BY ISSY STUART
Valentine’s Day is a great chance to show your love and appreciation of your partner, however, like many commercialised holidays, it can become a day in which our planet is left unloved. The millions of roses, gifts, greeting-cards and chocolate boxes exchanged on this day have a massive impact on the environment, generating carbon dioxide emissions and creating extensive paper and packaging waste. But, you don’t need to give up entirely on celebrating this day of love. Here are five ways to show the planet, as well as your partner, some love this Valentine’s Day.
RETHINK THE BOUQUET OF CUT FLOWERS
Nothing says romance like a beautiful bouquet of red roses, however the environmental consequences of cut flowers has a less than loving impact on the planet. Flowers almost never come from local garden centres: 80% of all roses come from South America or Africa. This means energy-consuming chilled warehouse storage, refrigerated truck transportation and carbon emitting air travel. The huge demand for flowers on holidays like Valentine’s Day results in the extensive use of toxic chemicals like insecticides and herbicides to maximise output, which is damaging for both the environment and the unprotected workers. Bouquets usually come wrapped in plastic cellophane, and, unless properly composted, the short-lived flowers often end up decomposing in a landfill. Is all this worth the one week your flowers look pretty in a vase? Definitely not. Instead, why don’t you try these environmentally friendly alternatives:
BUY A POTTED HOUSE PLANT
A potted plant can look as beautiful as a flower bouquet, with the added bonus of thriving for months if properly cared for, meaning it can be enjoyed for so much longer. Living plants have been shown to purify and detoxify the air, emitting oxygen and absorbing chemicals. Flowering potted plants can bring colour and beauty to a home, but easy to care for plants like succulents can look just as lovely for those who are less green-fingered and prone to killing their plants!
GROW YOUR OWN FLOWERS
Alternatively, you could try buying flower seeds or bulbs and growing your own flowers, either inside in a pot or in a flower bed outside. This can be a fun and romantic Valentine’s Day activity, letting you spend some quality time with your partner and experience the shared satisfaction of growing something together. Even better, your flower beds will help spread the love to the bees and other insects in your garden!
CUT THE CARDS
Cards might be the hallmark of Valentine’s Day, but recently we think they’ve lost their lustre. The commercialisation of the holiday has caused some people to baulk at this overpriced way of expressing love: the Greeting Card Association predicted that America alone would spend $1 billion on cards in 2018. The cost of a card that will end up in the bin is also too high for the planet. Most greeting cards cannot be recycled, due to glitter, foil, ribbon, or other plastic embellishments. There are more meaningful ways of telling someone you love them, without relying on someone else’s words, whilst showing a little love to the planet at the same time.
WRITE A LOVE LETTER
No one gets love letters anymore, but they are so much more special than a generic card. Take the time to write down everything you love about your partner (on recycled paper!) to give them a truly personal message of love. This thoughtful gesture will most likely be treasured and kept for much longer than a store-bought card and will show your loved one how much you really care.
MAKE A HOMEMADE CARD
Regardless of your artistic ability, a home-made card is a really sweet gesture that demonstrates more time and effort than a store-bought card. You can get creative with old magazines and newspapers, or tickets and receipts from special days out. This is a great way to repurpose old paper and give a more heartfelt and memorable card to the person you love.
We live in a consumer society, and Valentine’s Day especially can be a day when people go crazy buying gifts, but consumers have a huge impact on the environment. Instead of mindless shopping, with the inevitable waste, pollution and resource depletion that comes with it, focus on giving quality, eco-friendly gifts.
REPLACE CHOCOLATE BOXES WITH HOMEMADE TREATS
Boxes of chocolate, with layers of plastic packaging, are a nightmare for the environment. If your partner has a sweet tooth, why not try making your own sweet treats at home. Use locally sourced ingredients where possible, and make sure to use sustainably sourced, Fair Trade chocolate. This way you can give a thoughtful and yummy gift without harming the planet.
CHOOSE YOUR COMPANIES CAREFULLY
If you do decide to buy your partner (or yourself) a gift, then be mindful about where you choose to shop. Make sure to pick conscious companies that have eco-friendly policies. Think about some important questions before purchasing, such as resources used in production, where it was shipped from, and how long the product will last.
GIFT WRAPPING ALTERNATIVES
Often, wrapping paper isn’t eco-friendly; it’s covered in glitter and plastic, stuck with plastic-based sticky tape and tied up with synthetic bows and ribbons. Instead, try one of these 8 eco-friendly ways to wrap your gifts.
PRIORITISE PRESENCE OVER PRESENTS
This Christmas, The Clean Collective celebrated the gift of presence, not presents, showing how spending quality time with loved ones can be more important and meaningful than lots of gifts. This sentiment is particularly special for Valentine’s Day, as there is no better way to reaffirm your relationship and show your love for your partner than by enjoying an experience with them. Shared experiences can strengthen your relationship and leave you with special memories that will last much longer than presents. According to the National Retail Federation, 44% of 24 to 35-year olds were planning an experience together to celebrate Valentine’s Day, and more than 50% say a shared experience is what they’d most like to receive. Experiences don’t have to be expensive, they can be as simple as a romantic walk, a candle-lit picnic, or a massage. The most important thing is that you get to spend distraction-free time with your partner to enjoy each other’s company and consolidate your love.
HAVE A HOME-COOKED MEAL
A romantic restaurant dinner on Valentine’s Day is definitely overrated. Avoid pricey set-menus, overcrowded restaurants, and the stress of making reservations months in advance by having a home-cooked meal instead. Cooking for your partner is a great way to show how much you care for them, or alternatively cooking together can be a fun, shared experience. Most importantly, cooking at home is a great way to show your love for the planet if you follow these tips!
USE LOCALLY SOURCED PRODUCE
Use local and seasonal produce, which tastes better and is better for the economy and environment. Seasonal food can grow without the use of pesticides and genetic modifications, which are damaging both for the environment and our health. In addition, locally produced food reduces the ‘food mileage’ of importing food, further reducing the damage to the environment. Find some new, exciting recipes that make use of your local, seasonal produce and enjoy a fresh and flavoursome meal, whilst helping the planet at the same time!
USE YOUR LEFTOVERS
The great thing about cooking at home that you don’t get in a restaurant is that you get to use your leftovers! When you throw away food, you waste the water, fuel and resources that it took to get the food to your plate. Reduce your food waste by making sure you use your leftovers.
TRY A VEGETARIAN OR VEGAN MEAL
Cutting down on meat and dairy products can significantly reduce your environmental impact on the planet. Meat and dairy uses 83% of farmland and produces 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. A vegan diet is the biggest way to reduce your impact on the planet, reducing not just greenhouse gases, but also global acidification, land use, and water use. This Valentine’s is an excellent time to try out a vegetarian or vegan meal, to show love for your planet as well as your partner.