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Valentine’s Day, and its Relationship with Toxic Consumerism

By Joy Wan

Love is in the air this Valentine’s day, but most neglect the toxicity and unsustainability behind the chocolates, cards, and roses. Here’s how to celebrate Valentine’s Day sustainably!

Valentine’s day, in numbers:

Lovebirds around the world spend an estimated $23.9 billion USD per year on Valentine’s Day in total, so what do they spend their money on?

Every Valentine’s day…

250 million roses are grown in preparation for the occasion
More than 145 million Valentine Cards are exchanged
Around 58 million pounds of chocolate are sold
Couples spend an average of $1330 HKD dining out

So, why is Valentine’s day so materialistic?

Known as a “Hallmark Holiday”, Valentine’s Day has been heavily commercialized, with companies like Tiffany & Co, Hershey, and Necco profiting the most off of their products, their sales often spiking this time of year.

So how did all of this begin? Richard Cadbury decided in 1861 to market heart-shaped chocolate boxes covered in Cupids and rosebuds to sell on Valentine’s day. Shortly after, many other companies jumped on the trend, like Hershey's making their signature “kisses” for the first time. So ever since then, chocolates have been associated with romance and are part of the gift-giving culture.

Fun activities to do this Valentine’s day with your partner, which doesn’t involve gift-giving

  • Treating them to a picnic

  • Having a simple meal with your significant other outdoors is an easy way to catch up, breathe in the fresh air, and let go of stress

  • Going to a museum

  • Going to a museum with your partner is a therapeutic way to appreciate art and have a fun shared learning experience along the way

  • Playing indoor games together

  • Playing simple games like Twister or Charades; board games like Monopoly or Scrabble allows you and your partner to unwind after a long day

Sustainable gifts to give your significant other

If you’re hoping to give your significant other a token of appreciation, here are some sustainable alternatives to opt for!

Fairtrade chocolates, cards, or jewelry:

The chocolates you often see are likely cheap, but mass-produced, which entails that there might be elements of cheap labor, deforestation, and excessive use of plastic behind them. Opt for products with the “fair trade” label to ensure that your gifts are ethically sourced and sustainably processed! Also - look for recyclable packages to reduce the waste produced!


Houseplants are a great way to decorate a room, as well as bring in fresh air during the day, so they’re a great gift option for your significant other. Moreover, it’s been proven that gardening and caring for plants can make you feel more comfortable, soothed, and natural, which might just brighten your significant other’s mood!


Works Cited

PSU Vanguard, A materialist history of Valentine’s Day,

Good housekeeping, 30 Fun Valentine's Day Facts That Will Surprise You,

Insider, The average cost of a Valentine's Day dinner is insane this year,

The Register Forum, Valentines Day Has Been Corrupted by Consumerism,

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