Valentine’s Day regularly gets criticism for being commercialised, but there are a number of steps you can take to enjoy the 14th February without having a negative effect on your carbon footprint.
Whether you prefer to plan a romantic date or find a gift to treat the special person in your life, we have a few ideas to help make your Valentine’s Day an eco one this year.
You may prefer to buy a token of your love that you can be remembered by, or you may prefer to create memories of special time spent together. Whatever you decide to arrange for your loved one, why not think green rather than red this Valentine’s Day?
Many restaurants, bistros and gastro pubs have special Valentine’s menus, and especially if you’re no Jamie Oliver or Nigella in the kitchen, choosing to go out for a romantic meal for two can be an ideal way to get in the mood. From steaks and champagne to strawberries and chocolate desserts, the luxurious offerings can be a real treat for your loved one.
How can you make it more eco?
The first step in giving your meal out better eco credentials is choosing an independent restaurant, pub or bistro. Especially during the start of the year they can struggle to get the customers through the door as people cut back after Christmas or decide to stay in due to bad weather. Valentine’s day is a great occasion to spread a little local love to those independent suppliers and help give them a boost. You often get a more personal service and can choose a venue with a unique atmosphere compared to a chain that can be found anywhere throughout the UK.
As well as choosing independent businesses, look for eateries that support fellow local businesses. They could be part of a shop local scheme or source their ingredients from local fisheries, farms and growers. Supporting local businesses keeps your money helping your community and local economy so independent traders can enjoy a more sustainable business and share their success within your area. There’s also the added bonus of being able to enjoy more seasonal produce, and lower food miles mean less pollution.
Flowers are one of the traditional fayre of Valentine’s Day. If you’re a traditional romantic or your significant other loves to receive a bunch of blooms, 12 red roses can put a smile on many a face, but there are also many other types of flowers you can opt for, especially if you want a personal touch with their favourite flora featuring in your bouquet.
How to keep it eco
Local florists look forward to the busy season around Valentine’s Day but you can always guarantee that personal service from an independent shop, and you can often get some good deals too. Again, it’s often the first big season after Christmas, so shopping local can make a big difference.
With roses, choose fair trade where you can to ensure growers get a fair deal too. Many suppliers now have this option and it means your gift hasn’t contributed to exploitation of the suppliers growing our beautiful blooms. Another good eco option is seasonal flowers. Good florists will have expertise in their industry and will be able to tell you what types of flowers are in season throughout the year. This guide to February’s seasonal flowers can also help give you some alternatives to traditional red roses, which the green goddess in your life might appreciate.
The biggest Valentine’s cliche is hearts and chocolates, but if your loved one has a sweet tooth, you can hardly go wrong with a box of chocs. The bonus is that they suit both male and female recipients too! With so much pink and red packaging and fancy presentation boxes, the chocolatey choice is almost endless, but if you pick your beau’s favourites, a big or small box can be a lovely little extra or the main gift this Valentine’s Day.
Keeping it green
You don’t want to end up spending a fortune, but you could choose a smaller box of chocolates with big eco credentials. There are many artisan and independent chocolatiers who often support fellow small and local producers when sourcing their ingredients, and the handmade approach gives something that little bit more special than a box of Milk Tray off the supermarket shelf.
Another area to consider is certification of the chocolates you purchase. Is the cocoa fair trade? Has the chocolate been made with organic ingredients? Does the manufacturer have Rainforest Alliance certification? There are a range of affiliates and certifications that businesses can apply for to ensure they use quality ingredients that don’t exploit the suppliers who grow them. Also keep an eye out for the percentage of cocoa used. Although not everybody is a fan of dark chocolate, the rich flavour of higher percentages of cocoa solids give a luxurious taste, and are even said to have health benefits.
Beware of the packaging. This can often be a hidden area, especially when looking for pretty gift packaging. Try and choose chocolates packaged in recycled cardboard with compostable inserts to separate the chocolates, rather than plastic which will be destined to sit in landfill for years. Also look at the amount of packaging surrounding the chocolates. If it is excessive, try and choose a product that has less surplus, or if everything else about the product meets your needs, contact the maker and provide feedback that this could have affected your choice. You could effect change and bring about a review of the sort of packaging they use.
Not bubbly in this instance: we’ll come to that in a moment! But Valentine’s day is often a time of romantic proposals or the gifting of a special piece of jewellery. From the ultimate diamond engagement ring to simple but elegant necklaces, ear rings or charms for bracelets, with a few jewellers in each town and windows full of twinkling gems set in gold, silver and platinum, most girls (and guys) would be more than happy with something that sparkles this Valentine’s Day.
Adding the green touch
You might wonder how jewellery can be green (or not green) but there are a number of things you can do to add an extra smile to your Valentine’s lips if all things eco matter to them. The first is shopping local and supporting independent jewellers. Chains set up across the UK often have the same range of products on sale, and although beautiful, it can be nice to enjoy the more unique choices from smaller manufacturers that independent jewellery suppliers can present you with.
Another consideration is second hand jewellery. Items have often seen little use, simply sitting in a jewellery box and stone settings, clasps and chains will have been given attention by the jeweller before putting them on sale. Your money can often go further too, and you can be happy knowing that you’ve given an item a new lease of life, recycling the precious metals rather than starting from scratch. In particular, old charms for charm bracelets can be more unusual and have an attractive vintage feel to them.
Asking your jeweller about fairly traded stones, conflict free diamonds and freshwater pearls is another aspect to think about when buying jewellery. Alternatively, if your loved one prefers fashion jewellery, look out for shops selling necklaces and bracelets made using glass beads which can be made from recycled materials and reclaimed metal chains and settings.
Any celebration goes well with a bottle of bubbly, whether you’re a fan of champagne or cava, or prefer a bottle of red or white. If you don’t drink a lot, adding lemonade to dilute it down or choosing a fruity liqueur or spirit could be a pleasant alternative, or you could stick to coffee with a twist.
Ten green bottles
If you opt for liqueur or a treat like flavoured vodka or gin, like with chocolates there is an increasing number of cottage industries supplying homemade brews in beautiful bottles and unusual flavours. Local delis and farm shops often have a range of beers, spirits and even fruit wines on offer. Farmer’s markets, organic markets and artisan fairs can be another avenue for sourcing independently produced beverages, but if there isn’t one taking place in your local area before the big day, don’t worry. Most markets have websites with supplier lists, and home businesses are often very flexible and accommodating, so getting in touch could yield you a special gift with a difference while helping support an independent craftsperson.
You may be aware of fair trade cotton, fruit and chocolate, but did you know you can also buy fair trade wine? Look out for the Fair Trade logo on bottles to know your wine has supported the growers with fair prices for their grapes. Organic wines are also on the shelf and increasing in availability, but if you want something with a true green streak, look for English sparkling wines and locally brewed fruit wines.
After you’ve enjoyed your evening, don’t forget to give the empties a new lease of life by putting them out with your recycling or dropping them off at the local bottle bank.