Valentine’s Day, like most holidays, is pretty unsustainable. The chocolate, the stuffed toys, the plastic covered flowers- it all comes at an environmental cost. Here’s how you can make your Valentine's Day more sustainable, whether you’re spending it alone or with someone special.
Give fair trade chocolate
58 million pounds of chocolate will be consumed during the week of Valentine's Day in America alone, most of which will have been grown in socially and environmentally unsustainable conditions. 70% of cocoa beans are grown in West Africa, where thousands of children are forced to harvest cocoa and 70% of illegal deforestation is linked to the drive for cocoa production. If you buy fair trade chocolate, you can support operations that are working against these unsustainable conditions. Fair trade chocolate companies ban child and forced labor, and pay farmers a fair price. A lot of fair trade companies, like Equal Exchange, also work with farmers to develop sustainable harvesting practices to promote environmental stewardship.
Buy flowers locally
Despite being a product of nature, cut flowers have quite the impact on the environment from the beginning to the end of their life. First, the flowers are grown, where a lot of agrochemicals are used. The flowers are then transported overseas to be sold. Three weeks of flower delivery flights results in 360,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions. After they’re flown they are put on a truck where they have to be refrigerated, which requires a lot of energy use and results in more CO2 emissions. Bouquets are then wrapped in thin plastic that can’t be recycled. To avoid these negative environmental impacts, do your research on your local florists to see their business practices, or visit your local farmers’ markets for local, in-season flowers.
Give experiences instead of things
Consumerism plays a huge role in climate change and other environmental issues, with one study citing consumerism as the source of 60-80% of environmental impacts. Since less is more when it comes to sustainability, consider gifting experiences rather than things. Give a spa day certificate instead of a giant teddy bear, or theatre tickets instead of jewelry.
Opt for plantable cards
While most traditional greeting cards are recyclable, they still have quite the environmental impact (especially if they’re integrated with music and glitter and not recycled). Creating a paper card requires deforestation to harvest lumber, large quantities of water and energy to manufacture the cards, and soil and water pollution from the factories that manufacture the cards. Not to mention the large sum of paper waste that’s created if these cards go unrecycled. If you still want the sentiment of giving a real card but want to avoid these environmental impacts, opt for a plantable card. These cards are made from recycled paper scraps and are mixed with wildflower seeds so you can plant them instead of throwing them away- making them sustainable from cradle to grave.
Vegan is best
When you’re planning your Valentine's Day dinner, make it vegan. Cutting meat and dairy from your diet is one of the number things you can do to reduce your carbon emissions and resource consumption. For example, one Beyond Burger uses 99% less water, 93% less land, 46% less energy and results in 90% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a regular burger. Just replacing one
is the blog manager for Zero Waste Club, combining her love for writing with her passion for all things environmental sustainability. She is currently a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she is studying journalism, environmental studies, and food studies in hopes of building a career in environmental activism. You can find her on Instagram as @kaylaguilliams.