Are you a full-on romantic, with Valentine’s plan carefully constructed in January? Or are you more of a last-minute, petrol station flowers and chocolate, panic buyer? Either way, if you want to celebrate the most romantic day of the year, it can be easy to get caught up in the hype. Often, this means spending money on things that aren’t environmentally kind, or ethical.
Plastic wrapped chocolates. Cute teddy bears made in sweatshops. Flowers imported from across the world. They might tell your beau that you care, but what are the consequences for the planet, and the people making them?
Why not show your husband/wife/lover/best friend/stranger on the bus, how much you love ethics and sustainability? This Valentine’s Day, choose planet- and people-friendly cards and gifts instead.
From the usual romantic gestures to thinking outside the chocolate box, here’s how!
Dinner for Two, Minus the Food Waste
If you want to take your lover out for dinner, look for zero waste restaurants in your area. If there isn’t one nearby, then you can still avoid adding to the problem of food waste. As tempting as the menu might be, don’t over-order – all the surplus food that you don’t eat will end up in the bin. And that’s not very romantic.
Or why not take your leftovers home? It’s now far more acceptable to ask for a doggy bag. (Hopefully, you won’t be given your leftovers in a plastic tub. To avoid this risk, carry your own reusable lunch box.)
Eating at home can be as romantic as eating out. Set the scene with mood lighting, candles and music, and leave the washing up until the next day! (A candlelit dinner is as green as it is romantic – think of the electricity you’re saving…) Make a meal using all British fare so that you save on food miles too. You could even serve British sparkling wine!
Free From (Plastic and Bad Ethical Practices) Chocolate
If you’re feeling the love, why should that be at the detriment of someone else? The chocolate trade is steeped in bad ethics, from unfair working conditions and pay, to the use of palm oil.
So this year, look for a Fairtrade box of chocolates. Divine chocolate is Fairtrade and owned by the farmers that produce the cocoa beans. Their chocolates are free from palm oil and wrapped in plastic-free packaging, ticking all the eco Valentines boxes!
Seasonal, locally grown food is sustainable and the same can be said for flowers. When it comes to beautiful bouquets, keeping things environmentally friendly means that roses are out.
Roses are a summer flower in the UK, so look for bunches of winter/early spring flowers instead. In February, marigolds, wild primroses and bluebells are all coming into bloom and make a great eco alternative to imported roses.
When buying flowers, consider the amount of plastic wrapping they come in too. Would a potted plant be a better option? It’ll certainly last longer! Also, if your flowers have come from overseas, there’s every chance that they’ve been grown and cut by someone not paid a fair wage. This is especially true at this time of year to meet demand.
Ecologically Sound, Right Down to Your Undies
Yes, even underwear is under scrutiny. The fashion industry is one of the top five polluting industries. Can the planet afford us all to be buying cheap frillies that will only be worn once?
Fast fashion is also responsible for microfibre plastic pollution and questionable working conditions. So ditch those man-made fibres and opt for 100% organic cotton instead. (They also happen to be far more comfortable.)
A Handmade Valentines
Remember how simple life was when you made your own Valentines cards? Just because you’re an adult now, it doesn’t mean you can’t still make them. Get as creative as you like, safe in the knowledge no one else will be giving the same card.
You could also write a good old fashioned love letter – far better than a generic card designed by Hallmark. Tell your Valentine how much they mean to you, why you love them and how special they are. Try writing a poem, it doesn’t matter how good it is, it’s the thought that counts!
If you’re feeling especially crafty, make your own heart-shaped biscuits or cakes. Or, make heart-shaped toast for breakfast! (Remember to eat the cutoffs, don’t throw them away.) Look for quirky handmade gifts on Etsy or Not on the High Street if you’re not keen on making your own. Make sure you set your search to ‘made in the UK’ to minimise your carbon footprint from shipping.
Experiences are often worth so much more than stuff. You can keep it simple with a walk in the park or an evening together playing board games with no phones or tablets. Dedicating time to each other, including the kids if you want to, can be so restorative.
Hand write some IOU messages, and leave them around the house. You could promise a massage, making dinner for a week or a trip to the cinema.
You can buy gift experiences too. Buy your loved one a cookery class if they love being in the kitchen. There’s everything from making sourdough bread, to rolling the perfect sushi. If you’re thinking of going away for the weekend, look for eco retreats. One that is accessible (and affordable) by train rather than driving gives you even more eco points.
Provenance Is Everything, Even With Diamonds
If you’re going for the grandest of gestures and you’re about to propose, think about the origin of the diamond.
Conflict, or ‘blood diamonds’ are diamonds mined in areas where they’re sold to fund military action against a government. War, bloodshed and human suffering are ingrained in these gemstones. So always make sure your diamonds are sourced ethically.
Good luck – we hope they say yes!
Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue, We Love the Planet, and You Do Too!
Being more aware of what you consume on Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to mean missing out on all the fun and romance. You can still show someone you love them without extravagance or mass produced plastic.
Go against the grain, and do something different whilst being mindful of the planet. Often, a simple “I Love You” with breakfast in bed is more than enough.
Have less of an impact, and show the planet some love this Valentine’s Day ♥