Around a billion cards are sent worldwide each Valentine’s Day, which if laid end to end would stretch around the globe five times. That’s a lot of trees.
And over 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are sold each year, complete with all those pink wrappings. The trees! The trees!
Fortunately, all is not lost. It’s definitely possible to have a full-scale Valentine’s and still save a little love for the environment.
Look out for recycled cards in supermarkets and greeting card shops, as well as those made from tree-free paper. Free e-cards are another great option. Local Friends of the Earth campaigner Jenny Collins says: “Making your own card from recycled paper is both creative and personal.”
Flowers, the staple of the day, are usually flown in from abroad, leaving a huge carbon footprint. A whopping 35,000kg of CO2 is emitted by producing 12,000 rose stems in Holland. Waitrose comes to the rescue with a calendar advising which British-grown flowers are in season and when. So why not forget the tried and tested rose and opt for a British daffodil from Cornwall instead?
When it comes to presents like chocolate, which can also rack up the carbon miles, watch out for the Fair Trade stamp that guarantees farmers a fair price for their goods. Top Fair Trade endorsed brands include Green & Blacks and Divine. Even better, try and buy locally from small chocolate shops or in markets like Spitalfields. Alternatively, buy from local chocolate maker, Rowan Parkhouse, who trades as Choki of Brockley. His hand-made chocolates are found at Shop on the Hill and Browns in Brockley and at the Goldsmiths College Student Union shop.
Nothing shouts romance like gold and silver necklaces and earrings, but jewellery production creates great ethical and environmental concerns. Alternative options include companies such as Uncommonly Beautiful, which reduces the impact of precious metals by resourcefully creating different items – a discarded wine box reworked in recycled bronze anyone?
Ms Collins emphasizes the possibility of having a Valentine’s Day that is both special and green. “If you do want to give a present you could buy second-hand,” she says. “There’s some lovely antique jewellery.”
And don’t forget the love lives of our feathered friends around east London, she says. “You could buy or make a nesting box for birds. Valentine’s Day is traditionally when birds start pairing, and the loss of their natural habitat is a real cause for concern.”
Once the gifts are sorted, environmental campaigners highlight the many simple eco-friendly activities you can do. There are beautiful parks spread across local areas – Mile End Park in Tower Hamlets, Blackheath in Lewisham, Victoria Park in Hackney – that are great for romantic walks. It’s also possible to remain in the comfort of your home: take a duvet day and simply spend the day in bed, which may or may not involve Valentine’s associated activities.
Arranging to eat at a local restaurant specialising in organic or locally grown food can be romantic and cut down on food miles. For something a little different, try Rootmaster. London’s first vegan “bustaurant” in Tower Hamlets is offering a Valentine’s menu. Housed in an iconic red London bus in Ely’s Yard just off Brick Lane, it aims to minimise its carbon footprint by reusing and recycling everything possible.
EastLondonLines asked some local people how they plan to have an eco-friendly day. Jeremy Brown, 21 of Tower Hamlets, says: “I’m a design graduate, so I’m going to make my girlfriend a present, and I think I’ll cook her a meal as well.”
“I usually take public transport everywhere anyway,” says Christine Brewis, 20, of Lewisham. “We’re not buying each other cards since they’ll just get thrown away. We’ve decided to eat at our local organic vegetarian restaurant so that’s pretty good as well. If we do buy any presents, we won’t be wrapping them up!”