Make Valentine's Day Less Trashy
Be the other trashy if you like, but not landfill trashy
Will you celebrate Valentine’s Day on Monday? According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), 53 percent of Americans will celebrate and they will spend an average of $175.41. That represents a notable drop from the $196.31 average spend in 2020, just before Covid took hold in the US. (View all NRF stats here.)
As with other holidays, Valentine’s Day leaves a wake of trash spilling behind it. A little planning ahead can eliminate much of it.
Alternatives to Fast Flowers
Americans will spend an estimated $2.3 billion on Valentine’s Day flowers, mostly roses, mostly imported. These are fast flowers—fast because they must travel to our shores quickly while they still look good.
The US imports about 80 percent of all of its flowers, mostly from Colombia and Ecuador. The flowers travel thousands of miles in refrigerated holds on ships or planes. Some Valentine’s flowers that fly in then catch connecting flights to Japan or Russia. The rest of them travel via refrigerated trucks to refrigerated warehouses and then to (eventually but quickly!) their final destination—a big-box store, a Walmart, a grocery store and so on.
Some of these flowers do meet standards for environmental certifications but their transport miles and greenhouse gas emissions cannot be certified away.
Alternatives do exist! Slow flowers are grown locally by small producers. You can search for these blooms through The Slow Flowers Society. Or buy local flowers at the farmers' market if yours operates in the winter. Or buy a flowering plant for the garden or seeds. Or don't buy any physical goods at all and go out for dinner instead!
Go here for the full blog post on the flower supply chain and alternatives to imported roses.
5 Tips for a Zero-Waste Romantic Valentine’s Day Dinner
1. Plan your menu in advance
You may want to plan for drinks, an appetizer in case your dinner prep falls behind schedule, a side dish, a main dish and of course, dessert. Once you have planned your menu, shop with cloth shopping bags, cloth produce and bulk bags, glass jars and any other containers you use. If you have questions about zero-waste shopping, check out this post.
2. Date a (cute) vegetarian
Find yourself a hot vegetarian (or vegan) to eat with regularly and you will reduce not only your trash but your overall footprint as plant-forward foods consume fewer resources to produce than animal products. If you have access to bulk bins, they no doubt offer dried beans and lentils. Here is a recipe for dal. Here is a one for not-too-spicy black beans.
3. Set the table with real dishes
I doubt many reading this list would serve a delicious home-cooked meal on styrofoam plates but I needed a number 3 in here… Use real cutlery, glasses and cloth napkins while you’re at it.
4. Decorate with plants
Skip the helium-filled plastic balloons, store-bought paper wall-hangings and other single-use decorations and opt for natural, simple decor. You don’t need much. Local flowers, a potted flowering plant or a lush green plant will look beautiful as your centerpiece and won’t add to the trashcan after your meal.
5. Eat by candlelight
I buy beeswax candles. They burn slowly and contain no phthalates. If you choose tapered candles, they almost completely burn up so you won’t be left with a big hunk of beeswax that may send you spiraling into a bout of zero-waste guilt unless you do something with it. You can shred spent large beeswax candles to make beeswax food wraps.
I have found tapered beeswax candles at the farmers’ market and also at a church. If you buy them at a church, when you restock—and your date has gone well—you can hit the confessional while you’re there.
Or perhaps your Valentine’s Day doesn’t go as planned. Apparently, many couples break up on Valentine’s. Go here for 5 tips for a zero-waste breakup. Get your chocolate or drinks and purge their stuff from your life without adding to landfill.
Find more waste-reducing strategies in my book.