Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Challenge: Ethical Valentine's Day

The mystery surrounding who Saint Valentine really was is quite fitting to the often-mysterious image surrounding the idea of love. Most stories peg Saint Valentine as a man who either secretly married Christian couples at a time when Christians were being persecuted and were unable to do so, or, he secretly married couples so the husband wouldn’t have to go off to war. Most of these stories of individuals secretly pledging their undying love end with Saint Valentine landing himself in jail. The only bit of information that seems known is Saint Valentine died on the date we know as Valentine's Day, February 14th.

The mystery surrounding Saint Valentine and the way we celebrate a holiday with little knowledge of it, bear shocking similarities to how we celebrate the holiday with chocolate, sweets, flowers and cheaply made themed goods. The mystery of how chocolate is harvested and made is a mystery to most of us; how flowers can be fresh and alive year round and available especially at grocery stores at such low prices is a riddle we often cannot answer; and that generic gold heart necklace is made by who? is quite the conundrum. Instead of finding out the truth we often just buy the items in the prettiest package to give to the person we deem valuable enough to bestow the over-the-top love themed goodies to on Valentines Day.

The tricky part about Valentines day is it’s not a holiday you find really necessary to celebrate (like preceding Christmas and approaching Easter), yet so many people are caught up in the adorableness of red and pink hearts, sparkles, and mini-everything including animals with cute sayings on cards that make you just want to go “awweeeheeee!”. People indulge in special menus at restaurants priced higher than normal, establishments who normally don’t cater specifically to couples are suddenly hosting events and every store is encouraging you to spoil that ‘special someone’ with whatever items they happen to be in the market to sell.

We can get caught in the middle of this awkward area not really knowing what to do and often end up grabbing something last minute because we suddenly feel the need to participate. When that happens we are ill prepared to make ethical choices and end up feeling bad for two reasons:
Reason #1:  Did we really just walk into our local grocery store or super centre and pick up a miniature stuffed bear/kitten/puppy/gorilla/sloth/fish that sings “My Heart Will Go On” with a heart shaped box of chocolates strapped to its chest with the sentiment ‘Be My Valentine’ on it?
Reason #2: We have no idea where anything actually came from—is that chocolate good to be eating, both for the waistline and the ethics of the person I bought it for? I just found out a few paragraphs ago that I can’t even trust flowers! Gold and diamonds are that expensive and there is still slavery?

We know the facts...
  • There are between 27 and 30 million people in slavery today.
  • 78% of victims involved in slavery are in Labor Slavery.*
  • One in six children 5 to 14 years old — about 16 percent of all children in this age group — is involved in child labor in developing countries.*
  • In the least developed countries, 30 percent of all children are engaged in child labor.*
  • Worldwide, 126 million children work in hazardous conditions, often enduring beatings, humiliation and sexual violence by their employers.*
  • An estimated 1.2 million children — both boys and girls — are trafficked each year into exploitative work in agriculture, mining, factories, armed conflict or commercial sex work.*
  • The highest proportion of child laborers is in sub-Saharan Africa, where 26 percent of children (49 million) are involved in work.
  • A million diamond diggers in Africa earn less than a dollar a day.**
  • 60% of all flowers sold in the U.S. come from Colombia, the second largest flower exporter in the world. The majority of Colombian flower workers receive around $8 a day, which is not enough to cover the cost of a family's most basic requirements.***
  • 66% of these workers experience health problems associated with the chemicals involved in their work.***
  • An ILO Survey conducted in 2000 estimates that 20% of Ecuadors 60,000 flower workers are children. Many of those between the ages of 14 and 18 work in the industry instead of attending school.***

...And we also know that being prepared is the key to success!
And yes, even though Valentines Day is right around the corner *cough-afewdaysaway-cough* you can still take a smidge of time right now to be prepared!

Tip #1: Research.
When researching for these Ethical Challenge posts I find I often come across the same information. However, this year a new website popped up and I couldn’t help but be pleased to see it! World Vision’s No Child For Sale campaign has a site called GoodChocolateGuide.ca. On this site they list brands of chocolate that are fair trade or have other certifications that make it ethical. Finding this website is like striking gold. So often people have no idea what to buy or where to buy it. This website does both! Upon investigating the chocolate options they present, I’ve found a few that I am 100% sold on and am looking forward to tasting (or tasting again… like Giddy Yo-Yo).
I also found an awesome article titled 'Valentine's Day Gifts That Aren't Evil'. This short and sweet piece provides background information on the forms of slavery found in Diamonds, Flowers and Chocolate, and provides ethical alternatives! 

Tip #2: Wait… do you really want to buy your significant other chocolate?
Take a brief moment and decide if you want your significant other to receive chocolate from you as a gift? Chocolate may be the generic ‘go-to’ gift but if your lady or man of choice is say, trying to stay off sugar after the holiday season or is trying to get in shape before your upcoming getaway in the sunshine, perhaps sugar isn’t the best option…. Just sayin'...
Tip #3: Love Local
After you complete your research on companies you want to support, and have an idea of what your love may want, find a local place to get it. Also take a moment to research if any local companies are featuring enchanting options for your sweetheart! Shoot out some emails to Bakeries or Chocolatiers in your area—what kind of cocoa do they use and are they offering anything special? I work at a bakery that provides chocolate goodies that are hand-crafted with organic, fair-trade ingredients! To top off their awesomeness, they even partnered with two other local businesses to offer Valentines packages!
Tip #4: Send with Love!
You have an ethically sourced gift of perhaps chocolate and flowers and kisses and teddy bears and generic all-out, full-fledged love! Now be a dear and send it with love! Add a cute card, draw a heart on a piece of paper and write I love you, or add a bow you found in a non-frequented corner of your current place of residence left-over from Christmas.

As the debate to celebrate or not celebrate Valentine's day continues, remember, you shouldn't wait for an occasion to tell that special someone how much they mean to you. The kind words you share only during special moments should be spoken often. Love that has sparked in you a fire of passion, commitment, and daily gratitude of being with an individual who always attempts to understand you, continually enjoys spending time with you, and is blessed enough to share with you the joy of life's adventures deserves to be celebrated every day.

Image found on Pinterest.

* Information from Compassion 
** Information from Brilliant Earth
*** Information from Free2Work