Malcolm McDowell Woods

Think green (and local) this Valentine’s Day

By - Feb 1st, 2010 04:14 pm
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How about a Valentine's Day card featuring the work of a local artist? Photo by Mali Anderson

How about a Valentine’s Day card featuring the work of a local artist? Photo by Mali Anderson

By Mali Anderson

Valentine’s Day is upon us, a holiday with a long tradition of giving gifts such as cards, flowers and chocolates. Often these tokens of affection are Hallmark cards, a dozen red long stems and a vacuum-sealed box of confections. This year, think about the message of your gift. Wouldn’t you rather your gift support the community you and your relationships thrive in? A card illustrating a local artist’s work, a bouquet that has never touched a pesticide or a locally grown tastebud treat may be the perfect solution.

If you’ve always given flowers, and want to continue that tradition, consider options that don’t involve pesticides and refrigerated freight trucks. Future Green in Bay View specializes in socially responsible shopping and carries handcrafted flowers, some made of fabric, others made of wood. The silk flowers “are from Thailand and are fair trade. They make a nice gift because they will last forever,” says Lisa Sims, co-owner of the store. “We also have recycled wood flowers, fair trade from Central America. No stains, no finishes, all natural wood. Fair trade helps support villages. People get a fair wage, a living wage. They can feed their families, send kids to school and get medical attention,” continues Sims.

Unique gifts can also be found at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center in Bayside. A favorite are the greeting cards featuring reproductions of acrylic paintings by Catherine Patek, a SANC volunteer. “One of the raptor volunteers does the paintings of the birds we have in our collection. These cards aren’t available anywhere else. She handles the birds and does paintings of the birds,” says Bob Bailie, marketing coordinator at the center. The colorful cards depicting hawks and owls could even be an invite to a Valentine’s Day outing. SANC showcases the raptor birds that are housed at the center every Saturday and Sunday from 1-2 p.m.; programming that is included with nature center admission.

The SANC Nature Store also carries other variations on traditional gifts. There is jewelry made of recycled bottle caps, a wide assortment of native plant seeds and books to educate yourself on which annuals, perennials, bulbs, and trees blossom and flourish in our Wisconsin climate. “All the money goes toward environmental educational programs,” continues Bailie. So your gift will benefit others in the community along with keeping the center thriving for your next visit.

Finally, we can’t deny the old adage that the way to the heart is through the stomach. What better way to satisfy your cravings than a delicious meal of locally produced food? Make a reservation at Meritage for the Braise Restaurant Supported Agriculture (RSA) dinner on Tuesday, Feb. 9. The dinner will feature a favorite Valentine’s Day food — chocolate. You will take pleasure in “five courses (four savory, one sweet) all including chocolate/cocoa from Omanhene. Most of the other ingredients will be coming from the RSA, which only sources from Wisconsin. We currently offer vegetables, meats, dairy, cheese and chocolate,” says Dave Swanson, owner of Braise RSA. Omanhene is a Milwaukee-based chocolate company that works with fair trade cocoa farmers in Ghana to make exquisite chocolate.

The RSA dinners help fund and promote efforts to expand Braise RSA. Swanson says it “is really about making a positive economical impact to the local economy. The restaurant sales achieved would have gone elsewhere, outside of Wisconsin, if not for the RSA.”

Valentine’s Day is a celebration of love. Why not use some of that affection to support businesses, ideas and non-profits we believe in? Let someone else grab the prepackaged romance this year. Show your sweetie how special they are with a remarkable local gift.

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