Valentine's day is dedicated to showing the special people in your life how much you love them, why not show the planet how much you appreciate her too? Whether it’s water and electricity use or the GHG emissions that are generated by the tons of roses grown for the holiday, or the excessive waste from gift wrapping, cards, bottles, boxes and those same flowers, Valentine’s day is incredibly taxing on the environment. Simple changes to the way we celebrate love can have a huge positive impact on the environment.
Emissions and Impacts on Valentines Day
It’s estimated that each year over 200 million roses are grown for Valentine’s day. This not only requires large amounts of resources such as land and water to grow, but also uses incredible amounts of energy to import from countries that have better weather conditions and cheaper labor (the main ones being Colombia, Kenya, Ecuador and Ethiopia). It was estimated that this contributes 9,000 tonnes of Co2 to the atmosphere, the equivalent of over 1 million gallons of gasoline consumed – just for a singular day! That’s a huge amount of emissions, not to mention what’s then generated by transportation and refrigeration on land, following their cross sea journey. The saddest part is that a few days following this long, intensive journey, it will have been for nothing, as the flowers are thrown away and forgotten. Roses aren’t the only culprit of environmental harm. We can think about the deforestation that’s required to produce masses of cards - the 180 million that are estimated to be bought on V-day - as well as the environmental and humanitarian failings of the cacao industry and the masses of waste that are generated from other discardable gifts, cards and wrapping.
It makes you wonder, at what cost must we show our love?
We don't think it’s right to hate the environment on a day dedicated to love, so we’ve compiled our list of 4 ways to be sustainable this Valentine’s Day.
1. GIVE SUSTAINABLY
Buy Fairtrade Chocolate
Let’s start with chocolate, one of the hottest commodities on Valentine’s day, and an industry that’s traditionally exploitative of both the environment and its laborers. The chocolate industry, especially the major brands which are mass produced, has been long linked to child labor and slavery, poor working conditions and environmental exploitation due to deforestation and excessive pesticide use. It’s incredibly important to be aware of where your chocolate comes from, especially on Valentine's day, and buy Fair Trade. The Fair Trade organization includes the most rigorous certification for social, environmental and economic standards, incorporating bans on use of pesticides, forced and child labor and a required organic certification. They provide safety nets to small farms such as their Fair Trade Minimum, which protects against market fluctuations and incorporates a sum that is paid on top of their profits for investment in community and business developments. They also play a huge role in enriching women as industry leaders and helping them to gain equal economic opportunities. All in all, Fair Trade certifications help farmers earn higher incomes and better livelihoods, and produce ethical, organic chocolate. When you buy chocolate this Valentine’s day, buy Fair Trade and support real people and the planet behind your purchase.
Here are some of our favorite, fair trade chocolate brands:
HU, Alter Eco, Theo Chocolate, Evolved, UnReal, Dapaah, Equal Exchange, Endangered Species, Beyond Good
Buy Sustainable Jewelry
(Or buy vintage, there’s so many unique pieces of jewelry that have a history, instead of buying something new)
Surface gold mining is one of the most destructive industries causing great environmental concern and around 7% of deforestation in developing nations, reported from a study at Yale. It completely disrupts the soil, and pollutants used in refining processes easily end up in water systems, affecting the health of nearby environments and populations. Almost all precious stones and metals come from poor regions of the world, without any supply chain transparency available for consumers. It’s also extremely important to be aware of the ethical implications and health hazards due to dangerous mining conditions in addition to the environmental effects. The production of jewelry also includes many processes that utilize heavy chemicals and pollutants, such as gem cutting which creates lung damaging dusts and is often carried out in facilities that don't have proper ventilation. Buying sustainable jewelry can mean many different things, whether that’s from brands that use recycled gold or lab grown gems that don’t involve mining, or finding ethical brands that focus on their social responsibilities and environmental impacts. It's important to pay attention to who and where your jewelry comes from.
We’ve done some of that work for you – here’s a list of some of our favorite sustainable, affordable jewelry brands:
Asma Amani, Mejuri, SOKO, AUrate, Brilliant Earth, ABLE, Cuyana
Go With Recycled
The paper required to produce holiday cards each year contributes further to deforestation that has overtaken much of our planet. Buying recycled cards and wrapping paper is a small step to eliminate this contribution.
2. DITCH THE BOUQUET
The traditional red rose, a Valentine’s day staple, are actually not as beautiful as they seem. The amount of roses produced each valentine’s day consumes huge amounts of water, uses large regions of land and requires mass amounts of energy to transport before being thrown away a few days later. This valentine’s day we challenge you to do it differently and buy a living plant, like a succulent, that you can keep long after one day - an emblem of a long lasting love that isn’t easily thrown away. If you really can’t ditch the roses, at least try to find a small boutique that grows locally and make sure to compost the flowers when you’re done with them!
3. MAKE IT PERSONAL
It doesn’t take a lot of money or a lot of things to show a lot of love.
Make Your Own Cards
Instead of wasting paper on a card, make your own from paper and supplies you already have. A personalized message in your handwriting can make all the difference in showing someone you love them, and who doesn’t love receiving a handwritten letter? What’s more, it won’t get tossed into the trash with the rest of the impersonal cards that no one wants sitting around.
DIY a Gift
There are so many ways to make a gift more personal and meaningful by doing them yourself. Wrap your gift in newspaper or old paper bags to repurpose your paper. Consider framing a picture that you love and painting the frame, or at least making a homemade card!
Have An Experience
Instead of focusing on something material, and consuming, there are so many ways to spend time with someone that’s much more meaningful than a generic teddy bear. Doing something out in nature is a great way to connect with the world and each-other. Consider going for a walk or hike, spending the day on the beach or at park to celebrate, instead of just purchasing something you’ll never actually use.
4. STAY INSIDE INSTEAD OF GOING OUT
What’s more romantic than a special home cooked meal? There’s no better way to say I love you than over an intimate candle-light dinner, so why not just do it at home? Buy sustainable, organic food from local vendors or even the farmers market (make it a date) and cook something fun, perhaps try a Vegan V-Day. Save emissions by not commuting to a restaurant, making for a less stressful and more memorable, intimate evening.
This Valentine’s Day, simple changes to the way you celebrate love can show your people you love them without hurting the planet in the process. That’s more love all around.
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