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  • Got questions? Ask Pima County's Green Geek

    green geek logoAre you wondering how to have a greener Valentine's Day? What about having a more sustainable spring?

    Ask the Green Geek.

    Pima County FYI has a monthly column featuring questions and answers on all things green. Our own Green Geek gets assistance on answering your questions from the sustainability experts in Pima County's Office of Sustainability and Conservation. Send your questions to fyinewsletter@pima.gov. And look for the column the second Friday of each month.

    Hi Green Geek,

    I’ve been trying to be more green since the start of this year but was dreading how to keep this up during holidays. Do you have any advice for Valentine’s Day?

    — Josh

    Hi Josh,

     valentine's chocolate
    Buying organic chocolates or making your own Valentine's Day cards are a great way
    to make the day to celebrate love a little greener.

    I applaud your recognition of just how difficult it is to keep up green habits when it comes to events and holidays. Valentine’s Day is no exception.

    In 2019, nearly $20.7 billion was spent on Valentine’s Day and that includes chocolate, cards (about 1 billion sold), gifts for pets, roses, new outfits and, of course, jewelry.

    Now, I could write many essays speaking about the impact each of these have on Mother Earth, but just for today I’d like to share sustainable tips you can use and share with others to make this Valentine’s Day a green one, showing love to those you care about (including our family members) and at the same time, Mother Earth!

    • Thrift for your new outfit: If you’re wanting to get a new look, pay a visit to your local thrift store. Read one of my previous articles about the impact of "fast fashion" and why thrifting is the way to go.
    • Herbs and plants instead of roses: Over 80% of the roses sold in the U.S. are imported from South America. Try gifting herbs to grow for cooking (here is a list of easy-to-grow indoor herbs) or an indoor air-quality-improving plant.
    • Mind your chocolate: If you’re headed for those chocolate bars, look for ones made locally and/or labeled shade-grown cocoa, fair trade, Rainforest Alliance certified or USDA Organic. You can read more about how our chocolate habits impact the planet in a previous article.
    • Support local: If you’re planning to treat yourself to dinner, fill your bellies with food prepared by your local mom-and-pop restaurants. Do even further digging to see who uses local produce.
    • Get some fresh air: As an alternative to physical gifts, why not take a step away from all the electronics and kindle a deeper love for the beauty of nature with a hike, an outdoor picnic, tree or garden planting, picking up trash or even volunteering at a community garden. Fortunately for us, we have good weather at this time.
    • Get crafty: Make your own cards (find green ideas here), gift baskets or an upcycled present using unused items in your home. Don’t forget to use these create wrapping tips I wrote for this past holiday season. 

    Hi Green Geek,

    We’ve had a couple of nice days this month and I realized we’re not too far away from spring already. I want to make it a sustainable spring, but can’t come up with any ideas. What do you suggest?

    — Marissa

    Hi Marissa,

     farmer's markets
    Buying from farmer's markets is a great way to support local growers and make
    springtime more sustainable.
    We are quite fortunate to have such nice weather. Have you seen the snowstorms across the country? Whether you are here in the Sonoran desert as a permanent resident or will be heading back north in a couple months, I’d be happy to share some ideas to help you prepare to have an even greener spring this year.

    Just as I did for Josh’s question above, I won’t spend too much time discussing the planet's pros and cons for these different tips, but do know they are backed by the hard work of many scientists across a variety of sectors and industries.
    • Use non-toxic chemicals: If you’re planning on doing some spring cleaning, take a look (at the now) wide variety of non-toxic cleaning supplies available. Check out this list of products
    • Use rags: As you use those non-toxic chemicals, opt for rags instead of paper towels. Learn more in a previous article I wrote about the impacts of paper towels.
    • Xeriscape when you landscape: Check out this page explaining the benefits of xeriscaping, and don’t forget to include native plants. Take a trip to the Mission Garden to learn more and then head to Native Seeds.
    • Donate, donate, donate: When you are decluttering your house, let your waste be reused. Check out Tucson Clean and Beautiful’s recycling directory to figure out where all your stuff can go.
    • Repair before replace: For any of those unwanted items that will be replaced, first think how it can be repaired. Though it may seem more like a hassle, consider the processes involved to produce the newer product.
    • Switch out your lightbulbs: If you haven’t gotten around to it yet, take this spring to switch out your lightbulbs to LED. Remember, opt to open up those blinds to let natural light in before heading to the light switch.
    • Buy locally and seasonally: Get to know what produce is produced locally in the spring-time and be sure to check out the local farmer’s markets before deciding to go to your next grocery trip.
    • Wash in cold water: Make the switch to washing your clothes in cold water. It actually does work better on stains (i.e. sweat and grass).
    • Volunteer at a community garden: And enjoy the fresh air!