Published: Feb. 12, 2024
heart shaped cookies

Valentine’s Day is a great excuse to do something nice for anyone in your life you appreciate! As you celebrate, remember to keep sustainability in mind. 

Why leave the planet out? 

Valentine’s Day is heavily commercialized, with stores carrying a wide array of chocolates, cards, flowers and stuffed animals. While many people enjoy exchanging gifts, the environmental impacts are lofty. According to a video by Waste 360, on Valentine’s Day, U.S. citizens buy: 

  • 36 million heart-shaped boxes. 
  • 180 million cards. 
  • 198 million roses. 
  • 881 thousand bottles of sparkling wine. 
  • 58 million pounds of chocolate. 

The environmental impact adds up to more carbon emissions than would be created from driving around the world 3,993 times. That’s not a reason to swear off the holiday altogether. It’s just a big incentive to celebrate more sustainably. Here are ideas for zero-waste gifts this Valentine’s Day. 

Make your own card 

Sure, it’s easy to buy a card at the grocery store. But while those pre-made slogans and heartfelt messages look nice, they lack originality and thoughtfulness. You don’t have to be artistic to make your own card; colored pencils and paper are enough. And if you’re still doubting your abilities, websites like Canva have online card creators you can use to personalize and print out cards in five minutes or less. Making a card cuts down on the paper waste produced by card companies and hopefully will create less demand for premade cards in the future. 

Bake your own desserts 

Often, a hand-made dessert will be more appreciated than a box of chocolates from the store. There are a ton of cookie recipes online that use five ingredients or less. Plus, baking can be therapeutic in and of itself, not to mention a bonding experience if done with others. 

Make your own candle 

Everyone likes getting candles. You can take a zero-waste spin on this classic gift by making someone an entirely hand-made candle. The three primary materials you need are soy wax, a wick and a vessel for the candle. Soy wax is a great, 100% natural and biodegradable alternative to other candle wax, such as paraffin, which has a more considerable environmental impact. On top of that, you can reuse any container you want in the process. You can use mason jars, metal tins, fun glasses from a thrift store and even halved lemon peels. 

Make your own blanket 

It’s surprisingly simple to finger-knit a blanket. You can learn to make the blanket in less than two hours using your own two hands and approximately five to seven skeins of chunky yarn. You can pick whatever color scheme you want for a cozy and cute homemade gift. 

Buy sustainable options 

If you don’t want to give homemade gifts, you can still choose a better present for the environment. Purchase fair trade chocolate. Look for the fair trade symbol on the packaging. Fair trade means that workers are paid fairly, have safer working conditions and have more rights. 

Give ethically sourced jewelry. Unethical gemstone mining can cause soil erosion and deforestation. By going the extra mile to uncover the history of the products you buy, you can stand up against these harmful practices. 

Skip the commercial flowers 

Flowers are one of the most visible and well-known Valentine's Day gifts. In the U.S., 80% of cut flowers are imported from foreign countries. The International Council on Clean Transportation estimates that flights importing flowers “burn approximately 114 million liters of fuel, emitting approximately 360,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.” Once the flowers make it to America, they are transported to stores using refrigerated trucks, which use 25% more fuel than non-refrigerated trucks. These trucks also use diesel fuel, which produces more emissions than gasoline-fueled trucks. 

Instead, buy local. Several local Boulder florists grow their flowers or are part of a local collective that allows them to source flowers from different florists or growers within the state. 

Zero-waste date ideas 

The best way to celebrate Valentine’s Day sustainably is to plan for unique experiences. There are many options for dates that are fun while still being environmentally friendly. 

  • Spend time in nature. Go on a hike or a short walk at sunset to appreciate nature together. You can also have a fun photoshoot outdoors in pretty scenery, with the bonus of having a way to remember the day forever. 
  • Go ice skating. It’s a fun winter staple activity and an excuse to hold hands. 
  • Candlelit dinner at home. You will have more privacy and more options than in a restaurant when you do it yourself. 
  • Movie night. Stay in and watch a romantic movie for a relaxing and cozy holiday. 

Choose to celebrate sustainability 

Holidays don’t have to mean going over your budget or harming the environment. You can find creative ways to recognize the special people in your life.  

If you want to learn more about how to live sustainably, check out the Environmental Center website