Now Reading
Celebrate Valentine’s Day with gifts that show your love for the environment too

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with gifts that show your love for the environment too

This Valentine's Day, material expressions of love can have the desired impact without adversely impacting the environment. The GreenUP Store carries locally made soaps and bath bombs by Simply Natural Canada, cards by Jackson Creek Press, and folk art coffee-lover hearts by Brianna Gosselin. (Photo courtesy of the GreenUP Store)
This Valentine's Day, material expressions of love can have the desired impact without adversely impacting the environment. The GreenUP Store carries locally made soaps and bath bombs by Simply Natural Canada, cards by Jackson Creek Press, and folk art coffee-lover hearts by Brianna Gosselin. (Photo courtesy of the GreenUP Store)
Valentine’s Day is a time when material expressions of love can have the desired effect without negatively impacting the environment. The GreenUP Store sells locally made soaps and bathbombs by Simply Natural Canada, cards from Jackson Creek Press, as well as folk art coffee-lover’s hearts by Brianna Gottsselin. (Photo courtesy the GreenUP Store

Did you know that the idea of Valentine’s Day as a celebration of romantic love originates with a poem written in 1382?

Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Parliament of Fowls” describes a gathering of birds on Valentine’s Day. Three male birds make passionate speeches — including appeals to cosmic and political order, and insults — in order to win the affections of one female bird. None succeed.

We don’t think that this is a good start. We think everyone would be better off if we all celebrated Valentine’s Day without such a narrow focus on romantic love.

With that in mind, we gathered some fun facts, unfortunate realities, and alternatives that would make Valentine’s Day more sustainable and loving.

Advertisement – Story continues below

 

 

Love and Money

Valentine’s Day is big business. According to the 2016 Census approximately 57% of Canadians over 15 years old identified themselves as living as a married couple in a private home.

Not everyone in a romantic relationship is included in that figure, but it is clear that the majority of our population is likely to participate in Valentine’s Day. Canadians spend approximately $37 million on Valentine’s Day each year. The most common Valentine’s Day gifts include cards, chocolates, and flowers.

Let’s take a look at how each of these items has grown in popularity, and what alternatives could reduce negative environmental and social impacts.

 

Cards

In addition to their negative environmental impacts, Valentine's Day cards also have a history of misogyny. In the Victorian era, hateful and anonymous Valentine's cards became popular in several countries, sometimes rivalling the profitability and popularity of cards that conveyed messages of love. Sometimes called
In addition to their negative environmental impacts, Valentine’s Day cards also have a history of misogyny. In the Victorian era, hateful and anonymous Valentine’s cards became popular in several countries, sometimes rivalling the profitability and popularity of cards that conveyed messages of love. Sometimes called “vinegar valentines,” these cards were often sent from men whose advances went unreciprocated with the intention of delivering emotional damage to women. One Chicago post office declared that some 25,000 cards were so vulgar that they could no longer be carried by the U.S. mail service. (Public domain images).

Valentine’s cards first became popular in 19th century England. In 1841, only a year after the invention of the postage stamp, the number of Valentine’s cards exploded from approximately 60,000 to some 400,000.

Valentine’s cards are second only to Christmas cards in their popularity and, like early mass-produced Christmas cards, these Valentine’s cards were assembled in factories that employed women or girls.

While studies on the environmental impact from the greeting card industry in Canada have not been done, a recent study by Exeter University in England found that sending one card generates approximately 140 grams of carbon dioxide. This carbon footprint is equivalent to producing 10,000 cars each year, with almost two billion cards being sold annually in the UK.

Good news! Most cards and envelopes can be recycled if they are made entirely from paper. Some cards are made entirely from post-consumer recycled papers. You should remember that any embellishments, such as glitter, metal ink, music players, or shiny materials, must be removed before the card can be put in the recycling bin. Plastic pollution is a global problem due to glitter and music players.

Alternatives to mass-produced cards that have a lower environmental impact include buying cards from local manufacturers, making your cards out of recyclable or renewable materials, and using e-cards.

