Mother's Day—the official observance of everything maternal—typically revolves around four traditions: brunch, bling, bouquets, and greeting cards. Although other goodies may enter the celebratory mix depending on what makes Mom smile and swoon—books, fragrances and cosmetics, clothing, edibles, and more—GreenYour has pinpointed Mom's Day conventions with the biggest eco-impacts—ones that tend to displease Big Momma, Mother Earth. So how do you delight Mom while scoring green points? Read on...
Recycled paper, not recycled sentiments
Although sending an e-card in lieu of an old-fashioned snail mail missive may be considered gauche, it is undoubtedly green—that is unless Mom is an octogenarian with limited knowledge of or access to the World Wide Web. Plenty of virtual stationery stores offer Mom’s Day sentiments ranging from sassy to more sentimental. If Mom’s not constantly online, remind her to fire up the PC on her special day and why not follow up with a call? She'd love to hear your voice.
If you do go the way of the envelope, digest this: Mother’s Day is the third most popular card-sending holiday—155 million cards are sent—resulting in a whole lot of paper waste and eco-damage. Greeting cards initially consume virgin resources (trees, water, fuel) before ending up in landfills as part of the approximately 85 million tons of paper waste generated by Americans in 2006. Additionally, that innocuous, sweet greeting card plays into paper production's responsibility for about a fifth of the total wood harvest worldwide. Though the pulp and paper industry has made great strides over the past 20 years, there are still significant ecological effects in the process of making paper products, especially those products made from virgin trees. In addition to tree loss, the virgin timber-based pulp and paper industry is the third largest industrial emitter of global warming pollution, with carbon dioxide emissions projected to double by 2020.
A solution without having to hit the “send” button: Seek out greeting cards made from recycled-content paper and ones made from tree-free materials like hemp, bamboo, and kenaf. Alternative fiber greeting cards are relatively easy to find and come in all shapes and sizes. Consider snagging Mom a card from Seltzer Goods. We’re thinking that she (and Mother Earth) will be pleased.
Say it with flowers
Mother's Day is big business for the $40 billion dollar flower industry, but there is un problemo: only 6 percent of flowers sold in the US are certified as eco-friendly and socially responsible and more than 70 percent are imported, primarily from Latin America. So that oooh and ahhh-inspiring bouquet you just handed over to Mommy Dearest may be doused in dangerous agricultural chems, associated with unfair labor practices, and has likely made quite the fuel-intensive journey to get from point A to B.
Although they may be a bit harder to find and cost a bit more, there are some alternatives: organic and biodynamic (chemical free and environmentally sensitive), local (homegrown without the jaw-dropping carbon footprint), and fair trade (environmentally and socially sound). And although they may not boast the same alluring fragrances or vivid colors, houseplants are also an option. Many are effective natural air purifiers—much cheaper than that high-tech air purifier—and they give greenthumbed mums something to tend to since you fled the nest.
Bewitching and bejeweled
Are baubles and bling a surefire way to Momma's heart? The jewelry trade, although associated with glitz, glamour, sparkle, and shine, is an inherently dirty—and dangerous—one. Fortunately, green jewelry doesn't just mean emeralds; it can be recycled gold and other precious metals, diamonds, and gems mined with the environment and humane labor conditions in mind; vintage pieces; or for the more adventurous jewelry wearer, an array of items made from recycled and reclaimed materials. Just think... Mom will be the talk of the town (or the office), thanks to her eye-catching fashions.
If Mom looks crestfallen or confused when she opens that little box to find earrings made from recycled beer bottles instead of the gold pendant she's been pining for, gently remind her (remember, no lecturing, it is her day after all) that gold mining is one of the most polluting industries in the world—the weight of waste produced by mines in the US equals almost nine times the weight of garbage produced by all American cities and towns combined.
I'll have the green eggs and ham, please
For many, a scrumptious Mother's Day brunch is de rigueur. Before you sit down to order (or scuttle over to the buffet) chew on this: Restaurants consume more energy per square foot than any other US industry—over 2.5 times the average commercial building. They also use large amounts of water; and produce an average of 50,000 pounds of trash a piece. This year, treat mom to a green meal by seeking out a certified green eatery or a restaurant serving organic and/or local vittles. Does Mom have a taste for salmon? Ask (on her behalf) if it's sustainably sourced. And is she chasing down that fillet with a glass of Chardonnay? Make sure it's the one produced closest to home (California momma's are in luck). Check please...
- Greenpeace - Mommy Meetups & Stroller Marches
- The Daily Green - Gorgeous Green Gifts for Mother's Day
- Ideal Bite - Are two "World's Best Mom" mugs better than one?
- Environmental Defense Fund - An Eco-Friendly Mother's Day Celebration
- EcoMom Alliance "Because one of nature’s strongest forces is a network of mothers."
- Hallmark - Holiday Card-Sending Statistics
- US Environmental Protection Agency - Municipal Solid Waste - Commodities: Paper and Paperboard Products
- Worldwatch Institute - Good Stuff? - Paper
- Natural Resources Defense Council - Reforming the Paper Industry
- AmyStewart.com - Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers
- No Dirty Gold Campaign - Retailers: Don't let the mining industry tarnish the jewelry business
- Inter Press Service News Agency - Gold Jewelry: World's Dirtiest Valentine's Gift?
- Energy Information Administration - Food Service Buildings
- Thimmakka - History
- Environmental News Network - Maximum Impact Restaurant Greening