You don’t need the box of chocolates

Why it’s better to “go without” this Valentine’s Day

Anya Grondalski, Staff Writer

If you’ve entered any store this past month, it’s likely you’ve been slapped in the face with pink and red hearts. 

Valentine’s Day is here, and shelves are stacked with chocolates, teddy bears, fuzzy socks and so much more. While most people feel warm inside wondering if their partner may surprise them with one of these sweet gifts, all I can see is waste.

According to the National Retail Federation, American consumers are projected to spend an average of $192 this Valentine’s Day. That breaks down to over $5.5 billion on jewelry and a couple extra billion on flowers, candy and cards. What happens to all of these items when they’re squeezed of the love and joy they bring? They end up in a landfill or the ocean.

Even though flowers are biodegradable, it’s unlikely most people are composting them. And before they even arrive at your grocery store or pharmacy, those roses you bought for your girlfriend have been flown to the U.S. from far away countries, packed tightly in refrigerated boxes and have likely been sprayed with harmful chemicals. 

Unless you buy sustainability sourced or grown diamonds, most jewelry you come across in the mall is made from materials harvested unsustainably by exploit workers. Brilliant Earth, an ethical jewelry company, reported that a survey of diamond miners in Angola revealed 46% of miners were between five and 16 years old. Additionally, the majority of diamond workers in Africa earn less than $1 USD a day. 

Candy is packaged in a plethora of plastic and the chocolates that come in heart shaped boxes are usually made with palm oil and cacao beans harvested in a harmful way. Conservation groups, such as the World Wildlife Foundation, have long looked at the impacts palm oil and cocoa collection have on deforestation. Cocoa farmers have to clear tropical forests to plant new trees, and experts estimate that roughly 70% of West Africa’s illegal deforestation is related to chocolate production. Child labor is not only something to consider when buying some diamond earrings; during the 2013 growing seasons an estimated 2 million children were used for hazardous labor in connection to cocoa farming. 

While going out to dinner might be a better option, times are hard and many people don’t have the disposable income to spend on wining and dining right now. 

I’m not here to shame anyone, I myself have benefitted from a bouquet of flowers or a romantic card. But being more mindful this Valentine’s would help our planet and our society. Every holiday seems to be over-commercialized, and social pressures to buy and give perpetuate the dangerous cycle. 

Maybe you stay in with your loved one, hit the grocery store and cook them a meal. If your partner really loves flowers, do your best to source them from a local flower shop. Handcraft a piece of jewelry with beads and string or substitute the box of chocolates for a home baked cupcake. 

There’s a million ways to creatively show your love that don’t make your expressions a burden for someone less fortunate than you, plus, it makes the gift extra special. Showing someone that you spent time and effort to make them happy can make the holiday one to remember. 

So don’t let consumerism and American indulgence make you think that buying more means loving more.