Valentine’s Day is hit or miss for many people. It’s either the best day to celebrate with your loved one or a commercialized mess of consumerism.
Whatever you think of it, it’s important to note how much waste the holiday generates.
Valentine’s Day environmental impact
Valentine’s Day is one of the most wasteful holidays of the year, with the bulk of its themed gifts either disposed of before the end of the week or dumped in overstock or landfill.
Most flowers bought for Valentine’s Day are roses shipped from South America, especially Colombia and Ecuador. A lot of resources go into growing and shipping flowers, only for them to be disposed of after an average of a day.
Not to mention the chemicals that go into cut flowers just to help preserve them for a few more hours. Over $2 billion is spent on flowers just for Valentine’s Day. Jewelry still tops the list when it comes to how much is spent annually at $5.8 billion, but the average price gap between a bouquet and a single piece of jewelry is quite wide.
Jewelry also tends to last longer!
The carbon emissions from transporting flowers, candy, chocolates, cards, and more for one day are incredible. So how can we change it for the better?
How can Valentine’s Day be sustainable?
Part of the problem with Valentine’s Day is how both commercial and social media factors play into it.
Stores across the world advertise massive amounts of gifts and cards leading up to the day, encouraging you to walk past shelves and colorful displays to tempt you into buying from them.
On social media, gushing posts of love can incite jealousy, competition, and the fear of missing out.
Combined, it’s no wonder that many people go into Valentine’s Day looking forward to what gifts their partner has.
Especially when it feels like you’re in competition with every other couple on social media, posting about their wonderful plans, gifts, or dates.
Making Valentine’s Day sustainable doesn’t mean not celebrating. It just requires being more aware and conscientious of what you’re buying and planning.
Sustainable Valentine’s Day tips and tricks
Valentine’s Day can be made sustainable with only a few changes. Some of the easiest ways are swapping gifts – especially chocolate – for more sustainable alternatives.
Buying Fair Trade or vegan chocolate can make a big difference, especially on Valentine’s Day. If a shop suddenly gets an influx of customers buying more sustainable chocolate, they’re incentivized to purchase more stock so more people will buy them.
And to you, gifting Fair Trade or vegan chocolate can make a big difference with the assurance that your chocolate hasn’t been made with child or forced labor and hasn’t contributed to deforestation.
Other gift swaps don’t have to be difficult either!
The best tips for a sustainable Valentine’s Day are the simplest:
- Buy presents that will be used for a long time
- Buy responsibly sourced jewelry
- Swap cut flowers for a potted plant
- Support local bakeries or bake your own desserts
- Gift experiences or make time for your partner
- Swap manufactured cards for handmade or eco-friendly cards
Eco-friendly Valentine’s Day cards
Many Valentine’s Day cards are laminated in plastic, covered in glitter, or otherwise not suitable for recycling – or end up at landfills anyway.
While the most sustainable ways of gifting Valentine’s cards are either to skip the cards entirely or make your own, most people want something that looks nice and clean. Hopefully to be kept in a drawer or box to leaf through years later to look at memories of your relationship.
There are many eco-friendly Valentine’s Day cards out there, but availability and type vary country-to-country. Recycled, compostable, plantable – all are better than traditional cards you can buy in stores.
Etsy, the e-commerce company used primarily for handmade items, is one of the best places to buy eco-friendly Valentine’s cards. You can filter search results by ‘shop location’, which allows you to input your country, meaning you’ll only see results from creators from your country. This is a big help in cutting down international shipping and helps support small businesses at the same time.
Personalized cards from companies like Moonpig, Shutterfly, Simply to Impress, and more should really be avoided unless you’re sending the card to somebody you’re not going to see in person.
Sustainable Valentine’s gift ideas
The best Valentine’s gift is one that will last – no cut flowers here. Instead, think about:
- What their hobbies and interests are
- If they have any collections they enjoy you could add to
- What stores they regularly purchase from
Chances are you’ll have a good idea of what they might appreciate. When it comes to hobbies and stores they like spending time in, gift cards can be a great gift, especially paired with a romantic date or another present.
For gamers, there are always Steam, Xbox, or PlayStation gift cards. Even if a hobby site doesn’t offer gift cards you might get some ideas just by browsing the website or engaging with your partner’s hobby a few times.
Other great Valentine’s Day gift ideas include:
- Tickets to that event or movie they’re looking forward to
- Eco-friendly beauty and shaving products
- Personalized art
- Eco-friendly candles
A good rule of thumb for sustainable gifts is to work out how much the recipient will use them. If they love lighting candles anyway, why not get one or a set that you think they’ll like (especially if you pay attention to what scents they usually buy!)?
Gifts of experiences are some of the best gifts because of the memories they accompany, but a lot of people enjoy physical gifts as well. That’s where chocolate comes in!
Sustainable Valentine’s Day date tips
Planning for the big day itself can be a nightmare, especially if other commitments like work stop you from enjoying the night together.
Having a plan ahead of time will help a lot. You could either keep the plan a surprise and tell your partner not to make other plans for the day you’ve chosen, or you can enjoy planning with them.
Chances are that most restaurants in the area will be booked up for Valentine’s Day, so make sure to make reservations well in advance or forgo the dinner out.
Instead, think about a home-cooked meal. You could cook together or make it a night to spoil them, complete with whatever decorations you can unearth.
Even a bit of red tissue paper torn up to look like rose petals can make an impression on the table, and it’s eco-friendly!
When it comes to decor, go for what you already have or can borrow from others.
Red symbolizes love, life, health, and passion, so draping a red blanket over the sofa and complementing it with pink or white can transform your home with minimal effort and waste.
Date nights can also incorporate experiences like cooking classes, movie dates, romantic getaways, ice skating, nature walks, or spa trips. Just make sure you pepper the date with reminders of your love and ensure it’s something they want to do – and are prepared for!