More and more we see Valentine’s Day as much as a commercial holiday as a romantic one. It can feel like the size of the bouquet is a demonstration of the amount of love. This is not only a problem for those of us with a little less cash, but can also have real consequences on the environment.
That’s not to say you can’t celebrate, here’s some top tips on showing your special someone some love the sustainable way:
Flowers are beautiful and from the colours to the different fragrances they can usually bring up the mood, Valentine’s or otherwise. But between the air miles, chemical pollution from pesticides, water and the energy consumption involved in growing them, they just aren’t worth the damage they cause.
A great alternative to cut flowers are living plants from your local garden centre. Not only are potted plants often cheaper than a bouquet, they last a lot longer and can contribute to biodiversity if they get planted in a garden (or even put out on a windowsill). Try and find varieties that improve air quality or appeal to bees or butterflies to make even more of a difference in conserving local wildlife.
If you’re set on cut flowers, there are still options. Hearts & Flowers are local to Brighton, growing organic, sustainable flowers in Stanmer Park. You can even pick your own, giving your gift of flowers a personal touch.
From chocolates to diamonds, all the staple Valentine’s gifts come with issues of sustainability, fair labour and waste. There is so much plastic packaging around them, and often they travel long distances before they get to you, not to mention the unfair labour that has been known to be exploited amongst some of these industries.
Instead of buying gifts, why not enjoy an activity instead, giving you real time to enjoy the company of your loved one and make lasting memories. Although it’s a little cold in February for romantic classics like picnics and long walks on the beach, you can always wrap up.
If being outside in Winter doesn’t sound like much fun, there are plenty of other classic dates you can go on, from a night at the cinema to visiting that exhibition you’ve been meaning to see. Don’t forget to take the bus to wherever you’re going, making it safer for you to drink out and keeping emissions lower. Or stay home, and take the time to cook a special dinner together, have a home-spa evening, play boardgames or just stay up chatting.
If you can’t skip the chocolates, look for sustainable, Fairtrade chocolate. Another gift option is to share a little love with the planet and donate to a charitable cause they are passionate about. Charities like Brighton Peace and Environment Centre do great work locally, making a difference through community education projects.
Making a card rather than buying one makes it easier on your pockets and the planet. Pre-made cards often come in plastic wrap which can’t be recycled, and features like glitter and confetti can easily end up disrupting local wildlife. A made card will likely be more appreciated, and probably kept as a memento.
It’s easy to make your own confetti from dried leaves that can be found on the ground. Use a hole puncher to create the confetti and vary it with different shapes if you have different hole punchers lying around. If leaves are too hard to come by, use an old newspaper instead or any paper available that can be recycled or will biodegrade.
If you are going out on that Valentine’s date you might have started thinking about your outfit. Man, woman or however you might identify, we all like to look good and make an effort for our significant other. But with fast fashion being such a major contributor to climate change, it’s hard to feel good in a nice outfit when the cost on nature is so high.
Instead, why not borrow clothes from friends to expand your wardrobe. If friends don’t share your size or style, By Rotation is a peer to peer fashion rental app, meaning you can borrow clothes outside your friendship circle. If renting or exchanging isn’t your thing, buy second hand or, as a last resort, invest in sustainably made slow fashion items. Brighton is fast becoming a hub for these sustainable fashion shops.
Of course, another way to celebrate sustainably is not to celebrate at all. Skip the commercial holiday and instead invest the time every day to show all your loved ones how special they are to you.
Brighton Peace and Environment Centre is a community education charity. It delivers projects which teach and tackle issues of peace and the environment, inspiring action through learning about the world. Find out more at www.bpec.org