I was just listening to the radio and heard a statistic that this week, in honor of Valentine’s Day, $17 billion will be spent on flowers, cards, chocolates and tiny, stuffed bears, based on 2008′s numbers anyway. The piece went on to talk about the chocolate market, which gets cocoa beans from places in Africa like the Ivory Coast, where the majority of the workers are underaged minors. Kind of amazing to think that a greeting card company has somehow convinced us that on a certain day of the year, it is imperative that we buy gifts made by children in order to convince our significant others that we care about them.
Does anyone else think this is nuts? Seventeen billion dollars? Imagine if that money went into schools, solar research, feeding the poor, or bailing out rich auto execs (OK, maybe not that last one so much). I know that’s naive because it doesn’t really work that way, but talk about waste.
But the money we are throwing away is only a part of the story. Here in the United States, much of the country is not in flower growing season–so most of the flowers purchased have probably come from fairly far away, requiring a tremendous amount of energy to transport them to us. They generally come in a plastic/paper wrapper which in most cases will be thrown away. Most of the cards that are bought are going to be looked at once and possibly recycled, but more likely be thrown away altogether. The store that sold the card will give it to the buyer in a small plastic bag that most people will probably throw out when they get home. And I’m not even going to get started on the waste from those chocolate boxes.
I don’t mean to be all bah humbug on romance by the way, I’m all for it (as much as someone who kept his trash in the basement for a year can be anyway). I’m just bummed out that the concept of romance has been hijacked and turned into something involving consumption. “Buy me something nice and I’ll know you love me.”
So what’s my suggestion? If you want to celebrate this week, why not do something that doesn’t involve simple consumption. Make dinner, draw a picture, sing a song, show up at work and serenade someone, call out of the blue and simply tell them that you were thinking of them and couldn’t wait until the end of the day to let them know–the list is endless. Just use your imagination and think about what your partner would find meaningful instead of letting a company dictate to you what they think you should be doing.
But better than all of these ideas, do nothing. Make Valentine’s Day irrelevant and instead do four romantic things on other days of the year. Let the greeting card companies know that you can be thoughtful and meaningful without a reminder and not just because you have a coupon, but because you care. Let your significant other know that you are boycotting one day in favor of many more, and remind them when those days come up. My guess is they’ll be happier for it because after all, a surprise is much better than something you’re expecting, isn’t it?
Alright, I’m coming down off the soapbox and heading back towards wasted electricity. But first, a stop in the basement to put together a nice garbage and recycling bouquet for the missus. Awww, she’s a lucky woman, no?