With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, you might be scrambling to get those last minute gift ideas together. We are here to help…but with a sustainable twist! Did you know that Valentine’s Day is the second largest card-giving holiday after Christmas? Valentine’s Day sees over one billion cards gifted and exchanged. Most of these cards can’t be recycled because they are laminated or covered in glitter. Chocolate? Typically, unethically sourced. Balloons, flowers and stuffed animals? Those often just get thrown away! Here’s the thing…we aren’t telling you to NOT celebrate the ones you love. We are just suggesting that you do it a “non-traditional” route.

Here are our favorite sustainable Valentine’s Day suggestions from Sustainability and Recycling Manager, Emily Kimmel.

Buy Fair Trade Chocolate. 

58 million pounds of candy is sold in the week leading up to Valentine’s Day. That’s a lot of cavities. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE chocolate. Like, if there isn’t chocolate somewhere in my house at all times, I panic. But chocolate’s history isn’t as good as it tastes. Most chocolate you see on the shelves at the grocery store has a social and environmental cost that far exceeds its price tag. BUT! There’s a way to cure your loved ones sweet tooth more ethically.

Try looking for the Fair Trade logo. By choosing chocolate with the Fair Trade logo, you are voting with your dollar for a brand that stands up for the people and places involved in the cocoa industry. You can also take a peek at the Food Empowerment Project website and see where your favorite brand falls on the spectrum of sourcing.

Buy a Long Lasting Present.

Buying your loved one a present that will endure the test of time is a great way to keep things out of the landfill. It also means you’ve been paying attention, and who doesn’t love feeling listened to? Does your loved one drink a lot of tea? Do they have a favorite artist? Have they been eyeing a pair of cozy gloves? Identifying what the recipient actually needs is one of the most useful and sustainable gift giving strategies. Take your ethical shopping even further by purchasing these items from local artists, vendors or from companies with sustainability goals that match your own.

Buy Jewelry Responsibly and Sustainably. 

Shiny things. We all  love them. We all want them. But they aren’t all created equally. There are a lot of factors that go into jewelry making you might not be aware of.

  1. Sourcing. Where are the precious metals and gems coming from?
  2. Labor. Who is creating these pieces, and are they provided proper protective equipment to do the job safely?
  3. Production. What is the facility like? Are they using harsh chemicals and producing toxic waste?

That’s a lot to remember when you’re shopping for a special piece. It can also be hard to find transparency or sustainability goals on jewelers websites. The best thing you can do is buy second hand! However, we understand that’s not the route everyone wants to go. Lab created diamonds and gems have come a long way. To the untrained professional (and sometimes even those folks), they look just like the real thing. If you’re looking for fine jewelry this season, check out Smiling Rocks, Luna & Rose, or Aurate New York. If you’d like to support your local artists, there are SO many of them in Summit County and beyond. Wild Balance is one of my personal favorites for earrings and DeNev for custom pieces. Plus, these artists are AWESOME humans. You could also consider “permanent jewerly” which is available at DonLo Merchantile. Not all jewelry businesses are perfect – but you must find the perfect balance for YOU between emphasis on environmental, ethical or social practices.

SKIP THE CARD and flowers.

If you’re a sentimental nut job like me, you’ll keep the card. Forever. And then one day, you’ll be in manic cleaning mode and find a pile of them from 1999. No. Please save me from myself and stop giving me cards. Cards are a lovely gesture, but usually either get hoarded or thrown away. If you’d like to give a card, consider purchasing one made from recycled content, Fair Trade and from a small business, or make your own! A handmade card goes a long way and really shows you put thought into it. You might also find that you want to Change the World By How You Shop. I encourage that and am happy to provide this link for your card (and more) shopping pleasure.

Now…the flower industry. This is a billion dollar market that has some ethical and environmental flaws. Shipping flowers from across the world uses a lot of energy and water. Plus, the workers in the flower industry are often overworked and are provided little to no protective equipment when dealing with harsh chemicals such as insecticides and fungicides. If you’d like to learn more about this, I suggest watching ‘A Blooming Business’, a 2009 documentary about the injustices of the flower business in Kenya. Spoiler Alert – flowers die. If your loved one really likes flowers, consider a long living plant instead. Bonus – live plants clear the air in your home or office of pollutants.

Bake Some Goodies.

They say the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach, and I agree. We’ve already established I like chocolate, but add it to cookies or a cake and I’m smitten. If you’re no Martha Stewart, you could consider purchasing goodies from your favorite bakery. This supports your local business while curing your loved ones sweet tooth. Some of my favorite bakeries in Summit County are True BlueClints, La FrancaiseMom’s and Blue Moon.

Give an Intangible Gift. 

Perhaps my favorite suggestion on this list is to give an intangible gift. I love giving them and I love receiving them even more. There are so many ways to do this. You could cook their favorite meal, watch their favorite movie with them, plan a date night, take a cooking class together, give them the night off and watch the kids for a few hours, or write them a poem. You could also take them on a trip! Wolf Creek for the weekend, anyone? Or maybe you have some Southwest Points to use. If they are really invested in their community, try donating a monetary gift to their favorite nonprofit in their name.

Here’s the thing – Valentine’s Day is about love. What if we focused more on making our partners, friends, and family feel loved and less on worrying about what to buy them? The Sustainability Department challenges you this Valentine’s Day to buy one less thing. However, if you want to spoil your loved one with gifts, check out some of the resources provided in this article. Or seek out options from a small business with ethical practices.