Tips for a Zero-Waste Valentine's Day
Updated: Feb 4
Valentine's Day can easily be chocked up to being a consumer-driven Hallmark-holiday that feels exclusionary for some and inherently bad for the environment.... but if you ask me, it doesn't have to be any of those things! I love Valentine's Day! An entire day dedicated to love and loved ones, surrounded by roses and the color pink? Sign me up!
To me, Valentine's Day was never strictly about romantic love, but more about appreciating all of the loved ones I am surrounded by, like my friends and family. I never really bought into the hype or consumerism of Valentine's Day, and I didn't really care for how it was treated in schools - exchanging pre-printed cards with every kid in class just didn't seem very meaningful, and as an adult, the most I would wish for is a heartfelt card, a single rose, and a heart-shaped box of my favorite chocolates. Here I've listed some things that you can do to make this Valentine's Day both more meaningful and less impactful on the environment!
Alex and I used to buy cards for each other for Valentine's Day, but the past few years, we've either exchanged hand-written cards, or not exchanged at all. No matter how old you are, you can't go wrong with hand-made cards! One year, Alex literally folded a sheet of computer paper in half and wrote song lyrics all over the front that reminded him of me and inside was a heartfelt message - I still have that card, displayed in a frame with a few other hand-written notes I've received from him over the years! Whether you're exchanging cards with a sweetheart, family, friend, neighbor, or classmates, get creative!
The most common item exchanged on Valentine's Day is without a doubt flowers! And despite how short-lived flowers are, I'm a total sucker for roses! But while flowers are beautiful, natural, and compostable, they're often shipped from afar as they require specific climates, and use harsh pesticides. If you wish to surprise your loved one with a fresh bouquet, look for local options first, such as the farmers' market or a nearby nursery. Look for flowers wrapped in paper, or opt for a potted plant that will last for years! There are also alternatives to fresh flower bouquets, such as bouquets made out of wood, paper, fabric, fruit, etc! If you're feeling crafty, some of these can be made yourself, but otherwise, check to see if there are any local crafters on Etsy or at farmers' markets or fairs, or search for a faux secondhand bouquet in a thrift store or on buy/sell websites!
You don't have to spend a lot or buy a lot to give your loved ones something thoughtful on Valentine's Day. But if you're looking to give your sweetheart something in addition to or instead of flowers, there are plenty of options that don't require much waste, if any at all! Skip the oversized stuffed animals, and look for something consumable that's sustainably packaged instead! Chocolates in a heart-shaped box with a plastic liner are cute, but they're not the only nice way to present your loved one with sweet treats! Fill a jar with bulk chocolates or find a chocolate bar wrapped in foil and paper, then decorate with a ribbon and heart-shaped tag! For the adults, maybe buy a nice bottle of wine that you and your partner wouldn't otherwise try. Perhaps an experience gift would be a better fit - sign you and your loved one up for a cooking class, painting class, or dance class! For some more general ideas for zero-waste gifts, check out my zero-waste gifting series (adults & teens, kids, and wrapping)!
One thought that was always overwhelming to me was that of going out to dinner on Valentine's Day. Now, eating out is not inherently bad for the environment, so if cooking at home isn't your cup of tea, do some research in advance and make a reservation at a nice sit-down restaurant that serves with real tableware - bonus points if they source their food locally, compost, and/or offer plant-based menu options! However, if you're looking to guarantee yourselves a quiet and zero-waste evening, make a plan and do some zero-waste grocery shopping, and maybe even make a date of cooking dinner together! If takeout is more your thing, think ahead and see if you can place your order early and bring in your own containers for them to package it in.
If your child is exchanging cards and treats with classmates, make an activity out of hand making cards for the class with items from the recycling bin! Maybe make it a group activity with their friends to come over and all make Valentine's together! For treats though, this can be hard depending on varying school policies with food. Due to allergy concerns and dietary restrictions, some schools require foods distributed to students to be pre-packaged from a store with an ingredients list. If this is not an issue, then add baking some treats to your DIY extravaganza, or pick up some treats from the bulk section! Otherwise, just do your best - maybe the compromise is buying a big bag of Hershey kisses (individually wrapped in foil instead of plastic), coloring books, or make play-dough or heart-shaped crayons, to name a few ideas!
From here on out we're getting more serious and PG-13/R-rated...
Now, first off, before you get down with your significant other this Valentine's Day, it's important to be on the same page in terms of children and birth control. Be prepared and explore your options! While there is no one-size-fits all, a few least wasteful methods of birth control are an IUD, copper implant, arm injection, or natural family planning (NFP). And while any condom is better than no condom, if you're looking for a safer, more natural condom than the more conventional brands, check out Sustain Naturals! Do your research and consult with your doctor, and then discuss it with your partner!
With that out of the way, we can move on to the fun stuff! If you're looking for some adult toys to spice things up, there are all sorts of goodies on the market that aren't horrible for the planet! There are toys made out of glass, and there's even such thing as a compostable vibrator! Shop around and see if there's an environmentally friendly version of whatever you have in mind! And what about lingerie? There are plenty of sustainable lingerie companies out there, or you can shop secondhand!
And remember, while Valentine's Day is a nice concept, you don't need a holiday to express your love for each other - feel free to apply these tips to any random day of the year!