Step into any major grocery store chain or department store and the front shelves are lined with pink and red items. The majority of these are single use and heavily over packaged. Everything from candies and chocolates to teddy bears and plastic heart shaped rings and toys. Marketers never skip an opportunity to sell you something “holiday” themed.
According to the World Resources Institute “North America did not embrace the holiday until Hallmark cards specialized in Valentine’s cards in 1910. Since then, the marketing of symbols of love has flourished.”
Is there really a difference between plain chocolate kisses in the bulk bin and those displayed in a pink paper box lined with plastic? It’s no secret that single use plastics are an enormous detriment to the planet. Valentine’s Day seems to be an extreme offender in this department. Companies intentionally market their products for easy gifting (pretty, extravagant packaging) and individually wrapped class sized goodies.
We have compiled eco friendly Valentines Day ideas for parents, teachers, partners and galentines. Whichever kind of valentine you are, we have ideas of how to celebrate sustainably.
As parents, we love finding ways to show our children how much we love them, and Valentine’s Day can be a fun excuse to do this! However, keep in mind you child will (likely) be getting several Valentine treats and toys from teacher and classmates. Here are a few ways you can avoid adding to their plastic pile of individually wrapped candies and cheaply made trinkets.
Gifts for you children
- Gift an Experience: Our kids LOVE spending time with us and what better way to share your love than through special time you have set aside to focus on them. (ex. beach day, picnic, hike)
What to send your child to school with
- Home made goodies: It may take a little bit more time, but the treats you make are likely far healthier than store bought and they reduce the carbon footprint from extra packaging and mass production. Your child can help you, which is a fun activity to do together and gives them a sense of ownership over their class contribution. Check out these links for some fun valentines day foods to make with/for kids:
- Home made cards: Do you have a child that needs Valentine’s Day cards for classmates or teachers? Keep it simple. Instead of buying packaged Valentine’s cards which can come with wasteful plastic toys, sugary candy or non recyclable bits, make homemade cards for the class. Kids love crafts. Make an activity out of it. Teachers especially LOVE heartfelt cards with personalized messages.
- Reusable Plate, Cups & Cutlery: Save money and the environment by not purchasing single use plates, cups or cutlery. If this is your role for the class, suggest to your child’s teacher asking students to bring their own from home to wash and bring back or keep at school for future celebrations. This saves everyone money! And the landfill will have 20-some less plates, 20-some less cups and 20-some less forks from one small celebration!
- Classroom Drinks: NO MORE JUICE BOXES! Juice boxes are so wasteful, they each have an individual straw wrapped in plastic attached to an individually packaged box containing an individual portion of juice. Instead, send your child with a reusable pitcher of homemade (or from concentrate) juice to share. Another alternative that generates less waste is 2L jugs of soda that can be recycled when finished. Or better yet, suggest a healthier and more sustainable alternative: water (as they will have a large amount of sugar on valentine’s day already).
Gifts for your students
- Homemade treats to share (ex. cookies, brownies, popcorn). Skip the wasteful wrapping/packaging and enjoy them as a class at school and serve them straight out of the container you made or stored them in.
- Bulk candies: Bulk stores carry so many candy options, often times seasonal ones as well so you don’t have to skip on the fun Valentine’s Day colors of heart shapes. Bring your own jar or container (any washed container will do: yogurt container, peanut butter jar, pickle jar) to save a bag and they will weigh it at the front before you fill it with goodies. Also, avoid the individually wrapped options and opt for the unpackaged candies.
- Have students bring a plate, fork and cup from home to wash and send back. If you have frequent celebrations ask parents to send these items at the start of the year and keep them handy for any class celebration.
- Ask for parents to send treats that aren’t individually wrapped or packaged. Its a lovely thought that every child can give a valentine to each of their classmates, but there are ways to do so that don’t mean hundreds of wrappers in the garbage at the end of the school day. If every child brings individually wrapped candies or treats for everyone in the class think about how many wrappers will go to waste! (ex. Class of 20 = 400 wrappers MINIMUM).
