Like any consumer-driven Holiday, Valentine’s Day has become an excessive and wasteful celebration. While trying to express our love for friends, family and partners, we litter the planet with non-recyclable candy wrappers, take away containers carrying the dinner we couldn’t finish and stock the shelves of our landfills by purchasing unnecessary cheap trinkets that will inevitably fall apart.
This Valentine’s Day, let’s show our love for the planet by making an effort to waste less. Here are some tips for a waste-free Valentine’s Day:
1) Look for package-free sweets
Partaking in the sweeter side of the Valentine’s Day tradition? Grab some jars, containers or bulk bags and head to a bulk store to stock up. Many candy wrappers are made from mixed materials and are therefore not recyclable. Most candies and chocolates that you’ll find in stores also come in unnecessary plastic bags, which you definitely want to avoid if you’re trying to be nice to the planet.
You can use Bea Johnson’s handy Bulk Locator to find a bulk store close to you.
Add a personal touch with these cute punny messages from Going Zero Waste:
- Reese’s Pieces: 100 “Resse”sons I love you!
- Reese’s Pieces: I love you to pieces!
- Gummy Bears: Life without you would be un-BEAR-able.
- Raisins: You’re always raisin my spirits
2) Don’t purchase a new outfit
The celebrity mindset that makes us feel we need a new outfit for every special occasion and a new wardrobe for every season is slowly (not so slowly) killing the planet. We purchase 400 times more clothing now than we did in 1980 with the number of new garments created every year now exceeding 100 billion. The average North American creates 70lbs of textile waste per year, with much of that ending up in landfills. And the narrative around the ‘good’ we do when we donate our used clothes is coming undone at the seams (some countries are trying to ban the import of used clothing and shoes from the west as the massive influx of our hand-me-downs is devastating their local artisan markets).
So, if you were considering getting something shiny and new for a date or a night out with friends this Valentine’s Day, don’t. Instead, consider getting something ‘new-to-you’ from the second hand market:
- trade for an outfit on Bunz Trading Zone
- borrow an outfit from Toronto’s Fresh Fashion Library
- purchase second hand. If you don’t feel like digging through the racks of a thrift store, check out the carefully curated consignment inventory at the Common Sort.
- you can also borrow clothing from other Torontonians via Boro or rent a fancy outfit from Rent Frock Repeat.
3) If you dine out, bring a zero waste kit
Haven’t you heard? A zero waste kit is 2019’s hottest accessory to pair with your sustainable second hand outfit! Whether you skip out to a local cafe to grab a drink on the way to a romantic skate at your local rink or sit down to enjoy dinner out with friends and family, a zero waste kit will help you avoid using single-use disposable items like coffee cups and take out containers.
It’s important to remember that even if the disposable item you’re using is recyclable, recycling is not the solution to the waste crisis:
By the time waste gets recycled, 95% of the environmental damage has already occurred – in manufacturing, in oil extraction, in the poisoning of our rivers and air. People have to buy less…our economy is based on endless growth, endless production of what our landfills tell us is basically junk. The cycle just keeps going: manufacture, consume, discard.
4) Make a card using upcycled materials
Elevate your Valentine’s Day above the basic Hallmark Holiday and skip the purchasing of store-bought cards (which are often wrapped in plastic, which – as we’ve covered many times – is bad for the planet).
Make your own card instead using upcycled and scrap materials. I have a box in my home where I keep packaging, used wrapping paper and other odds and ends that can be used to wrap gifts or make creative cards. I will often include a little pouch on the cards where a note can be tucked inside so I don’t need to write on the card itself. This way, the person you give it to can reuse the card by removing the note and writing their own!
5) Make something together
Why buy cheap gifts that are made overseas when you could celebrate your love by making something special together?
The Toronto Tool Library’s Makerspace is hosting a special Valentine’s Day Wind-Up Music Box Build at 192 Spadina on February 14. There are two time slots to choose from:
6) Give an experiential gift
Let’s face it – we’ve been doing the cheap stuffed teddy bears, boxes of chocolates and diamonds thing for long enough. It’s getting old. Plus, household consumption is responsible for up to 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions and between 50 and 80% of total land, material, and water use.
We don’t need to purchase stuff to express our undying love for a significant other or our gratitude to friends and family. Research has shown that accumulating more and more stuff does not equate to increases in happiness. Quite the opposite.
Experiences are where it’s at, so rather than give the ones you love unnecessary things, give them an experiential gift instead:
- a membership to a Library of Things like the Toronto Tool Library or The Sharing Depot, where the borrowing of items will give them access to infinite experiences (for example, they could borrow board games to host a games night, a record player, disco ball and chocolate fountain to throw a wicked party or a projector, screen and popcorn maker to host the ultimate movie night).
- take them out to a movie or a theatrical play
- go rock climbing together at a rock climbing gym
- take a trip to a museum or art gallery
- get them an online subscription to a music or movie streaming service
- hire a tool ninja at the Toronto Tool Library and make something special together
- head out to a skating rink and pack a zero waste picnic (obviously if you’re in Toronto, you will find somewhere to take shelter from the cold to eat it).
- the possibilities are endless!
7) Skip the flowers
What better way to say I love you than cut flowers that are grown far away, shipped around the world, sprayed with pesticides and inevitably DIE? No thanks, hard pass.
Take a trip to your local seed library and pick up some some free seeds they can plant when spring rolls around. These are often seeds that are saved from gardeners in the community and donated back to the seed library for others to take.
8) Make dinner at home with what you already have
A staggering 1/3 of all food produced globally is wasted annually and in Canada, we’re collectively chucking out approximately $31 billion worth of food a year. This is not only insulting in terms of the fact that we’re throwing away perfectly good food when there are many on the planet without enough to eat, but food waste has 25 times the climate change potential of carbon dioxide.
All this to say, you can make a really fun night out of taking note of what’s already in your fridge and making a nice meal with a significant other or friends. You can enter those random things you find at the back of fridge drawers into the Foodful.ly app which will then give you recipe suggestions based on what you have. You could also use the Flashfood app to locate food that is about to be tossed out by grocery stores and pick it up for a fraction of the price.
BONUS: you might be wondering about the waste associated with birth control. While there is no fully wasteless way around protection, Trash Is For Tossers does have a blog you can peruse on the more sustainable options.
This is a guest blog from @itsahashtaglife – blogger, social media manager and content creator for non-profits and charities in Toronto. She takes the tools and techniques of traditional digital media marketing and applies them to organizations working hard to shift our world into a new story – one that is more sustainable and supportive of people and the planet. #LetsGetWasteless
Imagine if Libraries of Things became as readily accessible as book libraries, where every week you visit to select toys, camping gear, board games, sports equipment or party supplies and return what you took out the week before? Imagine the shelf space, imagine the savings, imagine the community connections, imagine a greener planet.