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Archive for Saturday, January 27, 2007

Step up Valentine’s gift-giving with save-the-world ideas

January 27, 2007

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— I love you so much, I saved the world.

What more could your beloved ask for than that? To showcase undying devotion alongside your altruism, here are some Valentine's Day gifts with good deeds attached: organic flowers, fair-trade chocolate, diamonds that help remove land mines and a perfume whose maker frets about global warming.

Flowers

Sending flowers might improve your relationship. But can it improve the world?

Yes, according to Amy Stewart, author of "Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers" (Algonquin Books, February). Through the Organic Bouquet organization, you can order "Charitable Bouquets" for $50-$75 plus shipping; proceeds go to charity.

"You can choose red roses for the American Red Cross, tulips for the Nature Conservancy or calla lilies that support the Jane Goodall Institute, to name a few," Stewart said.

Some bouquets are 100 percent organic; others are certified by VeriFlora, a new eco-label that guarantees they were grown under decent conditions for workers and environmentally sound farming practices. Florists can also locate suppliers through VeriFlora's Web site.

"Many in the floral industry share my belief that 2007 is going to be the year of the 'green revolution' in cut flowers," she said.

Chocolate

You've probably seen fair-trade coffee in bags bearing pretty designs and an interesting story about the place where it was grown.

Now get ready for fair-trade chocolate.

"In the next year, we're going to see an increase in the demand for fair-trade chocolate," predicted Nicole Chettero of Trans Fair USA, which certifies fair-trade products. "Fair-trade chocolate grew almost 85 percent in 2005 alone." And its reputation is approaching the "high-quality, gourmet" buzz of fair-trade coffee, she said.

Fair-trade chocolate means "not only did it come from a small, democratically elected collective of cacao producers, but they were paid above-market prices, and no child labor was used," Chettero said. While fair trade does not equal organic, she said it does connote "sustainable farming, strict environmental standards and none of the worst pesticides."

Theo Chocolate, a Seattle maker of premium chocolates, is the only "bean-to-bar" fair-trade chocolatier in the U.S., meaning that they roast the beans here in addition to creating confections, Chettero said.

Another high-minded chocolate enterprise is Divine Chocolate. The Ghanaian farmers who grow the beans own 33 percent of the company, according to Erin Gorman, CEO of its just-launched U.S. division. Divine Chocolate Valentine gifts decorated with red and white hearts (a $35 basket, $16 box and $14 bag) can be bought through several nonprofit organizations.

Diamonds

What do diamond mines have to do with minefields?

Igloo Diamonds make the connection by donating to Adopt-a-Minefield to have mines removed in Mozambique. Diamond prices range from $900-$35,000; Igloo gives a percentage of the markup on each gem toward clearing minefields. For a $5,000 diamond sold, the company would give about $240 to Adopt-a-Minefield, and that amount of money pays to have over 1,500 square feet cleared of mines, according to Gad Zak, president of Igloo Diamonds. The bigger the diamond sold, the bigger the minefield cleared.

The diamonds come from mines in Canada's Northwest Territories, about 120 miles from the Arctic Circle. They are available loose, set in rings or in solitaire pendants, and come with a certificate from Adopt-a-Minefield and Igloo attesting to the minefield clearance.

Royal Ceylan perfume comes in refillable atomizers from the Creed perfume company.

Royal Ceylan perfume comes in refillable atomizers from the Creed perfume company.

Zach Hudson, program manager of Adopt-a-Minefield, said mines were laid in Mozambique for three decades, ending in the early 1990s, in various conflicts. "Now we're dealing with the ramifications of what was put in the ground," he said. Some 350 sites in the country are believed to be contaminated by unexploded mines, putting more than a half-million people at risk, he said. In 2005, the last year for which data is available, 57 people were killed or injured by mines; typically half the casualties survive, but most who die are children, Hudson said. He added that so far, the organization has received $20,000 from Igloo Diamonds to pay for mine removal. "We're definitely very excited about it," he said.

Perfume

You can make your beloved smell beautiful, and support environmental action at the same time.

The bottom line: If you spring for the $270 1.7-ounce bottle of Royal Ceylan perfume by the House of Creed, available only from Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, the company donates 10 percent of the proceeds (from U.S. sales) to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

House of Creed fragrances have been worn by royalty and celebrities, from Queen Victoria to Audrey Hepburn, according to Brecht. Royal Ceylan ingredients include lotus flowers from Sri Lanka, tea, ginger, tangerine and cedar; it has a lush, complex, tropical scent that subtly changes as it warms on your skin.

Since Royal Ceylan is new, no money has yet been donated to NRDC, but NRDC spokeswoman Jenny Hudson confirmed the arrangement.

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