- Sharable Food: Ask for food that can be shared by students, rather than food thats pre-packaged in individual portions. It will save a lot of packaging and also food waste. As a teacher, I know how much food kids throw away during these celebrations. They have one bite of their pink cellophane wrapped sandwich and the remainder goes in the trash can with the wrapper. Fruit and veggie trays, or a plate of sandwiches cut into triangles allows students to take small amounts on their plate and come back for more if still hungry.
- Classroom Drinks: (Same as above) NO MORE JUICE BOXES! Juice boxes are so wasteful, they each have an individual straw wrapped in plastic attached to an individually packaged box containing an individual portion of juice. Instead, ask parents to send a reusable pitcher of homemade (or from concentrate) juice to share. Another alternative that generates less waste is 2L jugs of soda that can be recycled when finished. Or better yet, suggest a healthier and more sustainable alternative: water (as they will have a large amount of sugar on valentine’s day already).
- Less Waste Desserts: avoid cupcakes and sore bought desserts that come with individual wrapping. A pan of brownies, a homemade cake or a plate with cookies is easy to cut into small portions and have no wrappers to throw in the trash once enjoyed.
- Keep is simple: Avoid excessive decorations as they end up going straight to the trash can after the party is over.
- Have your students make them: My student’s favorite decorations are the ones they made themselves. Its a great team building exercise to decorate the classroom and door. All they need are a few pieces of colored paper, scissors and some markers/crayons!
- Reuse: If you purchase or make a few simple decorations that can be stored an used year after year, you save money and the landfill of needless waste. Some examples would be cloth bunting, and paper sings/hearts. Check out a previous Earth Mama post that talks about green decorations.
- AVOID: Balloons, confetti, & plastic decorations. They aren’t eco friendly and they are generally designed for one time use.
Gift ideas for your significant other
- A potted Plant: According to the World Resources Institute: “The cut-flower industry is a short-cycle production process that requires the extensive use of agrochemicals which have a negative effect on the air, soil and water supply”. Skip the flowers that only last a few days and give your loved one a potted plant instead. It will last much longer and can be a constant reminder of your love.
- Coupons: An easy way to show you love someone is through acts of service/kindness. Why not make them a little coupon book of little things you can do for the one you love. Think breakfast in bed, massages, taking on their share of household chores for a day etc.
- Love Jar: Fill a glass jar full of one of the following. Its fun, lasts as many days as ideas you include in the jar and doesn’t cost any money if you don’t want it to.
- Reasons you love them
- Quotes about love
- Song Lyrics that remind you of them
- Date night ideas
- Personalized Game: This one takes some effort and time. However, it can be totally worth it! My husband LOVED the monopoly game I made him all about our love story. I had to print a few pages and glued them to an old poster paper I had. I used the money and game pieces from the real monopoly. Here is the link to en editable version of the game I made, just make a copy and put your own spin on the game!
Chances are your partner doesn’t really NEED anything and would much rather spend some uninterrupted time with you! Save the landfill needless waste. Here are just a few date ideas ranging in overall cost from nothing to extravagant.
Gifts for your girls
- Zero Waste Sugar Scrubs: An easy way to treat you girlfriends without creating extra waste is by making home made sugar scrubs. All you need is some basic kitchen ingredients and to save some glass jars and wash them thoroughly.
- Mason Jar Gifts: Who doesn’t love home made food? Give your friends a jar with the dry ingredients for a delicious treat or home cooked meal! Make sure to avoid extra waste by using a reusable jar as the container. Check out these links for some recipe ideas:
- Shampoo/Soap/Lotion Bars: Everyone loves a good self care item, and consumable such as shampoo or soap are great gifts as we will all eventually need more. There are plenty of package free soap/shampoo/lotion bars available online, in several self care shops as well as recipes to make your own! The best part about making your own is you can experiment with flavors and colors. You can also make a night of it with friends! Here are a few links:
Girl’s Night ideas
- Experience: Chose an experience to do together, or surprise your girls by planning an evening of fun. Chances are your friends don’t need more things but could use a fun day or night with their friends!