Just around the corner is a holiday both loved and hated, Valentine’s Day. What is now seen to many as another “Hallmark Holiday” which entails the buying of bouquets, chocolates, and giant teddy bears was once something quite different. The origins of Valentine’s Day are rather interesting, “Saint Valentine” himself is quite the mysterious fellow. The most popular story says that he was a martyred priest who performed secret marriages for soldiers who were forbidden to marry. As the story goes, he was imprisoned and fell in love with the jailer’s daughter. Supposedly he wrote her a letter, before his execution, in which he signed “Your Valentine”. Other stories are not as romantic. The pagan folklore of the holiday talk about a yearly festival which started with the sacrifice of a goat and a dog. The hides of which were then dipped in blood and used to slap women to “bring fertility”. Most folklore, however, depicts Valentine’s Day as a time to share tokens of affection with friends and loved ones, typically heartfelt handwritten notes. Valentine’s Day has changed (like many holidays) into a holiday where people are expected to buy material gifts, but it doesn’t have to be! If we support the older traditions, the ones that don’t involve sacrificing goats and dogs, we can celebrate Valentine’s Day with our loved ones while also giving a little love back to the planet with these low impact (and low cost!) alternatives:
If you plan on buying chocolates this holiday it’s always a good idea to check the origin. For years child labor, trafficking, slavery, and other abuses were involved in the harvesting of cocoa along much of the Ivory Coast, where most of the world’s cocoa is produced. While legislature has forced many top chocolate manufacturers to change their practices, much of the new protocol has still not taken effect. If you want to guarantee that you are giving your loved one chocolate that was produced ethically, check the label. If it says “Fairtrade” you can be assured that you are giving something sweet that doesn’t have a dark origin.
As natural and beautiful as a bouquet of roses may look, they aren’t necessarily as close to nature as they appear. According to Scientific American, “sending the roughly 100 million roses of a typical Valentine’s Day produces some 9,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from field to U.S. florist.” The carbon footprint on something as beautiful as a bouquet is higher than you may think as well as the plethora of chemicals and pesticides used on the flowers themselves. But don’t despair! If you are a bit leery about buying flowers, you can think outside the box! There are plenty of online websites on how to make roses and other flowers out of recycled materials. You can also consider buying your significant other a live flower (such as an orchid) that is still planted, that way it will continue to thrive and not wither away after the holiday has passed. If you still like the romantic tradition of buying your loved one flowers, there are options in that regard as well. Natural food stores and websites like Flowerbud.com, Organicbouquet, TransFair, and 1-800-flowers are all options for more sustainable bouquets!
There are plenty of other gifts you can share with your loved ones that don’t require going out and spending money or supporting big corporations, here’s a list!
This website has a tutorial on how to make these “plantable valentines” out of recycled paper! The hearts are embedded with seeds which you can choose to suit the recipient!
While mixed CD’s might be a thing of the past, they certainly don’t have to be! Making a mixed CD of all the songs that mean something between you and your loved one, or friend, is both a heartfelt and long lasting gift they can cherish. If you don’t have the materials to make a CD, you can always make a Spotify playlist to share with them instead!
Cook them Dinner
One of the quickest ways to someone’s heart is through food. If you enjoy to cook or bake, this can be used to your advantage! Take use of your skills and give the gift of homemade food for your Valentine! If you don’t like to cook, consider supporting some local eateries around Galesburg to take them to dinner. If you don’t like to bake, consider purchasing your sweets from a local bakery to surprise them!
Write them a Song
If you play an instrument, or enjoy singing, consider writing your valentine a song! It doesn’t have to be an extravagant ballad, a cute little ditty is enough to brighten someone’s day on Valentine’s Day.
No matter how you choose to spread your affection to your valentine this holiday, remember that something small but heartfelt can go a long way!
Cooper, J.C. (23 October 2013). Dictionary of Christianity. Routledge. p. 278.
Whelan, C. (2/12/09). Scientific American. Retrieved from: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/environmental-price-of-flowers/
History of Valentine’s Day. 2009. History.com Retrieved from: