How to have an eco-friendly Valentine’s Day

Find out why flowers aren’t on the list, but potted plants are.

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You try so hard to be eco-conscious. But when a holiday rolls around, well, that’s when the recycling bin starts spilling over and over-consumption abounds. “Valentine’s Day can be quite potentially wasteful and can have a big environmental impact,” says Jed Goldberg, the president of Toronto-based Earth Day Canada. So if you’re looking to make this red holiday greener, we asked Goldberg and Lindsay Coulter, the Vancouver-based David Suzuki Foundation’s “Queen of Green” for some fresh ideas for this February 14th.

The gifts…

“Most of the flowers we get in February in Canada are flown here from who-knows-where—they could be coming from halfway around the world,” notes Goldberg. “Flowers are also the kind of gift that a week later is gone and not appreciated anymore.” Instead he suggests giving a potted plant that can be transplanted into the garden in the spring, or even an herb garden for the foodie in your life. Coulter also suggests consulting your florist to find out what, if any, local, seasonal options you have for flowers.

Some people love a little stuffed animal for Valentine’s Day. “But chances are the animal was manufactured in China, and shipped halfway across the world,” says Goldberg. Instead he suggests giving your special someone a memorable experience such as a gift certificate for a deep-tissue massage or another appreciated experience. “It’ll make your partner a lot happier and this is a way to support local businesses as well.”

If you’re looking for something sparkly on your finger this year, encourage buying a conflict-free diamond. “There are some fantastic conflict-free diamonds you can buy from Canada as well,” says Goldberg. This way you can avoid ‘blood’ diamonds that might be linked with terrorism, oppression or war.

While you may love Chanel No. 5, consider picking out a different sort of fragrance this year. Coulter says that it’s not always easy to know what ingredients are in fragrances and concoctions may contain toxic chemicals. Instead pick an essential oil from a health food store or retailers such as The Body Shop. “These oils are volatile and dissipate over time so they don’t linger and hang on like the synthetic ones,” she adds.

The food…

“Rather than going to your usual restaurant, try going to a place that might specialize in more environmentally-sensible fare, so a vegetarian restaurant or one that serves organic or locally grown food,” says Goldberg. Even better, pour a glass of wine and make a romantic meal at home together.

While they’re yummy, candies and chocolate are generally packed with sugar and highly processed. “So at the least, get healthier treats from a health food store or a market that might sell these products that are organic or fair-trade products and chocolates,” suggests Goldberg.

The cards…

Instead of getting paper cards, opt for an electronic card from sites such as Bluemountain.com. “Even better, talk to them face to face if possible,” says Goldberg. “Because there are serious environmental impacts of those millions of cards being sent out.” However, if you’re really stuck on using paper, “more and more stationary stores are carrying recycled content papers,” says Coulter. “Of course 100 percent recycled content is great.”

Rather than having your child hand out small SpongeBob SquarePants Valentine’s cards, push their creativity and have them make them this year. (Just be sure to get on it as early as you can to give them enough time to complete the cards.) “You can make them from existing craft items as well as found items from around the house, such as cardboard from packages,” says Goldberg. Other transformable treasures include old cards, past calendars and even lids from hot chocolate containers or chip lids.