Learn to Love a Low-waste Valentine’s Day

Love is in the air, but sadly so is plenty of pollution. Mother Earth is always left unimpressed at this time of year due to the amount of Valentine’s Day waste we create. Empty chocolate boxes, deflated balloons, and novelty plastic gifts rotting in landfill all add to carbon emissions and pollution levels.

But there’s no need to be a hopeless romantic. Show your passion for the planet and your other half with a low or zero-waste Valentine’s this year. There are plenty of little things we can all do to cut down on how much rubbish we produce showering each other with love.

Make your Valentine’s Day as green as your true love’s rival admirers with these facts and tips for a low-waste-loving celebration.

flowers candles and macaroons spread out.

How much waste is produced 
on Valentine’s Day?

Around 40 million people in the UK celebrate Valentine’s Day and spend somewhere in the region of £1.3 billion on the holiday every year. Showering each other with gifts, meals, and more means that on February 14th an extra nine million kilograms of CO2 are produced due to the waste it creates.

Valentine’s Day is the second-biggest holiday for giving out cards after Christmas. 25 million Valentine’s cards are sent each year in the UK. Many of these are recyclable but the use of glitter and improper disposal means plenty end up in landfill sites.

It’s not just the UK producing unaffectionate figures about how much Valentine’s Day waste we create. In the USA, 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolates are sold for Valentine’s every year – 26 million kilograms of chocolate that probably aren’t all eaten. And 250 million stems of flowers are sold around the world every Valentine’s Day with many ending up in landfill sites.

How to have a 
low-waste Valentine’s Day

The easiest way to have a low-waste Valentine’s Day is to simply not celebrate it. Sack off the plastic presents, packaged chocolates, and wilting roses. Save on the fuel and food waste that going out for a meal could create. And prepare to face the wrath of your better half.

Skipping Valentine’s Day is only possible when you’re both truly on board with it. A safer and greener option is to have a low-waste Valentine’s Day, which you can do with these ideas:

  • Cook at home – it’s cheaper, saves on fuel, and gives you more control over food waste. Eat up any leftovers the next day and use any by-products from preparation in other dishes. Plus, it ensures you both get a meal you enjoy and shows your thoughtful side.
  • Ditch the gifts – loads of valentine’s gifts are gimmicky, made from cheap plastic, and get thrown out a few weeks later. Why not make a pact to not buy gifts this year (a serious pact)? Use the money on an experience you’ll both enjoy instead.
  • Pick potted plants – bouquets of cut roses and other flowers only last a week or so. Then there’s the plastic wrapping that’s normally impossible or difficult to recycle. Instead, buy a potted plant (ideally UK grown too) for the home or garden, which will last much longer. Tulips and hydrangeas are good as they bloom in spring.
  • Dim the lights – an easy way to both save electricity and form a warm and romantic atmosphere.
  • Make your own card – many Valentine’s Day cards are sustainable but those with glitter and plastic as part of their design aren’t recyclable. Craft your own using card and photos you’ve got lying around the house already for an eco-friendlier option.
  • Avoid wrapping paper – plenty of romantic gifts come ready wrapped but unless it’s 100% paper it’s often not recyclable. Place presents in a reusable bag or use paper that’s recyclable to avoid adding more waste to landfill.
two valentine's day cards on wooden table.

Zero-waste Valentine’s 
Day gifts

A zero-waste Valentine’s Day gift will keep you sweet with your loved one and the planet. Too many presents for February 14th contain plastic or a mix of materials that make them tricky, expensive, and sometimes impossible to recycle. Take the classic Valentine’s teddy bear – it can be donated and reused, but not recycled.

Avoid the chance of creating excess waste to further entrench yourself in someone’s good books with inspiration for zero waste Valentine’s Day gifts from these ideas:

  • Baked goods – steer clear of all the packaging waste boxes of chocolate create by making your own. It could be something simple like strawberries dipped in chocolate to more extravagant homemade chocolate truffles, biscuits, or tiramisu.
  • Homemade candles – use some soy wax, a wick, and an old glass jar to make your own waste-free candles. It’s a great way to reuse old containers such as jam jars and metal cans.
  • Zero waste dates – rather than something physical, why not book an experience? Book a sustainable trip somewhere or simply transform your living room into a cinema or other themed space for the evening.
  • Second-hand gifts – get thrifty scouring charity shops for waste-free gifts. Even if you find something that’s not quite perfect, think about ways to upcycle it and add your own unique touch.
  • Seeds – good things come in small packages, and a little bag of seeds provides a loving gift that lasts (as long as your Valentine has some green fingers). Introduce new life rather than give a bunch of cut roses already starting to die.

Ways to recycle and dispose of 
Valentine’s gifts sustainably

“Roses are red, Violets are blue, Compost old flowers, And save the planet too.” It might not be as romantic as the original rhyme, but it’s some good advice to cut down on your Valentine’s Day waste. You’ve no control over what gifts you might receive from your secret admirer(s), but you can control how you get rid of them.

Recycle and dispose of valentine’s Day gifts sustainably with these actions:

  • Compost flowers – never throw old flowers in with your general waste. They’re organic waste and will decompose, creating good-quality compost to use in your garden in the future.
  • Recycle cards – nobody keeps their Valentine’s cards up all year. Remove any glitter, plastic, and other materials then dispose of them with your dry mixed recycling at home or work.
  • Glass recycling – clean out old candle holders, perfume bottles, wine and beer bottles and take them to your local bottle bank to recycle.
  • Return electronic presents – if you received any loving gifts that use batteries, whatever they may be, you can return electronic items at the end of their life to most manufacturers or electronic retailers. They should accept your WEEE waste and arrange for it to be recycled.
  • Donate unwanted gifts – things not work out? Teddy bears and plastic romantic gifts from your ex might not be recyclable but give them a clean and donate them at your local charity shop so someone else can find a loving home for them.
bouquet of five red roses in bloom.

How does Valentine’s Day 
affect the environment?

Valentine’s Day creates excess waste and sadly much of it ends up in landfill sites. This increases the amount of carbon emissions released, contributing to global warming. The millions of cards produced for February 14th mean millions of trees are chopped down to create them. And the shipping of roses around the world adds more CO2 to the atmosphere.

There’s not a lot of love shown to the environment around Valentine’s Day. Buying locally reduces the impact of the holiday season, as does taking steps to celebrate it sustainably. Plan a low-waste yet loving day for your better half this year.

Find more insights into the impact of waste on the environment with the latest waste management news.

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