Valentine’s Day has many historical roots in Catholic and Roman celebrations about fertility, love, birds, and the coming spring. Popularized by English poets, Valentine’s letters were shared as far back as the Middle Ages. By the 1700s, Valentine’s Day was becoming popularly celebrated. Today, Valentine’s Day is a wonderful way to celebrate love, not only among romantic partners, but with friends, family, and pets.
However, as with most holiday celebrations, there are some challenges with this scale of gift giving. In 2020, the National Retail Federation estimated that over $21 billion was spent on Valentine’s Day in the U.S. and in 2021, spending levels are expected to rise to about $24 billion. This works out to about $175 per person for those who celebrate. While people give many different types of valentines, chocolate and flowers are two of the most common gifts.
Unfortunately, both chocolate and flowers can have significant challenges with child labor, pesticide usage, deforestation, carbon emissions through refrigeration and transportation, and other environmental issues. In West Africa, where Engage Globally works, child labor in cacao production is rising and it is estimated that over 1.4 million children work on cacao farms, often in dangerous conditions and without access to education. If giving chocolate or flowers, it’s helpful to look for fair trade and organic certifications, as well as local production.
Below are some suggestions for celebrating Valentine’s Day more sustainably:
Gift a local experience – Some of our favorites include:
Give a gift celebrating Valentine’s Day historical connections to birds and spring, such as:
Celebrate local art and artists
Gift outdoor conservation – We love to support nature and to spend time outdoors with our friends and family. One of our favorite gifts is the Annual National Parks Pass. If you already have national park passes, consider:
Create your gifts – Personally created gifts never go out of style and create great memories.
Look for gifts to reuse or upcycle – secondhand stores, yard sales, and online resale sites are all great ways to select a personal and meaningful gift for a loved one, such as vintage jewelry.
Donating to your loved one’s favorite charity in their honor can be meaningful and impactful!
Need a gift for a young person?
We hope you found these suggestions useful. Please let us know if you used any of these ideas. And, if you have other sustainable gift giving suggestions, we would love to hear them!
Engage Globally is celebrating Black History Month with quotes from Black environmental leaders
We’re beginning our celebration of Black History month by sharing inspirational quotes from some Black environmental leaders who are doing amazing work for conservation and environmental justice.
To learn about more leaders and organizations working on environmental justice and who help to make nature access more equitable please see these free resources on our website.
List of environmental organizations with a focus on equity, diversity, and inclusion
List of environmental leaders from underrepresented communities