To be honest, I haven’t liked Valentine’s day much since middle school. It was all fun and games with our shoe boxes and egalitarian distribution of Care Bears cards in elementary school, but then came the carnation sale. Rather than a friendly gesture to celebrate a holiday, the carnation sale was really more of a contest between the three prettiest girls to see who would receive the most flowers.
While most of us sent one or two flowers to friends these girls were walking around with their 47 carnations leaving the rest of us awkward 12-year-olds with bruised egos. The remainder of us “normal” girls sat at our desks, heads lifted eagerly each time one of the carnation messengers entered the room with the goods. Nope, it’s for her yet again. Great.
And then when I was 13, my boyfriend gave me a box of chocolates (which really isn’t my favorite thing anyway) wrapped in paper made up of 2 inch scraps of all the letters and cards I had written to him. I spent a lot of time on those notes – why in the world would he cut them into pieces as a gift??
Despite my less-than-perfect relationship with middle school Valentine’s days, the holiday continues on, and now I’m more concerned by the amount of waste and needless spending that the holiday promotes. Why can’t we just be kind and giving to our loved ones on a regular basis?
However, I had an interesting request from a lovely reader recently asking what would make a good Valentine’s Day gift for someone who is interested in sustainability and reducing their consumption. Really, it’s a great question that more people should be discussing!
Here are my recommendations.
Experiential & Handmade Gifts
Gifts that provide an activity, preferably that can be done together, are a way to increase bonding between two people and to avoid unnecessary spending and purchasing of gifts that will rot or collect dust or be given away. Think of an activity that your partner likes and make a day around it. For me, this would likely involve an extended bout of nature time, but other people might prefer movies, special dinners, museums, wineries, or a trip to another venue that’s been on the to-do list for a long time without a good reason to go (now’s the time!).
If you’re feeling more adventurous, another thoughtful gift is to treat your loved one to something that you’ve created. Make them a handmade card, a song or poem, or do something around the house that they’ve been longing to complete. Also in this category is making a special homemade dinner or pancake breakfast complete with a heart made out of chocolate chips or fruit.
Something They Need
In the weeks before Valentine’s day, pay special attention to moments when your partner is frustrated by the lack of a device or tool that would help them. I tend to have these moments in the kitchen. If you pay attention to what your partner would actually use to make their life easier, you’re less likely to buy something that will be unnecessary and end up wasting space. Other options for things that they “need” might not be physical, but could be a class that they’re interested in taking, supplies to get them started with a new hobby, or a massage.
If You’re Still Going to Buy Something…
Try to make sure you’re buying something through a local vendor or other small business. Support someone that will transform your funds into something beneficial rather than destructive. If you do end up getting chocolates, try to support a company that is Fair Trade certified and Organic (I buy my dad chocolate from Endangered Species Chocolate). Spend a little time perusing Etsy for some ideas from small businesses.
About the Flowers…
Sorry to disappoint anyone, but flowers in many areas of the Northern hemisphere are just not a sustainable gift to be passing out for Valentine’s day. The flower industry must spend months in advance preparing for this one day, and there tend to be a lot of labor violations for floral workers in South America. If you consider this along with the many non-organic farming practices, the mass transport of that many fresh flowers from South America to American consumers, and all the flowers that will be wasted that weren’t perfect enough, it’s not as “rosy” of a picture. (However, if your loved one must have flowers here are some better companies to support.)
But aren’t flowers a part of Valentine’s day?!
Perhaps. And they can still be accommodated! Maybe just in a few months…
Why not combine an experiential gift with a handmade gift plus a gift that increases ecological diversity and green space? Use this Valentine’s Day to plan a flowering pollinator garden that you can plant together in the Spring!
Here’s how I created one…
I found a variety of seed mixes that contain flowering plants that will attract honeybees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. I made a fun label, attached a gift tag, and wrote out instructions. I packaged it all together and in no time I had a pollinator garden kit that will create much more than just one bouquet of flowers from another country! And in the spring, my love and I can spend a day planting it all together. Romantic, isn’t it?!
I’ve made extra that are listed on my Etsy site if you don’t have the time (or if you think my hand drawn bees are particularly adorable!).
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Please leave comments on other “green” suggestions you have for Valentine’s Day gifts!