By Ashley Giron
Since the advent of Valentine’s Day in ancient Rome, we’ve drastically changed the way we celebrate the holiday of love. From its varied origins, Valentine’s Day in the United States has grown into a $22 billion per-year industry.
From paper cards to boxes of chocolate, every year we spend money and resources for the occasion. Typical Valentine’s gifts can create a lot of waste that can’t always be recycled or composted, and this waste either goes to a landfill, into our atmosphere, or it can even enter our waterways.
Here’s a more detailed look at popular items and the waste created:
Chocolate: Over 30 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are sold annually. Chocolate production creates waste in various ways - from the candy wrapper, to the cocoa husk that protects raw beans. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) reports that, “Only 10% of the total cocoa fruit weight is used for its commercialization, while the remaining 90% is discarded as waste or by-products.”
Cards: Nearly 1 billion Valentine’s Day Cards are sent each year, globally.
Flowers: 100 million roses are grown and sold for Valentine’s Day, making it the number one holiday for the sale of red roses. Transportation of these flowers produces 9 million kilograms of carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas that is a primary driver of climate change, every year. Flowers from florists and grocery stores should not be composted because they are treated with pesticides and fungicides.
If you’re aiming for a zero-waste celebration, consider the suggestions below. Making small changes leads to a smaller environmental footprint and helps reduce how much waste ends up in landfills. Implementing a zero-waste lifestyle can also reduce carbon emissions and help to fight climate change.
- Cards: Make your own greeting card with supplies from home, or consider buying cards from local artists!
- Dinner: Have a zero-waste romantic dinner. Buy fresh ingredients from a winter farmer’s market for package-free meals, and plan your meal ahead of time. Making smaller portions prevents food waste, but you can also save leftovers for another meal or compost to further avoid waste.
- Dinner Date Supplies: Linens, silverware and candle holders can be purchased at your local thrift store to make your date night more magical.
- Flowers: Try buying from local farmer’s markets or giving a potted plant that can last for years, if properly cared for. Some potted plants that bloom year-round include:
- Hoya Carnosa
- Jewelry: A great way to produce less waste is to use what’s already been made. Consider buying jewelry from a pawn shop or thrift store. Wrapping: Use a reusable or cloth bag as wrapping paper. That way, the recipient has a gift that continues to give all year. Read more about wrapping alternatives here.
- Balloons: Millions are bought every year, but they take 450 years to decompose.
- Glitter: Glitter is composed of microplastics, and once it enters our environment, it’s almost impossible to remove and it will remain a pollutant for hundreds of years.
- Plastic Cutlery: Single-use utensils take up to 1,000 years to fully decompose. Over 100 million pieces are used in the U.S every day, and these are generally not recyclable due to their size and inconsistent material.