Britains Prince Edward and his wife Sophie planting a tree in Kandy, Sri Lanka on Feb 1. – AFP

Flowers

This Valentine’s Day, instead of giving a bouquet of flowers that will last only a week or so, why not give a small tree or flower plant instead? It’s a living gift that will keep on growing, reminding you of that special person and day.

Or how about a nice herb plant? If you enjoy cooking together, adding home-grown herbs (for example laksa leaves or daun kesum) to your meals will make them taste that much better!

If you still want to give flowers, one idea is to grow your own? This will make your offering doubly meaningful!

Commercial flowers have tremendous eco impact. For example, in 2017 Australians imported more than 5.2 million rose stems for Valentine’s Day, mostly from Kenya. Assuming typical bouquets of 24 roses, that’s 217,500 bouquets sold in two weeks.

The problem is that this pursuit of love hurts the number-one lady in all of our lives: Mother Nature. If those 217,500 bouquets were each wrapped in 75cm of plastic cellophane, that adds up to more than 163 kilometres of plastic wrapping used in a two-week period – just for roses, just in Australia.

As flowers are not an edible crop, they are typically exempt from regulations on pesticide use. As a result, the cut flower industry is one of the biggest consumers of pesticides worldwide. So try giving a plant instead. Or grow your own flowers.

And let’s not be obsessed with roses. In tropical Malaysia, there are so many other flowers which are growing freely in gardens without the heaps of pesticides and fertilisers used for roses. Why not ask your neighbours if they can spare a few flowers such as alamandas, heliconias, bougainvilleas and frangipanis?

And use recycled paper to wrap up your own unique bouquet. Wouldn’t that be saying “I love you” to both Mother Earth and your partner?

Buying fair trade chocolate will benefit cocoa farmers and reduce deforestation. – Filepic

Chocolates

As sweet as it may taste, chocolate also has a bitter side. Cocoa farmers usually clear tropical forests to plant new cocoa trees rather than reusing the same land. That practice has spurred massive deforestation in West Africa, particularly in Ivory Coast. West Africa’s cocoa farmers also frequently use child labour to help with growing, harvesting, and transporting cocoa beans.

There are many other sweet things in Malaysia that we can give instead of chocolates. How about kaya puffs, pineapple tarts or banana cakes?

Another option is to consider buying fair trade chocolate that aims not to harm the environment or exploit people. WWF works with the world’s biggest chocolate companies to improve cocoa production.

Barry Callebaut for instance sells Forever Chocolate, which has twin goals of zero child labour and deforestation in its supply chains. It also uses 100% sustainable ingredients and lifts 500,000 cocoa producers out of poverty. Now that’s sweet love for both the earth and people for Valentine’s Day.

Malaysia has many lovely nature spots to celebrate Valentines Day. – Filepic

Cards

If you’re a fan of paper cards, then embrace your creativity this Valentine’s Day and create your own card out of recycled paper. There are also commercial cards made from recycled materials and lots of free e-card sites. So search one that you like and send it to your sweetie.

Or, if you’re feeling brave, why not sing or act your feelings of love towards your special person?

Meals

Consider making your partner a special romantic meal this year using organic ingredients. Or seek out restaurants that use organic products.

Normal agriculture is based on lots of polluting (and dangerous) chemicals such as pesticides. By going organic, you are loving not only the environment but also the health of both of you.

Getaways

A romantic getaway is a great way to celebrate love. Consider staying at small inns because larger hotels have a higher carbon footprint.

Malaysia is blessed with many places of amazing natural beauty, be it coral islands, crystal clear waterfalls or mountain forests. If you want to have an eco-friendly Valentine’s Day, why not get outside and enjoy nature?

Reconnecting with nature – and sharing the experience – is a great way to show your love for the environment and for each other.

Valentine’s Day is not about collecting more stuff but about creating magical memories. – Filepic

Memories

Valentine’s Day is really about creating beautiful memories, not getting more stuff. Go on a date – walk hand in hand somewhere, go to a movie, hang out at a nice place to talk.

You don’t need to give a cute teddy, a new set of underwear or a diamond ring to say I love you. It’s about spending quality time with the people you love. And who needs a commercial holiday anyway – EVERY DAY is a reason to say “I love you!”


Info from Zero Waste UK, Greener Ideal, WWF, The Conversation and Star2 Ecowatch.