By Laurèn DeMates and Rosaly Byrd.
Valentine’s Day traditionally means dinner out, roses, and chocolates, but why not think outside the box a little bit? Don’t have a date? That’s OK too. As true with most holidays, Valentine’s Day means spending more money and creating more waste than usual. Good news! There are ways to enjoy the day while spending less and minimizing environmental impact, even if you don’t have a date this year. Here are 5 sustainability-minded ideas that we think would make for a great Valentine’s Day:
1. A vegetarian home-cooked meal. Going meatless is one of the best ways to reduce your environmental footprint. Extensive analysis has shown that meat and dairy have a much higher impact on the environment than plant-based products. Although less important than skipping the meat, using local and organic ingredients can also make your special dinner sustainable. Make sure you opt for regular, reusable dishes and cutlery too– single-use plastics don’t make the cut.
2. Plan an event or new activity. Rather than purchase something material, experience something new. How about going to a museum, art gallery, or seeing some live music? Not only will you avoid unnecessary consuming, but it’s extra motivation to do something out of the ordinary. It doesn’t have to be an out of town adventure either, see what local options are available. Sharing a new experience with a significant other is said to strengthen the relationship and studies have confirmed our theory that buying experiences bring us more lasting happiness than buying material things. Single this year? Grab a friend or go solo; both are very valuable relationships to keep healthy.
3. Go on a hike or take a stroll. Getting outdoors (weather permitting) is a free activity that doesn’t have much of an environmental footprint. It’s nice to take a step away from the hustle and bustle and reconnect with nature, a date, and/or yourself. Need more convincing? How about this Stanford study that says a 90-minute walk has positive effects on the brain and access to natural areas may be “vital for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world.” It also releases endorphins, our body’s natural happiness chemical.
4. Volunteer or donate. Donating your time or money to a non-profit organization helps others and makes you feel good too, a classic win-win. Try googling causes that you care about and see what people are doing in your area to address them. Websites may not tell the whole story though so we recommend reaching out directly to non-profits to see what they need. Want to see volunteer opportunities in your area by date and/or cause? Check out the VolunteerMatch website, including their optional notification emails when events come up that fit your interests. If they don’t cover your area, don’t worry there may be another organization that does.
5. Purchase Fair Trade-certified products. If you want to keep it traditional with wine, flowers, or chocolate, look for the Fair Trade certification label. Each time you purchase Fair Trade or similarly certified products you can be sure that they were made adhering to social and environmental standards, including fair pay, acceptable working conditions, and environmental stewardship. Buying Fair Trade or other sustainability certification labels exercises your power as a consumer to not only minimize the negative social and environmental impact of products and services but create positive impact. It also supports a high-level shift in the way business is done– towards sustainable supply chains.
Have additional sustainability-minded Valentine’s Day ideas? Please let us know, we’d love to hear them!