End Plastics

Love in Bloom: Eco-Friendly Valentine’s Celebrations

Valentine’s Day has been celebrated since about 496 AD and has a sweet history of giving loved ones boxed chocolates; beautiful flowers wrapped in colorful, patterned gift wrap; and romantic delight. It’s a festive holiday filled with anything and everything that can be heart-shaped, pink, and wrapped in plastic. 

This year, my boyfriend — who is in a different country 3,000 miles away — generously bought me flowers and is having them sent to me as a kind gesture for our long-distance Valentine’s Day. Although we can’t physically be together, he made sure to show me he cares on the big day of love. They will come in a nice glass vase, pink plastic wrapping, and might even have a meaningful card attached.

I think of my boyfriend’s gesture as romantic and kind — something to close the distance between us. But I couldn’t help thinking about how flowers, a product of nature, will be encased in plastic, an artificial material. You may think that acts like these are generous; however, these gifts are not as loving to the environment as you are to your partner. Many gifts, whether they be chocolates or flowers, are problematic due to their excessive use of plastic packaging and their harmful means of creation. 

It is common for these mass-produced, over-consumed gifts to come packaged in a plastic case, often of the single-use variety. Annually, 380 million tons of plastic are produced on a global scale with half counting as single-use. In addition, these plastics are not recycled or biodegradable. Nearly 36% of all plastic makes up packaging specifically, which invites us to think more about how much we use on Valentine’s Day to wrap a gift for our loved one. Not only do they add to waste, they are also largely produced using fossil fuels, which contribute 75% of greenhouse gas emissions. 99% of plastics are made by the same fossil fuel chemicals that pollute the atmosphere.

It feels great to get gifts and small tokens on Valentine’s Day: makeup, skincare, a nice dress, etcetera. They’re a great way to show someone you care; however, a lot of these products are produced using fossil fuels and microplastics. In the production of fast fashion-type clothing and even in your daily skincare products, which likely contains microplastics produced from fossil fuels. In addition, these products are likely neither fair trade nor ethically sourced.

The flowers themselves also pose a threat to the ecological health of our planet due to their unethical use of pesticides and the amount of waste they produce. The flowers you see in grocery stores and pharmacies fall short of the beauty they hold when they are thrown in waste baskets a week later Not only do they create more waste, but the means of transportation used to deliver the flowers in the first place are responsible for producing yet more carbon emission to the tune of 360,000 metric tons of carbon. 

Having delectable treats and food on Valentines is yet another staple of the holiday. Partners from all around the United States flock to grocery stores and pharmacies to get a tasty treat for their loved one. It is not just the plastic wrappings on your loved heart-shaped box that are bad for the planet but the cocoa used to make them is also an issue. Cocoa bean harvesting has caused a chain reaction of deforestation in West African forests. With the increasing demand for chocolate worldwide, deforestation has begun to accelerate. 

So with all of this said, it might be wise to skip the plastic-wrapped flowers, polyester fast fashion glitter dress, plastic wrapped chocs, and the expensive moisturizer as gifts this Valentine’s Day for the sake of the environment. 

There are many ways to ditch plastics, reduce your carbon footprint, and opt for a better and healthier gift for your partner and for the Earth. Some ready examples include handmade or upcycled items, biodegradable gifts and gift wrap made with recycled paper. You can also opt for glass and metal containers to place your flowers (or gifts) into. Keep in mind that using glass and metal containers may reduce the need to purchase more containers in the future too, so make sure to reuse them instead of buying new next year.

If you’re feeling extra energetic, you can purchase plantable paper, which includes seeds and is easy to grow on your own. These offer a reusable option that you can use for next year’s Valentine’s Day and more. Giving with a green thumb is also a popular option. Potting and gardening your own flowers in a biodegradable pot can cut down on the unnecessary plastics and even the carbon footprint used to transport and hold the flowers. To grow them during colder months, you can utilize heat lamps or a trusty greenhouse. 

If you want to opt for a better chocolate option that doesn’t risk deforestation or waste, you can purchase the sweets from a fair trade brand. This ensures that the cocoa is harvested ethically and does not contribute to the global environmental crisis. In addition, you can also buy organic products and foods that do not use pesticides or harmful chemical fertilizers. Finally, if you want to save money and support the planet, give the gift of experiences. That way, you, your partner, and the Earth are happy and don’t have to deal with the waste.

Valentine’s Day is the day of love. We must take into consideration what we are giving so the day of love is truly loving to everyone, including earth, our home. You can also spread the love through giving as well. Donate to EARTHDAY.ORG or The Canopy Project to fight and stand up for a more sustainable and healthy future for our planet. Send a Valentine’s day eCard to a loved one by making a donation instead of material goods. Sign the Global Plastics Treaty and learn about our 2024 theme for the environmental movement, Planet vs. Plastics, to take action for a better and more “loving” future for our planet.

Happy Valentine’s Day!