It’s important to remember that every physical gift comes at a cost that’s both financial and environmental.
It is Valentine’s Day today, which means there will be many frantic last-minute trips to the store in an effort not to disappoint one’s beloved by showing up empty-handed. While gifts are widely accepted as an indication of love, it’s important to remember that every gift comes with a cost, not just financial, but also environmental.
How, where, and by whom a gift is made, how it is packaged, how it is meant to be used, and how it will be disposed of eventually are all important considerations, even if they’re total mood-killers. Nobody wants to be thinking about child slavery when buying a diamond or a box of chocolates; ocean pollution when purchasing plastic-wrapped bouquet of roses; chemical poisoning of flower workers when selecting fragrant blooms; or landfill sites when selecting a cute teddy bear. And yet, these are questions we all need to be asking ourselves.
The Minimalists lament the fact that our materialistic society values gift-giving so greatly. In one tweet, they described it as being “not a love language any more than Pig Latin is a Romance language.” In another:
We’ve been told gift-giving is one of our “love languages.” This is ridiculous, and yet we treat it as gospel.
— The Minimalists (@TheMinimalists) February 11, 2017
There was a time when gift-giving was powerful; it built important alliances across cultures, religions, and tribes. But that was at a time of scarcity, when it was difficult, if not impossible, to get these precious items. They would be treasured for generations and remembered for their significance. Now, in a time when we are swamped with stuff, and can get our hands on pretty much anything we want, gift-giving has lost much of its meaning.
There are other ways to give to a loved one this Valentine’s Day.
Actions speak more powerfully than objects, so do something together to show your love. It takes more effort to plan a night out, a lunch date, a surprise visit, an unexpected outing, than to buy something in a box. Make breakfast for your family. Make homemade cards.
Buy ethically if you must. Select fair-trade chocolate, fair-trade roses or, better yet, alternatives to cut flowers. Ensure they’re wrapped in paper, or not wrapped at all. Buy food or other edibles, things that leave no trace.
The Story of Stuff shared a link to a wonderful Pinterest page called ‘Stuff-free Celebrations,’ which suggests homemade flower seed bombs, a daylong bike tour, a foot massage, cleaning the house for someone and doing all the laundry, organizing a picnic. There are so many alternative ways to show love. Never underestimate the power of these tangible, practical gifts.
Think outside the box this Valentine’s Day. Your loved one – and the Earth – will thank you.