Holidays are often wonderful, fun-filled days of the year. One of the most enjoyable traditions of Valentine’s Day is exchanging gifts and spending time with partners and friends. However, this tradition also warrants an unnecessary amount of waste and consumption. According to the National Retail Federation, Americans alone spend around $14.1 billion on Valentine’s Day gifts. Valentine’s Day in particular produces an immense amount of waste from unwanted cards, flowers, jewelry, and more that will later end up in landfills. Instead, opt for presents that will leave a bigger impact on your loved one and a lesser impact on the Earth!
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, there is no better time to talk about love. Whether it’s puppy love or everlasting love, Valentine’s Day is an important holiday worth noting and celebrating with that special someone in your life.
Rooted in capitalism, the goal of making money for rich people who need bigger houses and fancier cars, and the art of making people feel exceptionally alone if they don’t have someone romantic in their lives, Valentine’s Day is one of the most publicly criticized holidays of them all — and rightfully so. You’ve probably heard about all of that by now, so we won’t bother preaching to you, our readers, who are undoubtedly shouting “Amen” or “Yaaassss” in your heads as you read this.
Instead, we’re here to talk about how Valentine’s Day is just another excuse for mainstream Euroamerican neo-liberalist consumerism. Of course, you probably knew about that too, with every storefront looking like a raspberry smoothie threw up on it in the weeks leading up to mid-February in an effort to attract and increase sales for rich people who need bigger houses and fancier — you get it.
Although there is nothing wrong with celebrating your love for your partner on Valentine’s Day (an excuse not to cook, am I right?), there is something super sneaky and ultimately nonsensical about the implication that if someone doesn’t give or receive flowers, chocolates, and teddy bears in a relationship, that that relationship is then somehow invalid.
Spending money and buying things to show someone you love them is actually a massive load of hogwash. Not only would you be falling into the trap of consumption set up by those darned capitalists, in doing so, your actions would have negative environmental impacts greater than you have probably ever thought of.
Here are some staggering statistics, taken from the folks over at TreeHugger about Valentine’s Day in the United States (2015):
25%: The number of Valentine’s revelers who will shop online.
$703 million: The amount of money that will be spent on pets.
$1.7 billion: The amount that will be spent on candy.
$2 billion: The amount that will be spent on clothing.
$2.1 billion: The amount that will be spent on flowers.
$4.8 billion: The amount that will be spent on jewelry.
$18.9 billion: The total amount Americans are expected to spend on Valentine’s Day this year.
If that statistic about pets didn’t shock you, you should probably just click away from this article now.
Not only is the amount of money spent on a made-up holiday without any roots in spiritual, religious, or cultural significance of any kind absolutely obscene, but the amount of waste that this level of consumption is also totally problematic.
With everything we purchase in stores (except for those that aren’t consciously trying to reduce their waste impact — see a list of those dolls below), we face the inevitable consequence of inheriting the packaging that comes along with items with an American price tag of nearly $20 billion.
This means that chocolate wrappers (which are not compostable, nor recyclable), plastic wrappings, and other packaging materials (especially those associated with that 25% of folks who will be shopping online) are headed straight to landfills.
Landfills impact the environment negatively in a multitude of ways. For instance, the decomposition of items in landfills emits insane amounts of methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas pollutant that contributes to climate change (Newton, 2017). Landfills additionally affect surrounding biodiversity by contributing to species and habitat loss as well as changing the ecosystems forever (Newton, 2017). Groundwater pollution and soil infertility also take place in landfills due to the toxic leachate (read: yucky liquids) from the dissolution of items in the landfills that seeps into the grounds that landfills rest on (Newton, 2017). Not to mention, there are a number of health impacts (such as cancer, birth defects, and respiratory illnesses) for surrounding human populations, who are affected by this environmental degradation and toxification (Newton, 2017).
On top of these nasty environmental repercussions that this type of consumption and the waste it produces have, we also can’t forget disproportionate impact and the unavoidable environmental racism that results. (More on these topics on the Dish Project’s website.)
Now, although the entire concept of Valentine’s Day is pretty silly, and we totally poked fun at that fact, you shouldn’t feel lousy if you were looking forward to spending the day with your partner, friends, or family members (yes, even your dog). There’s nothing wrong with making a point to celebrate love and the people you care about, and sometimes in our busy lives, we need an excuse to take the time to do just that. If you’re looking to do something special with your people on Valentine’s Day but don’t want to feed into to the system outlined above, here are some more sustainable and low-waste ideas on what you can do:
- Have a movie marathon at home (you don’t have to put pants on, which is a bonus)
- Make your own sweet treats (way more meaningful than Ferrero Rocher)
- Get crafty and repurpose materials you no longer need into a DIY gift (visit CUCCR for an abundance of awesome materials!)
- Enjoy a meal out (or in)
- Build a snowman or engage in other outdoor activities (and then have hot chocolate and a cuddling sesh)
- Write love letters to the people you cherish most (it’ll make you feel way better than a handful of chocolate ever could)
- Play board games (or Heads-Up, sup Ellen?)
List of Low Waste Montreal Stores:
- Mega Vrac
- Épicerie LOCO
- Frigo Vert
- Vrac en Folie
- Vrac & Bocaux
- Coop La Maison Verte
- Bulk Barn
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