Advertisement – Story continues below

 

 

Chocolate

A cocoa tree with fruit pods at various stages of ripeness. Originally used by Mesoamerican peoples thousands of years ago to create a ceremonial drink, cocoa has long been considered potent with symbolic associations to the heart. (Public domain photo)
A cocoa tree with fruit pods in various stages of ripeness. Cocoa was originally used thousands of years ago by Mesoamericans to make a ceremonial drink. It has been long considered potent and symbolic. (Public domain photo).

Chocolate is another popular gift at Valentine’s Day. The beans that are found in large fruit pods on cocoa trees are used to make chocolate. The cocoa tree can be found in the tropical regions of central and south America. However, approximately two-thirds of the world’s cocoa is now produced in West Africa, often using child labour.

Conscious consumerism is important if you plan to gift chocolate this Valentine’s Day. Fair trade chocolate products must respect basic human rights and provide care for workers on cocoa farms. Find out more and consult the complete list of registered companies and brands at fairtrade.ca/cocoa.

You might also ask our local chocolatiers in Peterborough if their chocolate or sugar is sourced from fair-trade sources. Local purchasing can reduce shipping costs, especially if the chocolatier uses biodegradable or recyclable packaging.

Advertisement – Story continues below

 

 

See Also

Flowers

A worker cuts roses to be shipped to the U.S. and Europe at a flower farm in Madrid, Colombia, in August 2020. Ecuador and Colombia are world leaders in the cut-flower industry. (Photo: Fernando Vergara / AP)
A worker cuts roses for shipment to the U.S. at a Madrid, Colombia flower farm in August 2020. The cut-flower industry is a major business in Colombia and Ecuador. (Photo: Fernando Vergara / AP)

Cut flowers are an iconic Valentine’s Day gift. A dozen long-stemmed red roses will cost you 30 per cent more for Valentine’s Day than at any other time of year. Increased demand and limited supply drive prices up for Valentine’s Day.

Cut flowers can cause harm to vulnerable groups and the environment. Stats Canada reported that 12.4 Million rose buds and cut roses were imported to Canada in 2017, with a value of $76.1million. These flowers are mostly grown in Colombia and Ecuador and contribute to unethical working conditions as well as unsustainable water usage.

According to data from an International Labor Rights Forum study, 60% of flower farmer workers in Colombia and Ecuador are women. 55% of these workers have been victims to sexual harassment, and the aggressors are rarely punished.

Advertisement – Story continues below

 

 

Two-thirds of flower workers who use pesticides are suffering from health problems. These include impaired vision, congenital malformations, and neurological disorders. Some workers are required to undergo pregnancy tests. Those who are found to have been pregnant are fired or not hired.

You can use fairtrade.ca/flowersThis site is a great resource for finding flowers that support more equal working conditions.

Potted plants can also work well if they are grown sustainably in Canada. You can save time and make a thoughtful gift that lasts longer than cut roses by planning ahead and harvesting a dried bouquet from your native flowers garden in the early autumn.

Jewellery is another popular Valentine's Day gift that can have significant environmental impacts, including erosion of land, leakage of harmful chemicals into local watersheds, and the alteration of entire ecosystems. A unique low-impact alternative comes from local maker Keetarella, who crafts gorgeous earrings out of beer cans. (Photo courtesy of the GreenUP Store)
Jewellery is another popular Valentine’s Day gift that can have significant environmental impacts, including erosion of land, leakage of harmful chemicals into local watersheds, and the alteration of entire ecosystems. Local maker Keetarella makes beautiful earrings from beer cans, which is a low-impact alternative. (Photo courtesy GreenUP Store)

The pressure to give gifts on Valentine’s Day can have detrimental impacts on the environment and on social conditions around the world. Consider your loved ones when you think about them and your expressions to love. Think about where the products came from, how they were made, and how workers are treated.

GreenUP encourages you to support locally-made products. You can express your love even better by your creativity: write a letter, create a handmade card, or bake some treats.

View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.