikes in the Bay Area, according to KQED.
3. Be Present Instead of Buying a Present
Mindfulness isn’t just for robe-wearing monks; it can be a gift for your relationship as well. Instead of buying your sweetie a gift, consider spending the day together at a local gem, Spirit Rock Meditation Center. On February 17, Spirit Rock is offering Heart Practices for Couples, “An opportunity for couples to awaken the heart of joy and love together…Through partner meditations, verbal and nonverbal communication exercises and group sharing, couples will practice the art of intimacy and learn skills to deepen the shared journey.
4. Just Don’t Spend
We spend over $18 billion dollars on Valentine’s Day, with 20% of consumer’s buying jewelry. Mining for precious metals and gems for jewelry can have serious environmental and human rights implications. Here are a few gift ideas from the heart that don’t require major consumption:
Give a massage (add a few drops of organic essential oil to sesame oil);
Make a homemade meal from local, fresh ingredients;
Plan an activity to do together; or
Write a love letter.
5. Eat Ethical Chocolate
If you can’t resist buying your sweetie something sweet, take a moment to pick an ethical brand. According to an article in Grist, for the world’s biggest chocolate makers, practices like child slave labor, rainforest demolition, and heavy reliance on GMOs are just a part of doing business. When it comes to chocolate, it is not so simple as looking for organic or fair trade label. A great resource is Rainforest Alliance, which certifies chocolate that’s better for the environment and that ensures cocoa farmers have good living and working conditions. Grist recommends a visit to San Francisco-based Dandelion Chocolate, which exemplifies an ethical brand.
Chocolate is also fueling climate change. The HuffPost recently stressed, “Your afternoon chocolate bar may be fueling climate change, destroying protected forests and threatening elephants, chimpanzees and hippos in West Africa, research suggests.” Deforestation-linked cocoa has entered the supply chains of some of the biggest players in the chocolate industry; A report from Mighty Earth, Chocolate’s Dark Secret, found that a large amount of the cocoa used in chocolate produced by Mars, Nestle, Hershey’s, Godiva, and other major chocolate companies was grown illegally in dwindling national parks and reserves in Ivory Coast and Ghana.
The good news is that 22 major chocolate companies recently made a promise to stop destroying forests in West Africa, a huge step to save our planet’s rainforest. But this is just the start. Please consider signing the petition to tell Cadbury and Ferrero to commit to no new deforestation for cocoa worldwide.
Take a moment to acknowledge, review and release this surreal past year. It has not been easy, but the person you are now is better prepared for what lies ahead.
There is a certain trepidation we feel entering 2017. We know things will change as we traverse the coming days. The unexpected will continue to erupt into our reality, scorching familiar comforts. Accept this turmoil, however disruptive. Bold new bedrock, ideas and alliances will spring from these fires. The quest for what is real and true has begun.
I’d like to think that the worst is behind us. But it is not. There is no going back to what is “normal.” That box we constantly try to think outside of…is actually breaking apart. Change has begun and it is permanent. 2017 is the year you decide whether to jump into the front seat of your life, hands purposefully on the wheel, or submit to the back seat resigned to what happens. Take actions, however small, that steer you in the direction you want to go.
Most of us will experience a profound event in our lives, a quantum shift towards a new way of being. There will be waves of dread and chaos, then opportunity and wonder. New friends will appear. What we believed to be absolutely true might prove to be false. Something we assumed would last a lifetime does not. Trust will become both a question and an ally.
For those who choose to step up and be the designated driver in their lives this year, I offer guideposts to navigate 2017’s uncommon crossing:
Be present to what is. As illusions dissolve and current structures and belief systems crumble, steady yourself by being present to what is, regardless of what was or should be. We must learn to adapt to each jolt, and respond fresh from that moment without clinging to the verdicts of the past.
Know thyself. The most important thing you will ever do is being who you truly are. Grant yourself time alone. Turn off technologies and be still. Commune with the earth, touch trees, walk barefoot, and listen to the language of nature. It will remind you of your place here, and initiate you into a higher way of thinking. Be with people who care about you enough to expose your blind spots, those unrecognized hindrances you cannot resolve until witnessed.
