Eco Friendly / Green Product, Environmental Action, Sustainability, Sustainable Design, Zero Waste / Waste Less

LOVE a LOW WASTE Valentine’s

Another year, another Valentine’s Day looms large on the global calendar triggering everything from swooning romanticism to lovelorn despair. Of course there are many who frankly don’t give a damn. For others, like myself, who are not completely devoid of a romantic bone, we find the whole commercialism and waste around February 14th a complete turn off.

Valentine’s Day is the second largest card-giving holiday after Christmas with close on 35 million cards sent each year across Ireland and UK alone. Most of these cards are laminated in plastic, covered in glitter or decorated in such a way that makes them unsuitable for recycling. Chocolate may be a symbol of love, but the majority of leading brands were found to have “inadequate” ethical standards in their cocoa supply chain in a report from the Ethical Consumer research association. In fact, only 17 out of 82 chocolate companies investigated were found to use suppliers that paid cocoa farmers enough to live on.1 Thats a romantic mood killer if ever I heard one. And like its Festive Big Brother, Valentine’s Day has been besieged by love-themed throwaway merchandise like soft toys, balloons and decorations, all made from plastic or polyester and all leaving a toxic impact on the environment that will last 100s of years into the future. This gives ‘enduring love’ a whole new meaning …. and not in a good way.

So, in the spirit of sustainability and love for the planet, it’s time to break up with all the habits, trends and traditions of Valentine’s Day we’ve come to know and loathe. Its time to try some new, low-waste, earth-kind ways of showing your loved ones you care.


In 1944 Hallmark card makers adopted the slogan ‘When you care enough to send the very best’ which it still uses today. We are 80 years later but only 6 years from 2030 when global emissions must be halved, so the very best thing you can do for the planet is either make your own card or buy a fully recyclable one, preferably from a local artisan producer. For example Badger & Blue make beautiful hand crafted and sustainable cards printed on textured linen paper so you can frame it afterwards.2 There are many more sustainable Irish card makers available on Etsy and in stores like Designist 3 and Industry & Co. 4 who champion unique local designers and creatives. And for the little loves in you life who might want to get in on the act, there’s a card making kit plus other love-themed gifts available from Jiminy Eco Toystore.5

Flowers & Chocolate

By far the most popular – and easy to grab on the way home – gifts for Valentine’s. Nothing says ‘I don’t want to be in the dog house when I get home’ than an over priced box of Milk Tray and a lacklustre bouquet of forecourt flowers, both wrapped in single use plastic. Equally reprehensible (ha!) are the negative environmental and social impacts inflicted by these smash and grab love offerings. The cacao industry is responsible for widespread economic inequality, child labour, forced labour, deforestation and gender inequality. In 2022, Channel 4’s Dispatches programme found that 10-year old children were using machetes to harvest cocoa destine for Mondelēz’s supply chain – this is the company which owns Cadbury’s. In fact, when Ethical Consumer investigated the cocoa supply chain, labour conditions, use of palm oil, deforestation and plastic and packaging of 82 chocolate companies – it rated Mars, Nestlé and Mondelēz as poor and “brands to avoid”, while Ferrero was rated poor.6 Ethical Consumer went on to identify Tony’s Chocolonely, Divine and Chocolat Madagascar among the few chocolate brands paying Fairtrade International or Rainforest Alliance rates or higher, and use chocolate made in the country of origin rather than from imported beans. That helps the economies of cocoa-producing countries at source rather than European manufacturers.

The majority of cut-flowers sold in supermarkets and florists are imported from the biggest producing countries of Netherlands, Kenya, Colombia and Israel growing widely popular flowers such as roses, orchids and carnations.7 There is a significant environmental impact associated with the intensive farming of fresh flowers. In colder climate areas like the Netherlands, large inputs of energy are required to grow the flowers where massive greenhouses are heated by natural gas, releasing thousands of kilograms of CO2 into the environment. All to meet the demands of consumers especially around Valentine’s Day. The use of pesticides is also rampant among cut-flower growers which leech into soil and ultimately enter the groundwater and reduce water quality.8 Furthermore, The International Council on Clean Transportation estimates that flights importing flowers into the United States “burn approximately 114 million liters of fuel, emitting approximately 360,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.” Not to mention the carbon emissions of fossil fuel trucks transporting these flowers across the 50 states.9

So when it comes to the Choco-Blooms combo for Valentine’s Day – buy fair trade, ethically sourced chocolates. And look for locally grown, wild flowers – thats not an invitation to rob your neighbour’s garden now mind. Or better still, gift a living plant that will last longer and will clear out pollutants in the home – even the icy atmosphere when you’ve forgotten Valentine’s Day …. yet again.

The 10 principles of Fair Trade, by WFTO Europe 


If bling is your thing – then try to make sure that the jewellery company you’re buying from has done their best to (a) have ethical and transparent sourcing of precious stones and metals and (b) positive production practices in terms of the pay and conditions of the workers mining the materials and cutting the gems.  Especially if you’re going to put a ring on it this Valentine’s – look for ethical or conflict-free diamonds.  

Dublin based jeweller Scribble and Stone 10 is on a mission to make fast fashion jewellery a thing of the past!  And I was really struck by the motto at the heart of what they do –  “Buy less, buy better”.  Similarly, the jewellery designer Chupi Sweetman 11 is on a mission to transform the luxury jewellery industry to one that is regenerative, ethical and transparent.  She is a market leader in terms of using lab-grown or synthetic diamonds. So whatever your budget is this Valentine’s Day, look for sustainable jewellery that won’t cost us the earth.

Teddy Who? 

If, like me, you are someone who cares about the environment and the climate crisis, then love themed gifts and fast fashion made from 100% polyester are a relationship no no.   We need to break up with the trend of giving gifts like stuffed animals, furry slippers, magnetic socks, lounging hoodies, lingerie … all made from fossil fuels with huge environmental impacts and exploitative labour conditions.  The B Corp sustainable underwear brand Stripe & Stare is now available in Ireland.12 And if you can’t resist a stuffed animal then look to companies like Bears for Humanity for a 100% cotton, ethically sourced and produced Teddy – he/she might be more of a keeper!13

Book of (Self) Love

I have recently thrown a couple of strops with my other half for gifting me a book for my Birthday two years in a row and then again for Christmas!  All I’ll say about that is – thank goodness for gift receipts!  Domestic squabbles aside, there is one book I came across recently that democratises Valentine’s for all called ‘Romanticise Your Life’ by Beth McColl. It shows you how romance is about appreciating and celebrating the small things in your life because they can be just as magnificent as meeting the love of your life.  As Miley Cyrus sings, you can always buy yourself Flowers .… locally sourced wild flowers that is.  Look to who source their foliage and flowers from Irish suppliers year round and are available round the corner from my house in Dublin 8 – nudge nudge, wink wink Dave!

So this 14th February, whether you are blissfully single or consciously coupled learn to love a low waste Valentine’s and show some love to Mother Earth by choosing not only thoughtful (are you listening Dave?) but thought-through sustainable gifts.  

Happy Valentine’s xxx


Tonyia is co-founder and co-presenter with Liza Reilly of the sustainable living podcast EcoMomics available on Spotify and Apple. Follow them @ecomomics_ie on Instagram and Twitter and on Facebook.

Also follow Tonyia on Instagram @FoundLoveHearts

READ MORE articles by Tonyia Dowling


  1. chocolate brands have been paid enough to live on.
  6. chocolate brands have been paid enough to live on.
  8. 14, by itself, represents,And there is more.
  9. environmental impact adds up,waste gifts this Valentine’s Day.