Valentine’s Day: Frugal and WasteLess
Canadians spend approximately $37 million on Valentine’s Day each year (Source).
Each gift that you offer not only impacts your wallet, it also impacts the environment. That’s because each item needs to be produced, transported, distributed, and ultimately discarded. That compounds to a massive environmental footprint just to say “I love you.”
So, let’s look at just how high that environmental impact is and then explore some WasteLess Valentine’s ideas.
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The Environmental Impact of Roses
Consider, for example, that a total of 140 million roses are grown annually for this special day (Source), which requires a tremendous amount of water per plant. (Source) Most of these roses aren’t grown on our footsteps but rather flown in from Ecuador, which means that they’ll travel close to 7,000 km just to reach our borders, and then even further from warehouse to warehouse to distributor to store, until they ultimately reach your sweetheart.
And growing these messengers of love also requires a large amount of water, fertilizer, energy, and space. It is estimated that globally roughly 405,000 ha of land are dedicated to greenhouses for the cultivation of roses. Especially for days like Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, the energy consumption of growing roses in northern countries increases significantly, as greenhouses need to maintain a constant temperature of around 22°C (70°F) during the day and 16°C (57°F) during the night. For a more optimal supply it therefore indeed makes sense to import roses from Ecuador, where rose production is among the most efficient world-wide due to its proximity to the equator. However, Ecuador is close to 7,000 km (4,350 miles) away. The National Energy Foundation estimates that for each hour of flight time, at around 850 km per hour, a plane emits around 150 kg CO2 (Source). So to travel 7,000 km, the freight plane would be in the air around 8.2 hours, thus emitting around 1.2 tonnes of CO2, although the actual number will likely be much higher because it is unlikely that these roses are shipped directly and each take-off, landing, and additional kilometer of flying would add to these emissions.
The Environmental Impact of Chocolates
Offering chocolates may seem like a more environmentally friendly way, however, I will have to disappoint you again.
Most chocolates that you buy in heart-shaped boxes at the grocery store are imported from afar. For this example, we’ll look at a popular Swiss brand. A quick glance at the back of the box indicates that it was manufactured in Italy. To reach Canada’s East Coast, this box of chocolates had to travel 5,000 km (3,100 miles); to reach the West Coast, we’re looking at 8,500 km (5,300 miles). And that’s just for its transportation and distribution.
Among the ingredients of the chocolates themselves are listed sugar, cocoa butter, milk, coconut oil, cocoa mass, palm kernel oil, barley malt, and artificial flavour. Each of these ingredients had to be shipped to the manufacturer from wherever it was grown and it usually doesn’t get there on a direct route. While Italy is a large producer of cocoa, it is also possible that the chocolate actually came from West Africa, where an estimated 70% of cocoa beans are grown (Source). If the ingredients came from their top producing countries, the sugar would have come from Brazil, the cocoa from the Ivory Coast, the milk from the United States, the coconut oil from the Philippines, the palm kernel oil from Indonesia, and the barley malt from Russia.
Now you can quickly see how transportation emissions quickly add up for those little chocolates that melt on your tongue.
And we haven’t even looked at the packaging yet. That box itself needed to be produced also and its life will continue on long after the sweet taste of its contents have faded, particularly because it is lined with a glossy finish, which renders the underlying cardboard box unfit for recycling.
WasteLess Valentine’s Day Ideas
So, now that we’ve looked at two of the short-lived gifts, let’s see what alternatives exist to celebrate your love.
- Make love not waste! Caring gestures and thoughtful words can go a long way. Consider offering your sweetheart self-made breakfast in bed, a head massage, an elaborate self-cooked candle-light dinner, or anything else that is not a daily treat.
- Buy a potted plant rather than cut flowers. If you’re unsure how to pull this off, add a little note that reads “May this plant continue to grow, just as my love for you grows stronger every day.”
- Share some time and local wine. Besides supporting a local business, this treat can serve up some memorable hours in a cozy atmosphere. Cut out any distractions and make sure to reuse (or if not possible at least to recycle) the bottle once it’s empty.
- Opt for local pralines, if Valentine’s Day is not complete without satisfying the craving for chocolates. If you choose this option, don’t forget to bring your own container to the chocolaterie.
- Enjoy nature together. You love the environment and you love your partner… What’s better than combining the two. One of the nicest ways to spend a day about love is to embark on a romantic stroll or the first picnic of the year in one of the many local parks.
Now that we have provided you with some suggestions, feel free to download our Valentine’s Day Guide for more ideas.
Have a Happy, WasteLess Valentine’s Day!
WasteLess Valentine's Guide
This Valentine’s Guide provides you with many awesome tips to showcase your love without creating waste.