Valentine’s Day marks one of the biggest shopping days of the year, especially when it comes to chocolate and flowers. But did you know that often your tokens of affection are supporting pesticides, child slavery and farmworker exploitation? The Bible calls for us not only to love our neighbor, but also to show concern for the vulnerable and neglected. Learn more about the products you are buying and what you can do to show your love of neighbor and care for creation by supporting fair labor practices this February 14th.
Fresh cut flowers and roses are a great way to show others that you care about them; however, it is possible that those flowers were picked by an exploited or enslaved worker. Cut flowers that large floral retailers sell often come from countries like Colombia and Ecuador where workers’ rights aren’t always respected. Exploitation of workers in the flower industry is common, especially among female workers, who are at a greater risk for sexual harassment and assault. Moreover, the Pesticide Action Network reports that flowers grown in Ecuador and Central America rely heavily on dangerous pesticides that are harmful to workers and also use child labor. To protect these women and children flower workers, look for bouquets bearing the Fair Trade logo or certification. Some online retailers also offer fair trade flowers.
As in the flower industry, child labor, environmental degradation and worker exploitation are also prevalent in cocoa harvesting. Much of the world’s chocolate supply comes from West Africa, where child labor is common. More than 40% of the world’s non-organic and non-fair trade cocoa comes from Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), where the International Labor Organization and US Department of State have reported widespread instances of child labor. Furthermore, to meet growing industry demands, farmers have been forced to clear forest territory in areas of rich biodiversity to make room for cocoa farms. As with flowers, check for the Fair Trade logo when buying chocolate. This chocolate scorecard is also helpful when shopping at the supermarket. If you live in the Triangle, check out Videri Chocolate Factory in Raleigh, which uses all fair trade and organic cocoa beans.
Buying fair trade certified and organic products is the most important thing you can do this Valentine’s Day to ensure the health and safety of workers and protect the environment. Many companies, small and large, do not offer fair trade products. Show your love this holiday by asking your local florist or filling out the comment section on chocolate manufacturers’ websites to tell them that fair trade is important to you. One chain where you can always find great gifts that are fair trade is Ten Thousand Villages.
This Valentine’s Day, the NC Religious Coalition for Justice for Immigrant invites you to show your loved ones that you truly care by putting your money where your values lie. Help break the chains of industrial agriculture and corporate globalization by choosing fair trade and organic flowers and chocolates for your Valentine’s Day gifts and by eating and shopping locally.