Valentine’s Day has arrived, and we can feel the love. On average, total spending for the holiday surpasses $18.2 billion each year. But all the great stuff often comes at an expense for our environment. It’s estimated that more than one billion cards are given out on this day — and this is only second to Christmas. The bad part? Although they’re often beautiful, fancy, and sparkly, most of these cards are not recyclable. Not to mention, other items such as balloons, wrapping paper, and bags end up as waste. And many of these ornaments make it hard to toss these items in a recycling bin. Valentine’s Day is the best time of year to show those who matter to you just how much you care. So how can you do this in the most sustainable, eco-friendly way? Here are nine ideas to fall in love with.
1. Buy sustainable jewelry
For romantic lovers who like to splurge on their SOs with chic, shiny things, you’ve got options. You can start by buying from a company that practices safe and responsible mining efforts. The safety of miners often gets neglected while they simply do their job. Consider buying jewelry from a company that makes it a priority for their workers to have the proper protective equipment while working.
Also, most jewelry companies use harsh chemicals that emit toxic waste back into the environment during production. Although often difficult to do, try finding a company that is transparent, ethical, and upfront about their manufacturing methods. This attempt may feel futile, but you’d be surprised how far this effort could go.
2. Buy eco-friendly, fair-trade chocolate
More than $1.7 billion is spent on chocolates and candy alone on Valentine’s Day. What’s worse is that most of the packaging comes in single-use, plastic containers. One way to combat this is to make your own chocolate. The good news? You know exactly where it comes from. Also, you can try to buy fair trade chocolate, which is made with cacao beans from farmers who are paid a fair wage for their crops — as opposed to the low prices set by the traditional market. This standard alone makes it better — and sweeter — for everyone involved.
3. Buy a recyclable card, or … make your own
It’s estimated more than one billion Valentine’s Day cards are bought and given away each year. But what happens after the day has come and gone? They usually end up in the trash. Most of these cards also come in single-use plastic wrap that only contributes to the global plastic waste tally. It’s hard to imagine something so harmless and heartfelt has such a profound impact on the place that we call home — but it happens.
To soften the environmental blow, a small but helpful thing to do would be to make your own cards or choose to buy glitter-free cards that can be recycled once the occasion has passed. Also, seed paper cards— biodegradable eco-paper that is embedded with plant seeds — are a beautiful way to wrap two gifts in one. When the paper is planted in a pot of soil, the seeds grow into plants or flowers. All you need to do is watch it grow! How’s that for the gift that keeps on giving?
4. Natural candles
There’s environmental air pollution, and then there’s indoor air pollution. What contributes to the latter? Conventional scented candles. While most of them do smell good, they release toxins into the air when burned. Most traditional candles are made with paraffin wax which releases extremely toxic chemicals such as benzene and toluene when burned. What’s worse is that both are known carcinogens. When this happens indoors, these fumes have nowhere to escape. As an alternative, you can try natural candles that are made from healthier substances such as coconut wax or beeswax.
5. Houseplants over flowers — specifically, succulents
Who doesn’t love a new houseplant? Flowers are great, but let’s face it: they don’t live very long. Houseplants typically last longer and require great care and attention. Gifting plants could signify a deeper symbol of affection or love for the other person. This could also make the receiver feel like you trust and believe in their ability to take care of them. Plus, they’re great for absorbing carbon dioxide and converting it into oxygen — so they can literally be like a breath of fresh air for the home.
If you’re looking for something special, try succulents. These are plants that contain water inside their leaves. There are some succulents that have proven to be quite healing. Liquid from the aloe vera plant, for example, is known to heal bruises and scratches. It’s best to do your research on living plants and pick one that you feel best represents your relationship and feelings for the other person. There are plenty to choose from!
6. Buy locally sourced flowers
We’ll admit it: flowers are sweet. They’re also the gold standard when it comes to gifts for this special day. If you’re certain about buying flowers, it’s still possible to go about it in an eco-friendly way. How so? Buy local if you can. Not only will you be reducing the pollution and harmful emissions associated with shipping and plastic packaging, you will be supporting your community’s farmers and gardeners.
7. Gift a reusable water bottle or container
Got a hiker or a gym buddy to shop for? A reusable water bottle could be just what they need. If you’re a part of the zero-waste movement, this is a healthy alternative to plastic bottles. Try to find one that is BPA-free and devoid of any harsh chemicals that could be harmful to ingest.
8. Stay in and chill — together
With or without Netflix, that is. It’s purely up to you. But you’d be surprised to discover just how much harm you’re saving the environment by opting for a night in. Just think: no carbon emissions from the car; no hot kitchen in the back of a restaurant making recipes with equipment and ingredients that could be coming from anywhere; no animals harmed; no paper napkins or plastic straws; no wasted time spent getting dolled up (well, that part could actually be fun). The list goes on.
9. Couple’s massage anyone?
Not really a night in, but still ... a night together. You could try to find a massage parlor that specializes in using natural and sustainable oils and other products for their customers. It’s all hands to skin — no harm done.
Whether you’re loving or simply living this Valentine’s Day, there are plenty of ways to stay conscious about the impact your actions have on the environment. No act is too small. Here at SaltyLama, we like to think that a little goes a long way.