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 Flowerpetal.com, 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: GreenBiz.com 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.
Image via alamosbasement/Flickr