Stand up. When someone is giving you crumbs, don’t let them convince you they are giving you the whole cake. Choose the world you wish to inhabit and stand fully in it. Reserve judgment of others but do not cower in the shadows. Allow yourself to be seen. This is the year to speak your truth out loud. Ladies, take your places!
Suffering is a teacher. We will receive as much pain as it takes for us to change. Most of it will be unfair. But it will transform forever whomever it touches. Suffering is asking us to wake up, end stale routines, remember our humanity and pay attention to what is wrong. Suffering precedes every great breakthrough. Ask for help, and hold a caring space for others traveling through difficult circumstances. You are not failing. You are emerging.
Cultivate the adult within. Be the person who can handle anything. 2017 will require the adult in us to intercede and take responsibility for our emotions, actions and goals. Find your courage. The world needs adults now more than ever. Stop complaining, blaming, and shaming. Lead, care, and manage, instead.
Have fun! There will be radiant sparks of happiness available all year. Respite from the storms. Seek people and experiences that bring you joy and make you laugh. Take risks. Your best life exists on the other side of those gambles. Fun fuels courage.
An explosion of sharing. Share kindness, vulnerability, support, money, things. It is the glue of a new community being born. Holding too tight to what you have will only bring fear and separation. Sharing will open hearts and doors to what is possible in the world that is unfolding.
Love what you don’t understand. Everyone will struggle with something this year. We may not always respond to our stresses in the best way. Be compassionate. Another’s journey may appear different from yours, but in the end the destination is the same. We will all need a little latitude as we grow.
Take care of your body like never before. Anxiety and illness will run high, and the healthcare system is not equipped. People will be dying this year in uncomfortable numbers. Eat healthy, move your body, quiet your mind. It’s the most important thing you will do for yourself in 2017.
Pray. Yes, pray. Reclaim the divine presence within you. Prayer is powerful, soothing and meaningful. Prayer helps you remember who you are beyond our social conditioning and technology and creates a spiritual cord that connects us all. Prayer transforms what you cannot bear.
Stop buying stuff. You really want the world to change? Don’t buy anything until you need it. There is power in economic restraint. The best way to get the attention of those who seek to control you is by spending with discernment.
Be Kind. That’s it. Just be kind all the time.
Learn where to place your trust.For now, do not trust institutions, corporations, the media, or governments. Trust each other. Get to know each other. Build community through shared vulnerability. Help your neighbors. Open to the possibility of our human connection. Take responsibility for your thoughts and actions. You are the only one you need to change. Love more. Fear less. Walk hopefully into what you do not know.
This year, we are going through a birth canal of sorts. It will be messy and uncomfortable. Where we finally arrive dwells within our individual choices more than we have been willing to accept. Act towards the world you envision for yourself. Everything better we can be involves moving beyond our personal dramas, prejudices and absolutes. The good news is that we will begin to understand this as we continue our migration together towards somewhere we have never been before. Go where you feel called, even if no one you know follows. Others will be there, waiting. Begin to recognize and fully embrace your fellow travelers. Let go. This is happening!
It’s going to be a momentous year. Hope to meet you along the way!
Founded 30 years ago by organic gardener and Zen practitioner Michael Stusser, Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary is truly one of a kind. I first learned of the Japanese enzyme baths from my mother, who went there for a girlfriend’s getaway some 25 years ago. I’ve had the good fortune of visiting Osmosis many times over the years. The property has blossomed from humble beginnings into an internationally-recognized wellness retreat.
My most recent visit to Osmosis was with an amazing group of spa professionals for an excursion after the Green Spa Network Buyer’s Event “It was so fun to have everyone from around the country see what we have been able to do,” Michael told me. “Most hospitality professionals never get a chance to stay on one project for more than five to seven years; the management changes or they get lured away by a headhunter. It has been so rewarding to stay focused on one vision for 30 years.” Michael split us into two groups, one group for a tour and the other group for a group foot enzyme bath and spa treatments. He personally toured each group around the grounds, recounting the spa’s metamorphosis.
Here is an example of the wonderful review we received;
“The spa’s greening and conservation stretches back to when founder Michael Stusser was working to open the spa. Making the new spa a sustainable and eco-conscious business led to the formation of the Green Spa Network, of which Osmosis Day Spa is a founding member. This network is a non-profit organization dedicated to the greening of the spa industry.”