Dear Umbra,

Do you have any advice on how to have a guilt-free, pleasurable Valentine’s Day? I would like to give my husband gifts that are good for him and the environment.

Krista Ashley
Gadsden, Ala.

Dearest Krista,

Love, love, love. Does greeting him at the door dressed in strategically placed hemp napkins count as a Valentine’s Day present? Your birthday suit: the most ecological clothing. Good for you, pleasurable, and guilt-free.

Love me like a rock.

Photo: iStockphoto.

I’ll be traditional for a moment. The usual must-consume V-day items are chocolate, flowers, and alcohol. Chocolate industry watchers have identified child labor, low wages, and greedy middlemen as problems with cocoa production in West Africa and other major producing areas. Pesticide use and deforestation are other green no-no’s for the discerning chocolate buyer. Fortunately, the Fair Trade movement focuses on chocolate, and it is also possible to find shade-grown and certified organic chocolate. You can look back at our coffee exploration to get a decent description of these labels, but suffice to say, they are a good thing. I would look for these types of chocolate at the local natural food store or co-op, online, or through this handy Green Guide list.

That Green Guide article also encompasses flowers — they thought ahead of me a bit on this holiday issue — and Grist has smelled the flowers for past holidays. If you would like to give Mr. Krista lovely fleurs, I say order ’em from an organic purveyor. You can choose our recent Organic Bouquet InterActivist, or look into others who are Veriflora certified. Buying locally this time of year is difficult unless you can find dried flowers at a year-round farmers’ market, and though dried flowers are pretty they kinda connote … dusty death. To me, anyway.

You get the general sense with the traditional gifts: go for something certified as eco-friendly. But I don’t think it’s obligatory to purchase an object. I want to talk about something in my bailiwick: the original experience, the homemade treat.

How do we understand that we are loved? We know we are loved if a person shows that they pay attention to our favorites, our habits, our peeves, our odd daydreams, or if someone remembers special experiences we had together or apart. We also know that experiences or objects that are low-toxin and low-petroleum tend to be environmentally approved. If we combine these two, a whole world of loving gifts will open up. Here is what immediately comes to my mind: homemade favorite food, especially from childhood; a well-presented collection of photos with loving commentary; re-creation of a past romantic moment; special effort made to oblige a household pet peeve; gift certificate for daydream occasion.

To me, showing that you made an unusual effort to please has better impact than taking 25 minutes to shop. My two cents.

Hallmarkly,
Umbra