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I Heart the Planet

"What I need to live has been given to me by the earth. Why I need to live has been given to me by you." ~Author Unknown

It's time to delve into the origins of another popular holiday: Valentine's Day. Despite claims that this holiday was invented just a few decades ago by the Greeting Card Association, its origins go much further back, to ancient Christian and Roman traditions. According to, "Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages" and written greetings began appearing after 1400. The first commercial Valentine's Day cards appeared in the U.S. in the 1840s. As for St. Valentine himself, "Today, the Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred." [i]

While the Greeting Card Association (GCA) didn't invent the holiday, they have made good business of it: The GCA estimates that "approximately 150 million greeting cards will be purchased for Valentine's Day this year in the U.S. This figure is based on member company sales and does not include children's packaged valentines for classroom exchanges. Valentine's Day is the second-largest holiday for giving greeting cards, behind Christmas." [ii]

Then there are all those Valentine's Day flowers. According to Scientific American, "Sending the roughly 100 million roses of a typical Valentine's Day produces some 9,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from field to U.S. florist." [iii] Many of these roses are shipped overseas, from locations like Kenya, where, according to The Guardian, "Consumer appetite for cut-price Kenyan roses for Valentine's Day is 'bleeding the country dry' by threatening the region's precarious ecology." [iv]

So, at the risk of sounding like a Valentine's Day Grinch, the best way to heart your sweetheart is to heart the planet. Here are some suggestions for greening all that pink and red:

  • Cards made from recycled or tree-free paper
  • Fair trade and/or organic chocolate
  • Live plants, grown locally, rather than cut ones shipped overseas

For more info on these and other eco-Valentine's Day ideas, check out Green Living TipsThe Daily Green and Planet Green. But whatever you decide, don't forget to add the love. Without it, Valentine's Day is just a bunch of soon-to-be-discarded cut flowers and paper waste.

"Take away love and our earth is a tomb." ~Robert Browning

by Kyle Crider

Kyle is Manager – Environmental Operations at Ecotech Institute and Education Corporation of America. He holds a Master of Public Administration degree with a double-emphasis in Urban Planning & Policy Analysis. He is also a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional, Neighborhood Development (LEED AP ND). He is currently in the Interdisciplinary Engineering Ph.D. Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.