The best flowers for your Valentine—and the planet

Forget roses. They’re a cliche, anyway.


Hey team, and welcome back to one5c! Confession time: “East Bound and Down” has a tendency to loop in my head as we pull together these weekly roundups. (To be abundantly clear: I’m talking about the theme song from Smokey and the Bandit, not the late-aughts HBO series.) Specifically, the lyric “we got a long way to go, and a short time to get there” embeds itself in my ear. Without the energetic country guitar-picking behind it, the phrase might sound ominous, but the way I hear it it’s more of a spirited and positive call to action. 

When we’ve spent 12 straight months above the 1.5 mark, it’s especially potent. To me that line means we have to run as fast as we can at the things we know are working, and scurry away from the things that aren’t. This week, that means taking a closer look at how public universities profit off Indigenous land, the impact of “green amendments” in state constitutions, and more. Is there a technology or initiative or action you’re curious about? Reply to this email and let us know; I’d love to talk about it. —Corinne


Behavioral science that works for reworking doomers and deniers

There’s no one perfect way to convince someone of something, but a new study of 59,000 people in Science Advances offers a bit more insight into what works best in terms of climate education. One big persuader: thinking of the children. When the study authors asked participants to write a letter to a child they know about the actions they’d personally taken to make the planet livable in 2055, their support for climate policy jumped by 10%. Even doom and gloom messages had their benefits: After hearing about the more apocalyptic aspects of the climate crisis, respondents were more likely to post that information to their social media channels. But getting people to take action wasn’t majorly impacted by any messaging—a sign that we’ve still got a bit to figure out.

Have we blown past 1.5 degrees?

According to the E.U.’s Copernicus Climate Change Service, we spent a full calendar year above the 1.5 degrees Celsius mark. But that doesn’t mean the goals of the Paris Agreement are blown. The reason comes down to not confusing weather with climate. Weather is about current conditions, climate is about long-term trends. There are factors beyond human-caused warming that made 2023 a particularly toasty one (hello, El Niño). Climate researchers have to look at longer periods of time to determine major trends—El Niño and La Niña cycles happen every two to seven years, for example. Experts say these latest findings see a permanent jump to 1.5 degrees lurking around the 2030s. 

A sordid history of land grant universities

Fossil fuel development, logging, mining, and other extractive activities on stolen Indigenous land have a deep and disturbing connection with our nation’s higher education system. Profits from land grants keep public universities afloat—all while the institutions sideline financial support for Indigenous students and posture about their climate commitments. In an 18-month investigation, Grist explores this fraught history, which dates all the way back to Abraham Lincoln. Their deep dive includes accounts from Indigenous students and interactive visualizations that step through the worst higher-ed offenders.

Green amendments are catching on

A new kind of amendment is hitting ballots across the U.S. this November. This week, legislatures in New Jersey, New Mexico, and Hawaii are debating “green amendments,” with California and Connecticut next in line. These amendments would change state constitutions to include a right to a clean, safe environment. Right now, three states (Pennsylvania, Montana, and New York) already have something similar on the books, and even right-leaning states like Tennessee and Texas are considering adding environmental protection to their state constitutions. These amendments have potential to be a major win for the planet and public health; they’re what helped teens in Montana win a landmark suit last year

Mic-drop climate stat

The best floral arrangements for your valentine—and the planet

Steve Cordory/Shutterstock

Americans will spend about $2.6 billion on flowers this Valentine’s Day. But beneath all those pretty blooms lies a dirty reality: Many of the ones we buy at local supermarkets are cultivated thousands of miles away. Transporting them generates a lot of emissions. In 2018 alone, flying Valentine’s flowers from Colombia to U.S. airports produced about 360,000 metric tons of CO2, comparable to the annual emissions of about 78,000 cars. 

What’s more, those jet-setting blooms are often picked by underpaid workers in developing countries. And, in order to maintain their pristine appearance, many flowers undergo heavy pesticide treatments, with residues sometimes reaching levels up to 50 times higher than what’s allowed on edible crops.

So, before you shower your sweetheart with rose petals, consider alternative Valentine’s gifts that show the planet some love, too. Here are three suggestions:

Good: Local, seasonal flowers

If you’re committed to a traditional bouquet, opt for seasonal, locally grown flowers. Daffodils, for one, are in season in most of the U.S. right now. Because these blooms are grown in time with the natural rhythm of the local weather, they don’t require as much energy to cultivate as ones that need artificial light, heating, or cooling—like your classic roses. They also eliminate the need for long-distance transportation. Finding domestic beauties is often as easy as a quick trip to the farmers market. For an extra eco-friendly touch, ask your florist for less packaging and bring your own vase.

Better: Upcycled paper flowers

Unlike cut flowers, which wilt away in a matter of days, flowers made from upcycled materials around your home can last for years. You won’t need to buy any new materials: Floral crafts can be made from old newspapers, coffee filters, or even toilet paper rolls. Personalize your creations with hand-drawn designs, and your imagination and environmental consciousness are sure to impress your loved one. 

Best: Planting native wildflowers

If you’ve got a patch of land to spare, give your sweetheart a garden instead of a bouquet! Native wildflowers, which can be purchased at local garden centers, online, or through nationwide seed exchanges, are tailored to your environment, and therefore require minimal water and upkeep once they take root. Planting them not only beautifies your surroundings but also helps sock away carbon in their roots and provides habitat and food for local pollinators like bees and butterflies. For extra green love: Opt for wildflower seed coins that minimize paper seed packaging.