Your guide to an Earth-friendly Valentine’s Day

Crafts and shopping tips to help your family have an eco-conscious celebration

For kids, Valentine’s Day is all about the goods. “My students often get really excited about handing out the valentines,” says Jackie Dennis, a second-grade teacher in Overland Park, Kansas. “But at the end of the day, each kid is taking home 20 little valentines, treats, and knickknacks that will probably end up in the trash.”

Each year, Americans exchange 145 million greeting cards and spend about $23.9 billion on gifts. But the holiday’s warm and fuzzy intentions have a cost: raw materials to create products and the energy to move them around the globe. “But chocolate, for example, has a strong cultural significance in family and holiday celebrations,” says food expert Carolyn Dimitri.

You don’t need to give up treats to go easy on Earth. Read on to discover eco-friendly shopping tips, quick crafts, and suggestions for disposing the leftovers. After all, protecting the planet is an act of love!

Choose chocolate carefully

According to data from bulk candy seller Candy Store, one of the most popular valentine treats is a heart-shaped box of chocolates. Most of the world’s cocoa beans are grown by small-scale farmers in West Africa, especially Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) and Ghana. But as global demand for chocolate increases, farmers cut down rainforest to make space for more cocoa trees.

The World Bank estimates that the Ivory Coast has lost 80 percent of its forest since 1970, partially due to cocoa production. That removes a climate change mitigation tool, since trees absorb heat-trapping carbon dioxide. Local animals are affected, too: Researchers from several Ivory Coast institutions and the University of Ohio found that 13 protected areas in that country had lost all of their primate populations, in part because of the cocoa industry’s practices.

Better blooms 

Flowers seem like a low-waste valentine treat, but according to researchers at North Carolina State, about 81 percent of flowers sold in the United States are imported from South America, especially Colombia and Ecuador. Blooms like roses, carnations, chrysanthemums, and hydrangeas are then refrigerated and flown to the United States, then trucked to florists and grocery stores. That creates lots of carbon dioxide emissions.

But in-country flowers aren’t always better. Flowers in places with cold winters like the United States and Europe often grow in energy-intensive greenhouses. A 2007 study from Cranfield University found that roses grown in greenhouses in the Netherlands then sold in-country had over 15 times the carbon footprint of roses grown outdoors in Kenya.

Considerate cards

Greeting cards probably aren’t the worst offenders when it comes to global deforestation. (According the World Wildlife Fund, destroying habitat for cattle ranches and soy fields is much worse.) But the paper industry is responsible for about 15 percent of total wood consumption and the EPA reports that 17.2 million tons of paper and paperboard were landfilled in 2018. The best valentines are made with paper you already have in your home.

Read This Next

Where Valentine’s Day is unloved—and forbidden
The World’s Weirdest Hearts for Valentine’s Day
These 7 crafts might help decrease your holiday waste