In many countries, February is dominated by 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 Chaucer [1,2].
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.
Today, unfortunately, it is a highly consumerist attitude that permeates our actions and plans around St. Valentines and the celebrations on the day.
The environmental impact of Valentine’s Day is bigger than you think!
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 flourished . 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 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 Day . 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 silver . 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 world .
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!
Eco-friendly Valentine’s day gifts
- Potted plants, not flowers
One simple solution is to opt for potted plants rather than your standard bouquet of red roses. There are many benefits to this. First of all, you can select among a variety of flowers, plants and herbs. Your gift will not wild in just a few days and you can both see it and remember the occasion it was given on. In addition, if you opt for herbs or another fruit plant, you can reap the fruits!
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
If you want to buy a gift, choose something that has been made in a sustainable way. There are many options on the market today, whether it is chocolate or jewellery or even lingerie. If you want to get some chocolate make sure this is as eco-friendly as possible.
For example, Rainforest Alliance certifies chocolate that’s better for the environment but it also ensures that cocoa farmers have good living and working conditions . Rainforest Alliance also certifies wines and many other things. Products also marked with the EU’s Ecolabel or certified with the EU’s organic farming logo are good options.
- Be creative
Who said that you need to do what others do? There is nothing stopping you from sending an e-card rather than a paper one or one that is made from re-using products you already have around your house. Look up creative DIY ideas for re-using cardboard, glass or plastic bottles or even wine corks. This would be an especially fun activity if you involve children!
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
You can celebrate Valentine’s outdoors too. Rather than eating our at a restaurant, what about opting for a romantic walk in a park, the beach or visiting a reserve? You can combine your outing with an intimate picnic. Just remember to pick re-usable Tupperware and utensils rather than single-use items!
- Use candles
Candles are almost synonymous to romance. But in this case we would recommend creating a romantic atmosphere with soy candles. Soy wax candles are a natural option while conventional candles are made with paraffin wax, a petroleum by-product, and some wicks may contain traces of heavy metals .