Valentine's Day traditionally means dinner out, roses, and chocolates, but it's 2016, 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 five sustainability-minded ideas that we think would make for a great Valentine's Day:
1. A home-cooked meal from locally-sourced ingredients. Nowadays it's pretty likely you can find locally soured meat and produce where you live. If there aren't signs at the store telling you what's local, just ask, you might be surprised. Going local is important because most food travels far to get to you, emitting greenhouse gas emissions along the way. The commonly cited statistic is that food travels 1,500 miles on average in the U.S. The actual environmental impact from food transport depends on the mode of transportation (e.g., trains are better than trucks), but no matter what, reducing the miles your food travels to get to you is a good thing. Can't find local, but they have organic? That's good too, and make sure you use real dishes: Sorry, paper plates are not romantic.
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 recent studies have confirmed our theory that buying experiences brings 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 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. Sorry to those of you in freezing weather -- but spring is coming!
4. Volunteer or donate. Donating your time or money to a non-profit organization (501c3) 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.
5. Purchase Fair Trade-certified products. If you want to keep it traditional with wine, flowers, and chocolates, look for the Fair Trade certification label. Each time you purchase Fair Trade you know the product was 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 they way business is done (towards sustainable supply chains).
Have more sustainability-minded Valentine's Day ideas? Please let us know. Happy Valentine's Day from the Sustainability Co-Op!