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5 Valentine’s Day Traditions You Should Stop Immediately

5 Valentine’s Day Traditions You Should Stop Immediately

Traditions are funny things. They can be a source of pride and celebration, or they can be a trap, locking us into pointless or even harmful behaviors for decades. Valentine’s Day comes complete with its own set of traditions. While they might be rooted in expressions of love, many are wasteful, expensive and downright harmful to the planet.

It’s time to put an end to the rose-colored madness. Below are five widely-accepted Valentine’s Day traditions that should be stopped immediately. If you’re looking for alternatives, be sure to check out my post on How To Plan A Zero Waste Valentine’s Day.

1. Sending Flowers

Nothing is more synonymous with a traditional Valentine’s Day than red roses. Any type of flowers, really. While getting an unexpected bouquet of flowers is always a pleasant surprise, the story behind those blooms is far from rosy. According to, sending the roughly 100 million roses of a typical Valentine’s Day produces some 9,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from field to U.S. florist. Not to mention the myriad of pesticides and fertilizers, and massive water consumption, that goes into growing millions of cut flowers.

Try a potted plant purchased from a local grower instead: you’ll be giving the gift of cleaner air!

2. Giving Candy

In case you haven’t heard, humans consume a nauseating amount of sugar and fat. If you really care about your sweetheart, the last thing you would do is hand over a box of commercially-produced (probably stale) candies full of dangerous chemicals and high fructose corn syrup. There’s also the human rights issue to consider: reports that more than 40 percent of the cacao used in the industry comes from West Africa, where issues of child labor and unsafe worker conditions are widespread. And don’t even get me started on all the wrapper waste.

Try making your own candy or choosing a fair-trade, organic brand of sweets instead.

3. Diamond Jewelry

Apparently, diamonds are a girl’s best friend. Jewelry store commercials are noticeably more frequent this time of year, sending the message that if you’re at a loss as to how to impress your wife or girlfriend, a diamond is guaranteed to please. What these idyllic advertisements don’t mention is that diamond mining devastates native peoples and the environment. So-called “blood diamonds” have been used to finance some of Africa’s most murderous wars and civil conflicts. There’s nothing romantic about an overpriced rock obtained through murder or environmental degradation.

Try looking for sustainably-sourced, fair-trade jewelry made by local artisans on Etsy, or if diamonds are a must, consider conflict-free brands.

4. Mailed Paper Valentines

Every year, we purchase and send approximately 144 billion paper Valentine’s Day cards. This requires a staggering amount of paper, ink and energy. All of that waste just to tell someone you love them using another person’s tacky rhyming poem? These overpriced bits of cardstock are enjoyed for approximately 30 seconds before getting tossed into the trash bin.

Try writing and hand delivering a sweet note instead. Or tuck it into your loved one’s jacket pocket, wallet, or lunch pail for an unexpected surprised. And if they’re far away, consider sending an ecard — no muss, no fuss.

5. Balloon Bouquets

Thinking about sending a cluster of perky Mylar balloons in lieu of the predictable bouquet of flowers? Besides the fact that balloons are a little silly for Valentines over the age of 6, helium balloons are more than a little harmful to the environment. First, they are made from metalicized polyester, which is dirty in both production and impossible to recycle. Second, helium itself has a fairly significant ecological footprint. While it is not pollutive, it is unsustainable. “In fact,” writes Juniper Russo, “we’re running out of easy-to-access helium quickly, because of its extensive use in unnecessary products such as balloons.”

Try the latex variety filled with air from your lungs if balloons are a must.

Related Reading:

Show The Environment (And Farmers) Some Love This Valentine’s Day

V-Day Is For Victory, Valentines, and Vaginas

Hollywood Stars Send Mother Earth A Valentine

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Image via alamosbasement/Flickr

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9:23AM PDT on May 10, 2013


7:41AM PST on Feb 14, 2013

My husband has school tonight, so apart from giving each other cards, my family isn't doing anything until tomorrow night. We're having a special steak dinner tomorrow instead-steak with mushrooms, baked potatoes, a huge salad, and homemade cheesecake with cherry topping courtesy of some of the cherries I put up last summer. After the kids are in bed, my husband and I are going to settle down with a good movie and a glass of wine. Simple, but wonderful!

11:15AM PST on Feb 12, 2013

Mailed paper Valentines are not all evil.
One could DIY a nice Valentine, using upcycled stuff (lots of example on Care2), and mail it to someone who lives far away. This way, my aunt Edna, who lives in NYC, gets a card from her niece in Montreal, and she can show it to the people who visit her around Valentine's Day, and that gets the conversation going - How did she make that, you think? - By the way, how's her father doing? - (...)

Now, surely, that can't be so evil that it has to "stop immediately"...

9:16AM PST on Feb 12, 2013

Why is sending 144 million hand written pieces of paper LESS of a waste that 144 million Valentine's cards? The paper, ink and energy is probably the same.

Anyway, it's not JUST to say you love someone. Telling someone that you love them is an excellent thing to do and if you aren't a poet then someone else's tacky poem is just perfect.

And all of these things aren't just given at Valentine's day, what about birthdays, anniversaries, christmas, easter? Do we have to stop ALL the fun for the sake of the planet of can we have a little now and again? I do my bit, but I think that we are still entitled to SOME freedom because


You see it's easy to exaggerate if you try. I think that it's good to do your bit for the environment without becoming so obsessed that it starts to rule your life. Molly M. is the only one that has a post along those lines, well done Molly.

3:51AM PST on Feb 12, 2013


6:27AM PST on Feb 11, 2013

Thanks for the info!

9:49PM PST on Feb 10, 2013

We have never celebrated Valentine's day unless it was for an elementary school kid at school. That's it.

5:09AM PST on Feb 10, 2013

Crazy people the only tradition here is the modern invention by capitalists and their drive for mass consumption! Damn good for business though...

4:05AM PST on Feb 10, 2013

Interesting article

9:56PM PST on Feb 9, 2013

Why wait for a special day to say 'I love you'? I say 'I love you' to my valentines multiple times each day. If I choose to make the day extra special, we have roasted chicken for dinner and then settle down for some serious cuddling. But hey, we do that on birthdays, and Christmas etc too. My 3 cats, Primo, Winnie, and Annie are my valentines and believe me, the love goes both ways!

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