UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds
Rebecca Blackwell/The Associated Press/The Canadian Press; PhotoSpin.com

Flowers, lingerie, chocolate and gems — the ethical way

By Trisha Elliott

Money can’t buy love — but we sure do spend it to express it. Especially when February rolls around. According to digital marketplace and research group Retail Me Not, the average Canadian spends $164 on Valentine’s Day. Predictably, the highest ticket item is jewelry. Other popular purchases include lingerie, chocolate and flowers. Here’s how to register your ethics at the checkout:

1. Gemstones

Jewelry can reflect misery more than love. Environmental devastation, child labour, safety risks, armed conflict, money laundering, smuggling — gem extraction can be ugly.

Informed choice: Shop at companies committed to upholding labour and environmental standards and that can demonstrate chain of custody. Alternatively, consider a lab-grown stone. Another idea: recycle! Buy an antique ring or rework an inherited stone into a new design. 

2. Lingerie

Ethics might not be top of mind when purchasing sexy undies, but the well-known exploitation of fertilizers, pesticides and child labour in the garment industry can kill the mood. The World Bank estimates that almost 20 percent of global industrial water pollution comes from the treatment and dyeing of textiles.

Informed choice: Avoid mass-produced and low-quality pieces. Look for undergarments made from organic cotton or alternative textiles such as bamboo or beech-tree fibres. Inquire about printing and dyeing strategies aimed to reduce water consumption. Garment workers should be treated ethically, even when there is little fabric involved. 

3. Chocolate

Sixty percent of the world’s cocoa is harvested in West Africa. World Vision Canada estimates that over two million West African children work in the cocoa industry, notorious for child labour and trafficking.

Informed choice: Look for child labour-free certification. Consult World Vision’s Good Chocolate Guide (www.nochildforsale) to help satisfy your sweet tooth and your ethics.

4. Flowers

Most flowers sold in Canada are imported from Latin America, where workers, largely women, may be exposed to harmful pesticides banned in Canada. 

Informed choice: Buy from a florist who sells fair trade blooms. Scout out flowers grown in Canadian greenhouses. Buy longer-lasting varieties like chrysanthemums, lilies and carnations. Or toss the cut flowers altogether and purchase a plant.   

Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!


Chris Pratt's church, while claiming to accept everyone, states in its doctrine of faith that marriage should only be between one man and one woman. (Photo: Chris Pratt/Instagram)

Celebrity megachurches need to clarify LGBTQ acceptance: pastor

by Emma Prestwich

Zoe Church, where actor Chris Pratt worships, may not truly "open their doors" to everyone, like he claims.

Promotional Image


The United Church Observer's editor and publisher, Jocelyn Bell. (Photo: Lindsay Palmer)

'The Observer' will soon relaunch with a new name and design

by Jocelyn Bell

Our magazine will be going through some changes, but we see blue skies ahead

Promotional Image


Meet beloved church cats Mable and Mouse

by Observer Staff

They're a fixture of Kirk United Church Centre in Edmonton.

Promotional Image


February 2019

Marriage problems: Is the ancient tradition worth saving?

by Pieta Woolley

Bitterness and boredom seem to define many mid-life marriages, but we might not have to settle for apathy ever after


February 2019

A Yukon artist and a Tlingit trapper create this stunning jewelry

by Amy van den Berg

The fur jewelry in Whitehorse boutique store V. Ægirsdóttir is creating a new possibility for future partnerships with the region's trappers


February 2019

Why white people need to stop asking, 'where are you from?'

by Mike Sholars

"...For all intents and purposes, Canada is the only home I really recognize or remember. But none of that matters if I look like I don’t belong, and that single question makes that abundantly clear every single time."

Promotional Image