We Should Love The Planet This Valentines Day

photography by Katherine Milroy

I'm so excited to share this guest post written by my good friend Katherine Milroy.

Why not love the Earth this Valentines day?
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Every year millions of pounds are spent in the UK alone. In 2017 it was estimated that the UK was set to spend a whopping £987m on gifts and cards. But how bad could valentines day be on the planet? Lets unwrap that and look into the most commonly brought items and there potential impact as well as possible alternatives:


Chocolates

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Chocolate is amazing. Unfortunately the packaging of it comes in various forms of plastic, whether its the plastic shell of a chocolate box, the part that separates the chocolates, and the lid. For chocolate bars themselves, they either have a wrapper made of a mix of tinfoil and plastic or it is made from a mix of foil and paper. Neither of these materials are recyclable.



But how do you get that delicious chocolate fix in an eco way I hear you ask. 

Eco Alternatives
  • Find chocolates with recyclable packaging (paper, cardboard)
  • Buy chocolate that's sustainable and good for the environment, such as fair-trade, organic or vegan. My favourite is Booja Booja truffles. Whilst they still have some plastic in the packet, smaller in that there aren’t big gaps between each chocolate as such less packaging is required, and they're vegan. 
  • Perhaps search for a recipe online and make your own chocolate truffles. I have done this before and they are delicious!



Cards

One of the many gifts buy is cards for their partners. But did you know not all cards are as easily recyclable? This is due to the materials used, such as paper, glitter, and most decorations attached to cards.


Eco Alternatives
  • Send an E-Card to their email. You may even be able to personalise this much more than a store brought card giving it a much more unique touch.
  • Consider the materials used on the cards when you are buying the card and make sure it finds its way to the recycling bin.
  • Cards used from already recycled paper or sustainable sources. It is becoming much more common to find card with an FSC logo on them.



Flowers


Flowers are lovely but what many people may not realise is the environmental impact of them. At this time of year not much is in bloom naturally this means that often the flowers are grown in greenhouses abroad and flown over to the uk. Flying in items is large factor of CO2 emissions. Often many commercially brought flowers are wrapped up in plastic. And frequently at the end of the flowers life span they will be chucked into the general waste bin. This is an big issue. 



Organic matter that goes into a landfill causes methane gas to be released into the environment. Methane is over 25 times more detrimental to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. This happens because the landfill is compacted down so there is no oxygen there for the flowers to naturally decompose.



Another point is that a lot of commercially grown flowers will use pesticides and a lot of pesticides use ingredients that are potentially harmful to bees and other insects.


Eco Alternatives
  • Buy potted flowers. Even better buy a potted flower that is native to the uk and will encourage bees to visit it if outdoors.
  • Buy flowers without plastic wrap, compost the flowers that are brought and buy the flowers and try and buy flowers grown in the uk.


Balloons


Many people may choose to buy helium balloons. However they are a huge environmental nightmare! They are made of plastic and will take hundreds of years to decompose and will also most likely end up littering the environment. It also uses up huge amounts of helium which is a finite resource and very useful in other industries.

When balloons are released they fly up into the environment, burst and then come falling back down to earth, frequently landing in the sea where, due to the its shape after popping, they get mistaken for jelly fish and consumed by marine animals.



Other things that are kind of bad for the planet:
  • Fake rose petals
  • Fake flowers
  • Plastic lined wrapping paper
  • Buying new DVDs or CDs. These are often available as second-hand at a much lower cost and since these already exist, you are not creating the need for a new batch to be made.
Maybe the most important way to be eco this Valentines day (or any holiday for that matter) would be to only buy gifts that your partner wants. I have been on the receiving end of many joke presents, which at the time they are funny to receive, but then about a month later you look at the item again and think to yourself "actually I dont want this but I can’t get rid of it because then people will feel offended that you didn’t keep it". If you think about, that's a waste of Earth’s resources for a gift that has a limited joke expiration.


Other possible Eco-friendly Valentines day plans:
  • Experiences days
  • Cinema trip
  • Cook a meal together
  • Plan a TV binge day of all the shows you just meant to watch but haven't gotten round to 
  • Gift vouchers for a shop they frequently visit

Whatever you do this valentines day, try and think how you could lessen your impact on the world. Even a small gesture such as not buying a card makes a huge difference if everyone also does it. Small gestures add up.


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Thank you Kat for such an informative post. Her links are below, so make sure to follow her and check out her ongoing nature art project on Flickr!


Twitter: @KatherineMilroy https://twitter.com/KatherineMilroy



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