Planning to have an eco-friendly Valentine’s and don’t know where to start? Showing love to our romantic ones on February 14th shouldn’t harm the planet. According to Statista, Valentine’s Day’s total spending in the United States is expected to be 21.8 billion dollars. Compared to 2020, which was at its highest of 27.4 billion, this year will generate sales despite the pandemic. While people invest in chocolates, flowers, and cards/ items to appreciate their lover, there comes a hidden cost of the realities of the Valentine industry. Not all flowers carry messages of love. Some of them carry hopes of better pay, quality of life, and floral justice.
The Flower Industrial Complex
As a global economy, not all flowers come from the United States. In Latin American countries, there are also fewer environmental protection policies for the flower industry that have created environmental injustices for the workers. In a study back in 1995 conducted in Ecuadorian farms, women and younger children who worked on the flower farms were not given masks than the men and experienced nausea and dizziness when pruning flowers. For undocumented floral workers in the United States that have to sell for hours while having to risk themselves being exposed to air pollution are also victims of this extractive industry.
Workers have to stand outside freeways or busy street intersections to reach customers. On top of environmental injustices, flower workers also carry the fear of deportation from ICE & Police, primarily when the immigration industrial complex targets BIPOC immigrants. While many people do not have the time to look into ethical flowers, supporting your community is part of protecting your environment. Participating in an eco-friendly Valentine’s can extend itself when you help and fight for policies that protect communities.
The Chocolate Industrial Complex
Around 58 million pounds of chocolate are purchased during Valentine’s, most of them being unethically sourced. The majority of the chocolate industry is built off of slave labor in countries outside of the West. Around 1.56 million children as young as five are working in countries like Ivory Coast and Ghana harvesting cocoa for countries in the West. These places generate around 70% of the world’s cocoa beans, which are raw ingredients for products made from Hershey, Mars, and Nestle.
Countries that have been exploited by environmental colonialism still see an increase of children working in these horrific work environments. Overconsumption upholds unsustainable futures. The appetite for those in the West does contribute to the mistreatment of workers in the cocoa industry. For the most part, if society lived in a sustainable food system where Western policies and practices did not influence prices on other countries, this may have been prevented.
Children who work in these industries have to be sprayed with pesticides but are given heavy, dangerous equipment that can harm them. Efforts to create an equitable system where workers are treated fairly lack transparency and traceability. Despite this, finding ethically sourced chocolate companies that do not source from countries where slave labor is an issue has been brought to light for many conscious consumers. The vegan organization, Food Empowerment Project, has made a list of Vegan and ethically made chocolate that you may want to check out. Eco-friendly Valentine’s can be celebrated when people learn about the products they are purchasing for their loved ones.
Eco-friendly Valentine’s Two of Hearts Card
Americans send 145 million cards each year, which is an alarming rate of hearts! Although writing cards carry personal memories and experiences with loved ones, cards impact the environment. When it comes to seasonal holidays, experts found that 33% of cards are not recycled and end up in landfills. When cards degrade in landfills that are not properly treated, they release greenhouse gases that enter the atmosphere. Paper is required to make cards and it contributes to deforestation while being processed from wood to paper.
Once the card ships out via carriers, cards can travel across the country via trucks or airplanes, which also contributes to emissions. Eco-friendly cards can be made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper. Upcycling old papers or even using paper that comes from packaging materials can create cards of love. After all, what matters in cards is not the design but rather the message inside. For this year’s eco-friendly Valentine’s, you can challenge yourself to be more sustainable.
Creating An Eco-Friendly Valentine’s
While no one is perfect, we should not blame ourselves if we cannot find the most sustainable items for Valentine’s. However, acknowledging that these systems are unsustainable will allow us to build a strong relationship with the Earth. Here are few tips that you can easily do.
1.) Gift your loved one a book. For me, I’ve realized that books can be liberating for people’s minds and can encourage them to learn more. On my website, you can download a free ‘Eco-Learners‘ book to share with your loved ones!
2.) Make paper flowers. While we may not be skilled enough to make the perfect flowers we see on Pinterest, it is very easy to upcycle old newspaper or even extra paper lying around your home to make a bundle of flowers.
3.) Donate to Botanical Gardens. For many of us, our local botanical gardens can have some love and why not spend the money for a future investment for your community.
4.) Writing a song. We don’t need to buy the fanciest musical instruments, but we have the ability to write a song for our loved ones whether it be through a digital audio or cassette player.
5.) A home-cooked meal and baked dessert. Saving our wallets and having private time with our loved ones? Why not, cooking can easily be done especially when you know what type of foods you like to eat.
6.) Gifting a plant: Did you know that heart-shaped succulents exist? While roses may only last up to a week, why not give something that will last longer.
7.) Supporting local businesses and individuals: While not everyone will be following these tips, I think it’s important to still actively support those in your community. Extending your love to support others is what builds a stronger planet.
8.) Love yourself: You are a seedling trying to nourish yourself. Existing while thinking of the planet needs love too, so make sure you have time to self-sustain yourself.
No matter who you are, if you care about the planet, we can make a difference. Do you have any eco-friendly Valentine’s ideas? If so, share them below!