Like any consumer-driven Holiday in the west, 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. And the consequences of our wasteful celebrations are felt intensely by the planet's waterways.
This Valentine's Day, let's show our love for the water by making an effort to waste less. Here are some tips for a waste-free Valentine's Day:
Look for package-free sweets
If you are going to partake 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 show love to the water.
You can use the handy Bulk Locator to find a bulk store near you!
Don't purchase a new outfit
It's no secret, the celebrity mindset that makes us feel like we need a new outfit for every special occasion and a new wardrobe for every season is slowly and surely killing the planet. Fast fashion is particularly devastating for waterways and the traditional narrative around the 'good' we do when we donate our used clothes is coming undone at the seams. Indeed, Kenya has actually banned the import of used clothing and shoes from the west as the massive influx of our hand-me-downs has begun causing major problems for their economy.
SO, if you were thinking about getting something shiny and new to wear out on a date or night out with friends this Valentine's Day, DON'T. If you feel you need to scratch that itch by wearing something different, opt for something new-to-you by trading for an outfit on Bunz Trading Zone or purchasing one 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 or the Kind Exchange). You can also borrow clothing from other Torontonians via Boro or rent a fancy outfit from Rent Frock Repeat.
If you dine out, bring a zero waste kit
A zero waste kit is the hottest accessory to pair with your 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 our current waste crisis in the west:
By the time waste gets recycled, 95 per cent 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.
It's time to make zero waste kits sexy. Here's advice on how to assemble your own!
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 with upcycled and used 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 I make 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!
Give the gift of experience
Let's face it - cheap stuffed teddy bears, boxes of chocolates and diamonds are CANCELLED. Household consumption is responsible for up to 60 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and between 50 and 80 percent 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. Indeed, research has recently exposed the underlying lie we've been sold with consumerism - accumulating 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
- the possibilities are infinite!
Dine in, make a meal using what you already have
The struggle is real when it comes to preventing food waste - but its a worthy struggle: 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 a damn shame 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.
If you get candies with wrappers, use a Terracycle Box
If by chance you get candies or chocolates with wrappers on them, consider getting a Zero Waste Snack Wrappers Box from Terracycle, a company that recycles materials that the traditional recycling systems do not. These boxes are pricey, so I recommend you find a few people to go in on the box with you. You can probably find people interested in something like this in the Zero Waste Toronto Facebook Group.
Teracycle is currently offering a discount of 20% off the Snack Wrappers Box with the code FEBRUARYBOX20 at checkout.
I’m @itsahashtaglife, a social media manager, storyteller and blogger for non-profits and charities in Toronto. I take the tools and techniques of traditional digital media marketing and apply 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.