Valentines Shopping Done Right

It’s almost that time of year! Whether or not you celebrate Valentines Day, there’s no denying that it’s a popular time to shop. According to Statista, the most popular V-Day gifts are:

  • Candy
  • Greeting cards
  • Flowers
  • A romantic dinner out

No surprises here. But, there’s a better way to buy each of these items than just going to your local grocer and getting the best deal you can find.

If you’re the giver or receiver (or maybe buying in bulk for your Galentines Day party), consider these ways of making your Valentines shopping a little more ethical this year!

  1. Candy

Personally, I’m a sucker for anything chocolate. If you’re the same way, this is an easy one. Look for Fair Trade Certified!

I actually did a whole podcast episode dedicated to this topic. You can listen to it here. But the gist is, fair trade chocolate is better for the planet and for the people. It ensures that cocoa bean harvesters (usually living in underdeveloped countries) are paid fairly for their work and that the production process is safer and more sustainable. Buying fair trade is a little more expensive, but that’s because it’s fair.

There are tons of great brands that sell fair trade choc – plenty of which you can find in your average grocery store. A few of my favorites are Endangered Species Chocolate, Equal Exchange Chocolate, and Tony’s Chocolonely. There are tons of others out there, though, and more and more mainstream brands are making the switch to go fair trade.

When in doubt, look for the logo!

Image result for fair trade certification

For the sweet and sour candy lovers out there who aren’t chocolate fans, there’s a couple other things to look out for. Primarily, it’s about checking the ingredient labels.

Many of the chewy, fruity candies out there contain palm oil – an ingredient that is contributing to major deforestation of our rainforests. Skittles are one example of a candy that contains this ingredient.

For the animal rights activists, gelatin is another ingredient to watch out for. But have no fear, there are still plenty of popular candy choices out there that don’t contain either of these items! Sour Patch Kids and Dots are two examples. Just remember to check the ingredient labels before you buy.

One last thing to pay attention to when you buy sweets is it’s packaging. When you can, look for boxed candy instead of bagged, or paper-wrapped chocolate instead of plastic.

2. Greeting Cards

My husband and I always prefer homemade cards. I just can’t stomach paying $5 (or even more) for a card I’ll look at once!

But hey, if your a words person and greeting cards are one way to speak your love language, there’s one main thing to look for. Recyclable cards.

Actually, most greeting cards are already recyclable! According to Recycle Nation, the only things you need to watch out for are the cards with non-paper additives. This would be things like metallic foil, glitter, felt, metal charms, and rhinestones. Keep it simple and stick to the plain-paper products this year.

Oh, and photo paper can’t be recycled, either – so try to avoid that.

If you want to go big, there are a couple great brands to check out. My personal favorite is Paper Culture. Not only is this brand mindful of their carbon emissions, but they plant a tree for every order placed.

Tree-Free is another pretty cool company that prints everything on alternative and/or recycled materials.

Of course, you can always be extra eco-conscious and send a digital card instead!

3. Flowers

Who doesn’t love getting a fresh bouquet of beautiful florals?! But, the flowers you may be buying most likely came from overseas. It’s estimated that 80% of the flowers sold in US supermarkets are being shipped in from other countries. Not only is this creating a huge carbon footprint due to shipment, but it’s typically not supporting sustainable farming practices in the country of origin.

Smithsonian Magazine did a whole article on this topic. If you want to learn more about the dirty secrets behind the floral industry, you can read about it here.

But if you want to skip straight to what you can do about it, here are my tips:

First, skip the supermarket and instead buy from your local florist. Not only are you shopping small, but there’s greater chances of these flowers being grown locally and with fewer pesticides. This is something that I highly recommend asking about – where do they get their flowers, and do they support organic farming practices? (Hint: the farmer’s market is a great place to look for florals!)

Second, ask for plastic-free. You can actually bring a vase with you to the florist and have them put your fresh cuts directly in there. You can also opt for paper wrapping over the typical cellophane.

Last but not least, consider giving a plant over fresh cuts. This could be an indoor houseplant or something they can plant in the garden. A plant will last much longer (so long as the recipient can keep it alive) whereas bouquets only last a week or so. You can still support the local flower shop (or nursery) with this type of purchase – ask for their help in picking out the perfect plant for your special someone!

4. Dinner

Experiences will always trump gifts, in my opinion! Not only are they more memorable, but they’re more sustainable! Let’s be honest, none of us need more stuff.

Plus, this gift requires very little prep work ahead of time! My primary suggestion here is to choose local over chain.

Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Red Robin fries – but, especially in the Covid-era, local businesses need our support. Check out the locally-owned and operated eateries in your area for Valentines Day and feel good about where you’re spending your money.

Even if you’re keeping your romantic dinner at home this year, you can get takeout from a local joint or even look to support local farmers, bakeries and brewers with where you buy your ingredients.

If you’re looking to get creative…

…and go beyond the typical Valentines gifts, Emily over at The Honest Consumer put together a wonderful Valentines Gift Guide full of ethical and sustainable gift ideas for him or her. Check it out for more ideas!

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