Valentine’s Day, the celebration dedicated to those who are in love. On 14 February we celebrate Saint Valentine even though there is very little that is actually known of the work of this Saint. On tops of this we have conflicting explanations of this origins of this celebration with many attributing its inception to medieval English poet Geoffrey Chaucer¹,². Some hagiographies picture Saint Valentine as a priest of Rome or as the former Bishop of Terni, Narnia and Amelia, a town of Umbria, in central Italy. Different accounts suggest that he was beheaded after he did not agree to renounce Christianity. Due to these inaccuracies, the Catholic Church discontinued its liturgical veneration of him in 1969. But despite this, Valentine’s Day still makes an impact. It is not only among the most recognisable holidays, but there is so much hype about it each year that even our environment suffers from it. This is perhaps slightly ironic given that Saint Valentines was also meant to protect beekeepers, bees being one of the key pollinators sustaining life on our planet.
Today, unfortunately, it is a highly consumerist attitude that permeates our actions and plans around St. Valentines and the celebrations on the day. It is indicative that North America did not embrace this holiday until Hallmark cards specialised in Valentine’s cards in 1910. Since then, the marketing of symbols of love has flourished³. We buy gifts such as chocolates or flowers, give away cards, go out for dinner or even away for a long weekend. We buy meaningful gifts but also some times also smaller items that are not only seasonal but have no real use or purpose – more often than not such items end up in the bin within days.
To put some statistics to the environmental impact of Valentine’s Day, it is estimated that 224 million roses are grown for Valentine’s Day⁴. This is a significant stress on our land which is treated by pesticides and fertilisers to produce these excess amounts of roses; this also does not take into account the other impacts, such as CO2 emissions from the transport of the roses. It is not just the roses though, as people will spend $4.4 billion on diamonds, gold and silver⁴. Diamond jewellery is considered the epitome of all gifts symbolising love – the proliferation of diamonds has given rise to the issue of “blood diamonds” in areas of Africa where the mining of diamonds has led to conflicts.
Paper and cardboard consumption also goes through the roof on Valentine’s Day. Americans spend around $277 million on Valentine cards every year, second only to Christmas. Approximately one billion Valentine cards are sent each year around the world⁵.
So is it really possible to have a green Valentine’s Day which celebrates love between humans but also our love towards our planet? We have collected a series of ideas to help you spend it in a more sustainable way!
- Potted plants, not flowers
There is always the option of buying flowers from a florist that sells organic bouquets, but why not have the best of both worlds by opting for a potted flower? Not only does it last longer and can grow but you have still bought your loved one the much-covered flower bouquet they will be expecting.
- Opt for organic or sustainable products
- Be creative
If you are less DIY-savvy, you can always cook something from scratch. Try experimenting with homemade vegan cookies and cakes. You may be surprised with how good they taste!
- Enjoy nature
- Use candles